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Thread: Saving the Himalayan Eco-system

  1. #1
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    Default Saving the Himalayan Eco-system

    Dear All,
    This was the headline news in Hindu today. Good intent, however I am not too sure about the future outcome.

    Manmohan calls for saving Himalayan eco-system

    Aarti Dhar
    Tuesday, Oct 27, 2009
    Initiatives being taken up with China, Bhutan
    Coordinated action needed among all stakeholder countries

    Degradation in the Himalayas need to be halted and reverse

    NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday emphasised the need for greater engagement and coordination with all the country’s neighbours who share the Himalayas and pointed out that some bilateral initiatives were being taken up with China and Bhutan in this respect.

    While a large part of the Himalayan range is within the Indian territory, there are other countries who share the mountain ranges with India, including Nepal, Bhutan, China and Pakistan.

    Dr. Singh was chairing a meeting of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change on the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-System. He said any comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan for the entire Himalayan zone would require coordinated action among all stakeholder countries.

    Expressing happiness that the mission — one of the eight identified in the National Action Plan for Climate Change — had come up with a set of concrete, immediate and long term measures, he said involvement of the local communities was indispensable in ensuring its successful implementation.

    “While the State governments have been sensitised to the need for drawing upon local and traditional knowledge and practices, I invite the Chief Ministers of the Himalayan States to join in a national effort to safeguard the Himalayan eco-system.”

    Glaciers receding
    India had anecdotal evidence that glaciers may be receding. There was need for obtaining precise and carefully vetted data, both through satellite imaging and ground surveys. The establishment of a Centre for Glaciological Studies was welcome, he said adding that the initiative taken to commission a study on the Himalayan glaciers in collaboration with the ISRO was commendable.

    “This initiative must become an integral part of this National Mission and institutionalised so that the longer-term trends are monitored and analysed. Only then would it be possible to formulate appropriate and effective adaptation strategies.”Describing the entire Himalayan zone, including the mountains, the foothills and the terai area, as an extremely fragile zone, he said that over the years, deforestation, demographic pressures and rapid and often uncontrolled urbanisation and construction with only marginal attention being paid to environmental safeguards had caused steady degradation.

    Adaptation response
    “Now, however, these stresses and strains are already beginning to be accentuated by the adverse consequences of climate change. While the larger challenge of global climate change has to be addressed, we need to prepare our country and people to anticipate and respond to its consequences. And part of the adaptation response lies in halting and reversing the degradation that has already taken place in the Himalayas.”

    The link to the source article:

  2. #2
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    Default “Himalayan glaciers most threatened by global warming”

    I am uploading two articles which appeared on two successive days in The Hindu. The interpretations are different.

    “Himalayan glaciers most threatened by global warming”

    Just before starting his lecture on ‘Atmospheric Brown Clouds,’ Prof V. Ramanathan admits that people think he has come to dismantle Indian progress.

    The Director of the Centre for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, in a recent address to the International Federation of Environmental Journalists in New Delhi, said the world was already committed to a global warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius.

    “Think of greenhouse gases as covering the earth like a blanket,” he starts off.

    The blanket traps the heat, but there are also other particles such as sulphates and nitrates in the atmospheric brown clouds, which function as mirrors.

    The good news, he says, is global warming may be delayed and the bad news is that smoke particles or mirrors absorb the sunlight and heat the blanket directly.


    Since he left India in 1970 (he was a refrigeration engineer then), he has been publishing nothing but bad news, admits Prof. Ramanathan. One molecule of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has the same greenhouse effect as have 10,000 molecules of carbon dioxide. “If we had not regulated CFC, we would have faced a climate catastrophe.”

    In 1980, Prof. Ramanathan predicted that the planet would warm up by 2000. In a 1983 study, he said non-carbon dioxide trace gases contributed as much as CO2 to the increase in atmospheric greenhouse effect.

    “They thought Ram has gone crazy, but all that came true,” he says.

    “I feel sad that the system is behaving as we are predicting it. The only hope we have is that our prediction will be wrong.”

    “We have made the blanket thick enough to heat the planet by 2.5 degrees Celsius. The Artic summer ice will be the first to go and the Himalayan glaciers are the most threatened by global warming over 2.5 degrees Celsius.”

    There is a 50 per cent probability that the planet will warm by 2.5 degrees Celsius “because of what we have already done.” There was a failure to anticipate this all along.

    The “mirrors” (sulphates, nitrates, etc) in the atmospheric brown clouds mixing with rain form acid and it is no longer a good idea to rush out and feel the first rains. “When the mirrors are gone, you get the full blast of global warming.”

    The last G8 meeting said emissions would be cut by 50 per cent by 2050.

