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Billions To Be Affected In Asia As Himalayas May Lose 75% Of Ice

By
OB Bureau

New Delhi: The mighty Himalayas is grappling with a worrying loss of glaciers.

According to the State of India’s Environment 2024 report, the region has borne the brunt of 44% of India’s natural disasters from 2013 to 2022 with an increasing severity and frequency of floods, landslides and thunderstorms — particularly in the Himalayan states.

The Himalayas – world’s third-largest repository of ice and snow – is experiencing an accelerated glacier melt in its upper reaches, at a reported rate of 65%.

The alarming rate is attributed to the rapid rise in surface temperatures, strengthening the fears of a serious environmental crisis.

“These disasters are occurring more frequently and getting more severe, causing a significant loss of life and damage to property,” said Kiran Pandey, head of CSE’s Environment Resources Unit.

It’s a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods of around 2 billion people, mostly in Asia, who heavily depend on water sourced from these glaciers.

Cloudbursts often result in emergence of new glacial lakes, which lead to flooding whenever these lakes overflow.

Another ill-effect of climate change in the Himalayan region is the shift in the vegetation line, with a migration of 11 to 54 metres per decade.

With 90% of Himalayan agriculture relying on rainfall, sustainability of livelihoods becomes precarious. Not only does it endanger inhabitants of the region, but also poses a threat to downstream populations which rely on Himalayan water resources.

The Himalayas is also experiencing a decline in permafrost — permanently frozen region, In the western Himalayas region, around 8,340 square kilometres were lost between 2002-04 and 2018-20.

The thawing results in landslides, which cause extensive infrastructural damage.

The report sends out a stark warning that if the current trajectory persists, up to 75% of Himalayan ice could disappear by the end of this century.

Urgent and decisive action is imperative to avert catastrophe, with leaders urged to act swiftly.

“We need leaders to act now to prevent catastrophe,” ICIMOD’s deputy director general Izabella Koziell said, stressing on the urgent need for immediate and incisive action to safeguard the Himalayas and billions of lives dependent on this vital ecosystem.

OB Bureau

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