    However, CO2 concentration is still increasing and even with the aim of reducing emissions by 50 per cent, only the rate of warming would be slowed down.

    “The world thinks that if you cut CO2 emissions all will be fine,” he says.


    The science of climate change is uncertain at best; even if the Copenhagen summit succeeds, temperatures could rise in the future to 3.5 per cent, Prof. Ramanathan forecasts. Pointing fingers is not a solution, he says, quoting Mahatma Gandhi that an eye for an eye will make all of us blind.


    Referring to his own study, initially called the Asian Brown Cloud, Prof. Ramanathan admits that it was a mistake. Brown clouds are everywhere now, and they absorb sunlight and have the direct impact of suppressing rain. India is darker by 5-10 per cent, and its rainfall pattern is changing.

    Even in China, the same thing is happening. Glaciers are surrounded by brown clouds; even on Mount Everest, there is evidence of black carbon deposition, apart from soot on the Tibetan glaciers and the Artic. The Himalayan glaciers also show evidence of black carbon. The hope lies in the fact that black carbon in the atmosphere is 55 per cent.

    Alternative cooking fuels could reduce human deaths and clear the air, so to speak, and there is need to focus on reducing black carbon, which has a short life of less than 10 days in the atmosphere. But black carbon and smoke have a deadly effect on human health. Indian contributes six per cent black carbon, though its contribution of biofuels is just one per cent. China accounts for about four times more.

    The last slide in Prof. Ramanathan’s presentation showed his little granddaughter on his shoulder. “Need a personal reason for wanting to solve the problem? Lead by USA and Europe is critical for reducing committed warming. Engagement of Asia is critical for reducing future commitment,” he says.

    Keywords: Greenhouse gases, climate change, Himalayan glaciers, global warming

    Link to source article is here:

  3. #3
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    Default India challenges global view on Himalayan glaciers

    India challenges global view on Himalayan glaciers

    AARTI DHAR 10th Nov 2009, The Hindu

    India on Monday challenged the internationally accepted view that the Himalayan glaciers were receding due to global warming. The glaciers, although shrinking in volume and constantly showing a retreating front, have not in any way exhibited any abnormal annual retreat of the order that some glaciers in Alaska and Greenland have reported, a state-of-the-art review of Glacial Studies, Glacial Retreat and Climate Change said.

    Brought out by V.K. Raina, former Deputy Director-General, Geological Survey of India, for the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the discussion paper on the Himalayan glaciers points out that it was premature to make a statement that glaciers in the Himalayas were retreating abnormally because of global warming. The study says a glacier is affected by a range of physical features and a complex interplay of climatic factors, and it is therefore unlikely that the snout movement of any glacier can be claimed to be the result of periodic climate variation until many centuries of observations become available. While glacier movements are primarily due to climate and snowfall, snout movements appear to be peculiar to each particular glacier, the paper adds.


    Releasing the documents, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said that while most Himalayan glaciers were retreating, some were advancing as well. This included the Siachen glacier. “Some glaciers are retreating at a declining rate, like the Gangotri, and the overall health of the Himalayan glaciers was poor as the debris cover had reached alarming proportions,” he said, citing the paper. Mr. Ramesh added that there was no conclusive scientific evidence to show that global warming was resulting in the glacial retreats. Contrary to what most believe, there can be no comparison between the Arctic glaciers and the Himalayan glaciers, as the former are at sea-level and the latter at a very high altitude.


    According to Mr. Raina, all glaciers under observation in the Himalayan region during the past three decades have shown cumulative negative mass balance (determined by annual snow precipitation). Degradation of the glacier mass has been the highest in Jammu and Kashmir, relatively lower in Himachal Pradesh, even less in Uttarakhand, and the lowest in Sikkim — showing a declining trend from the north-west to the north-east. Irrespective on latitudinal difference, glacier melt contributes to about 25-30 per cent of the total discharge of glacier ice, with maximum discharge in mid-July and August.

    Assuring several steps to study the Himalayan glaciers scientifically and arrive at a final conclusion, Mr. Ramesh said he would bring the discussion paper to the notice of R.K. Pachauri, chief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and other agencies that have warned of doom due to melting glaciers.

    The link to the source article is here:

  4. #4
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    Default Pachauri rubbishes Government stand on melting glaciers

    Sharing this news about Mr Pachauri rubbishing the report brought out by V.K. Raina, former Deputy Director-General, Geological Survey of India, that the himalayan glaciers are not melting at a faster rate. The problem is we have hardly any baseline data. The locals mention that the glaciers are receeding at a fast pace.

    Pachauri rubbishes Government stand on melting glaciers

    Grim forecast: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had warned that Himalayan glaciers were receding at an alarming rate.

    A leading climate scientist recently accused India’s environment ministry of “arrogance” over a government report claiming there was no evidence that climate change has caused “abnormal” shrinkage of glaciers in the Himalayas.

    Jairam Ramesh, the country’s environment minister, released the controversial report in Delhi, saying it would “challenge the conventional wisdom.”

    Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that Himalayan glaciers were receding faster than those in any other part of the world and could disappear altogether by 2035, if not sooner.

    On November 9 Ramesh denied any such risk existed, and said he was prepared to take on “the doomsday scenarios of Al Gore and the IPCC.”

    He said: “There is no conclusive scientific evidence to link global warming with what is happening,” adding that although some glaciers were receding they were doing so at a rate that was not historically alarming.

    “My concern is that this comes from western scientists ... it is high time India makes an investment in understanding what is happening in the Himalayan ecosystem,” he said.

    Report dismissed

    Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, dismissed the report as not peer reviewed and having few scientific citations.

    He said: “I don’t know why the minister is supporting this unsubstantiated research. It is an extremely arrogant statement.” In one remarkable finding, the report claims the Gangotri glacier, the main source of the river Ganges, receded fastest in 1977 and is today “practically at a standstill.” Some scientists have warned the river beds of the Gangetic Basin - which feed hundreds of millions in northern India — could run dry if the glaciers melt. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

    The source article can be found here:

  5. #5
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    Default Black carbon can't be linked to global warming: Pachauri

    Dear all,
    Sharing this article that had appeared in Times of India. Dr Pachauri opines that Black carbon can't be linked to global warning. This is contradictory to the opinions expressed by Prof. V. Ramanathan and Greg Carmichael.

    Black carbon can't be linked to global warming: Pachauri
    PTI 16 November 2009, 01:47pm IST
    NEW DELHI: Black carbon in the atmosphere is an issue of concern but it can't be linked to melting of glaciers or global warming, leading climate expert R K Pachauri today said, dismissing fears that soot produced from biomass or fuel burning is as harmful as greenhouse gases.

    "As black carbon remains an issue of concern, the Intergovernmental Penal on Climate Change (IPCC) will be carrying out a detailed study on its impact on glaciers and climate change in the fifth assessment report to be released in 2013," Pachauri said

    The chairman of the Nobel-award winning IPCC said the work (to study the impact of the soot) is still in progress and "till then, I don't think that we can jump to any conclusion."

    Western climate experts have stressed on the need for bringing the issue of black carbon for discussion at the Copenhagen meet on climate change next month to put pressure on developing nations like India and China where fossil fuel forms major component of energy production.

    "There is a lot more work that is needed to be done in the subject (black carbon). I think once we are in the position to come up with a very clear finding then we can talk about it. At the moment it is an issue of concern but that's all I can say," he said.

    Prominent scientists V. Ramanathan and Greg Carmichael in their recent studies claimed that soot and other forms of black carbon could contribute to as much as 60 per cent of the current global warming effect of carbon dioxide, more than that of any GHGs besides CO2.

    The source article can be found here:

  6. #6


    Sabyasachi.. Interesting articles indeed.

    Couple of observations from my side.. Most Himalayan Glaciers ARE retreating.. No doubt about this..I could see in Gangothri Glacier, when I trekked all the way to Gomukh & Tapovan, this year. The locals [especially elderly ones] clearly say that the Bhagirathi snout has retreated at least 2-3 kms in their lifetime.. Gangothri Glacier, which is reasonably big [apparently we still have 30 kms left from the snout, as we see today] has been retreating at a much faster pace. The glacier retreat has been averaging at least 30 meters per year. Gangothri Glacier is also a significant source of water to the River Ganga. The other area of concern has been the formation of Glacier lakes. Any burst of these lakes is going to cause helluva havoc.

    Now what causes these glaciers to retreat ? I have been hearing & reading too many arguements. Global warming, Green house effect, natural Ice melt etc etc.. YES..Climate change globally has caused variations in temparature & snow fall & Himalayan Glaciers have not been spared in this at all. Most of these glaciers have been declining at a rapid pace in Mass..

    This certain calls for more ACTION before it is too late..! Lets see what the Copenhagen Summit comes out with.. I personally feel, India should NOT compromise & be firm in HER stand..

  7. #7
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    NEW DELHI: Smaller Himalayan glaciers are proving much more vulnerable to climate change than the area's larger glaciers, says a new report contradicting the recent environment ministry backed study which claimed that glacier melting can't be linked to global warming.

    A joint team from WWF-India, a well-known conservation organisation and Birla Institute of Technology analysed the three year data available from the on-going research to monitor two central Himalayan glaciers since 2006 - Gangotri and Kafni having length of 30 km and 4.2 km respectively.

    The study entitled, "Witnessing Change: Glaciers in the Indian Himalayas," says that while small glaciers are retreating fast and some of them have even vanished.

    Himalayan glaciers too are retreating but at a reduced rate and the larger glaciers like Gangotri are unlikely to disappear in near future due to their large mass balance.

    However, the study by former deputy director general of the Geological Survey of India V K Raina, which was recently released by Environment Minister Jairarm Ramesh, claimed that climate change can't be cited as a reason for melting of glaciers in the absence of conclusive scientific evidence.

    However, Ravi Singh, Secretary General of WWF India said that, "These glaciers are perhaps more vulnerable to local climate variations.

    "We see a need for more long-term and continuous assessment to monitor the hydro-meteorological parameters existing in the vicinity in order to better predict future water resource scenarios."

    Link - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/h...ow/5264618.cms
    Mrudul Godbole

  8. #8
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    Default When the ice melts

    An interesting article about Ganga -

    The Ganga has been flowing for thousands of years. It is an inextricable part of India’s physical and cultural landscape. The land around it has changed beyond recognition over the millennia, but the river has remained the one great constant. It is believed to have healing powers, and to be cremated on its banks is said to bring salvation from the cycle of rebirth. Many believe that it is one of the country’s eternal verities. But climate scientists have another opinion. The Ganga, says a scientific report, is drying up.

    It’s a terrifying thought but it could become reality if the planet keeps heating up. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its 2007 report, says the Himalayan glaciers are melting at 10 to 12 metres a year, three times faster than 200 years ago, quicker than in other parts of the world.

    The grimmest scenario has them disappearing by 2035. If that happens, perennial rivers like the Ganga, China’s Yellow River and Yangtze will see a sharp fall in water level. Worse, they could become seasonal rivers.

    Until now, Himalayan glaciers were an inexhaustible reserve for the great rivers that flow through the Asian continent: the Ganga, the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong which descends through Southeast Asia, the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, the Yellow and Yangtze rivers of China and a multitude of smaller rivers that flow through China and the Indo-Gangetic plains of northern India.

    The accelerated glacial melt will initially increase the water flow and may even lead to overflowing and floods. But when the glaciers have melted away, there’ll be nothing to cheer about.

    Hordes of pilgrims visit the glaciers as part of their spiritual journey. But the number may dwindle to zero if the Gangotri glacier, for instance, vanishes. As the temperature rises, so will the melt rate. If this does not stop, Ganga Maa could become a seasonal river in our lifetime.

    That means it will have significant flows only during the rainy season. That’s because, in the summer, when there is no rain, the Ganga depends on the glaciers for 70 per cent of its flow. In short, no glacier, no river in summer.

    There’s another side to this story. “A perennial river also helps recharge groundwater,” says Gopi Sundar, a researcher at the International Crane Foundation. “But if there’s no glacier to compensate for the absence of rainfall, groundwater too will deplete. There is no question of whether Ganga would become seasonal. It will happen in a matter of decades.”

    There may be worse to come because a warming globe could lead to unpredictable climate patterns. And an erratic monsoon would be a second deadly blow. The monsoon brings a steady trickle of water into the Gangetic plains over four or five months. Water slowly seeps through the riverbed or the soil. This replenishes the aquifers. But if, instead, the rainy season were confined to just two months, there wouldn’t be enough time for the runoff to seep underground. It would evaporate. And whatever is left on the riverbed or the soil, will become alkaline.

    The Ganga is the largest source of surface water irrigation in India. It drains an area of over one million sq km with a population of over 400 million people. “The survival of the tribal and rural areas on the banks of the river would be impossible if it becomes seasonal, as they depend on the river for everything — from irrigation, cultivation to personal basic needs,” says Gopi.

    Vandana Shiva, an environment activist, concurs. “The monsoon this year failed in the north. It created severe drought and raised questions on sustaining farmers’ livelihoods. A seasonal river would only add to their woes.” She adds that the impact on groundwater would be severe. “When there is no river water, farmers would dig more borewells until groundwater is depleted.”

    And what of farming? “Agriculture will be the worst casualty,” says Gopi. In fact, it will have global repercussions. India and China are the largest wheat and rice producing economies. Like India, China too has a river at risk — the Yellow River. The river, which flows through the arid northern part of China, could also become seasonal. Reports say that the glaciers on the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau in western China are melting at a much faster rate than before.

    Reports suggest that almost two-thirds of the glaciers could disappear by 2060, striking a deadly blow at both the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers.

    “If the glaciers continue to melt at this rate, both countries will face severe food shortages, among other things,” warns Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People in New Delhi. Food grain prices have already hit record highs and there are reports that India plans to

    import rice in the near future. “If the wheat or rice harvests decrease in India and China, it will be a nightmare,” says Thakkar.

    A seasonal Ganga will also mean the death of many traditions. The Kumbh Mela will vanish, says Gopi. “Millions throng the Mela. There are pilgrims, tourists and other locals who conduct poojas and other rituals throughout the year. All this brings tourism revenue. Without a perennial river, all will disappear.”

    But not everyone believes in Doomsday. In fact, WWF-India dismisses such predictions. “It is highly unlikely that the Ganga will become seasonal,” says Shirish Sinha, head of climate change and energy project, WWF. He says glacier melting won’t affect flows, as “Only 29 per cent of the flow in the Ganga depends on the snow. The rest of the river is dependent on tributaries.” But the fact is that most of these tributaries are snow-fed.

    He adds that the IPCC report on Gangotri should not worry people. “If there’s a 10-metre melt on a smaller glacier like Kafni (which also feeds the Ganga), that would be a cause for worry. It’s just 4.2 km long, so the impact would be much greater than the same volume melting on the Gangotri.”

    This said, Shirish agrees that the Ganga’s flows could decline if the monsoon pattern changes. “If the water level recedes, the quantity available for cultivation would also decrease. Farmers would then have to diversify. Instead of wheat, or sugarcane, they may have to cultivate a different set of crops. Those with small and marginal holdings in eastern UP, Bihar and West Bengal will suffer more as they’ll have difficulty adapting to newer climate patterns.”

    In India, many people keep a vial or a small pot with water from the Ganga in their prayer rooms. If scientific reports are to be taken seriously, these vials may be the last remnants we will have of India’s holiest river.

    The glacial fact

    1. Average yearly retreat of the Himalayan glaciers: In 2006, 30 metres; In 1935-1999, 18 m; In 1842-1935: 7 m

    2. Himalayan glaciers that could vanish due to global warming: Gangotri, Miyer, Mlion and Janapa by 2030-2050

    3. Number of people directly affected if these glaciers were to melt: 1.5 billion

    4. Gangotri Length: approx 30 km; Width: approx 2.5 km; Volume: 27 cubic km

    5. Between 1936 and 1996, the Gangotri glacier had receded by 1,147m. By 1999, it retreated further by 76m. When compared to the 2,000m retreat in 200 years, this accelerated rate of retreat is obvious.

    6. In 2001, the total area occupied by the glacier was 260 sq km.

    7. Rate at which Gangotri is melting per year: 28.1 m

    8. Year in which Gangotri will disappear: 2050, if glacier melt continues at
    the same rate.

    Lakshmy Venkiteswaran in Express buzz
    Link - http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/s...fBHAeKn3LcnQ==
    Mrudul Godbole

  9. #9
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    Default Gangotri to Gomukh Trek limited to 150 people per month

    Thanks Mrudul for the sharing the nice article by Lakshmy Venkiteswaran. Gangotri is indeed retreating. The Uttarakhand Government has taken cognisance of the fact and have now restricted the number of people trekking the 18kms from Gangotri to Gomukh 150 per month. Sharing the news item published in Rediff News.

    U'khand clamps heavy restrictions on Gomukh treks

    November 28, 2009 20:43 IST

    The popular treks to Gomukh -- the source of the Ganga, India's 'holiest of holy' rivers -- will not be as simple as it has been over the centuries.

    The Uttarakhand government has clamped heavy restrictions on the number of people undertaking the 18 kilometre trek from Gangotri to Gomukh.

    "We have decided not to allow more than 150 people to undertake the trek over a month," Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' told a press conference in Lucknow on Saturday evening.

    Nishank was in Lucknow on a day-long visit to resolve various issues, pending between the Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh governments ever since the Himalayan state was carved out of UP nine years ago. He also held a two-hour long meeting with his UP counterpart Mayawati in this regard.

    According to Nishank, "The restrictions had to be imposed essentially because of the increasing human pressure on the Gangotri glacier, that has been receding at an alarming rate."

    He said, "Ganga is the national invaluable heritage, with which we cannot afford to risk anything so we decided to take this first step towards preserving it."

    Admitting that the mushroom growth of hotels in Gangotri -- the last motorable road head on the route -- was responsible for increasing pollution of the Ganga at that point, the Uttarakhand chief minister said, "A sustainable plan would be drawn up soon to curb such pollution as well."

    Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
    Source article can be found here:

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