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Climate Change Damaging Ancient Glaciers in Himalayas, More Floods Likely, Warn Scientists

CC0 / / Himalayas.
Himalayas. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.08.2021
A World Bank report in June had highlighted how black carbon deposits originating from factories, cooking and vehicles are exacerbating the effects of climate change to accelerate the melting of the Himalayan glaciers. The report indicated that aggressively cutting back on black carbon emissions could slow glacier melt and improve water security.
Environmental studies in India have expressed concern over the damaging impact that climate change is having on the ecology of the Himalayas and how global warming is causing ancient glaciers to retreat at an alarming rate. 
The issue was raised by Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, a BJP politician from India's Ladakh, on Friday in the Lower House of Parliament. He said there is an urgent need to tackle climate change
A recent study entitled 'Little Ice Age glacier extent and temporal changes in annual mass balance of Pensilungpa Glacier', that appeared in the journal Regional Environmental Change in April, also raised concerns about retreating glaciers.
The study observed that the Pensilungpa Glacier, located in Zanskar, Ladakh union territory, is retreating rapidly because of a rise in temperature and a fall in precipitation during the winter.
The study was conducted by scientists at Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in the state of Uttarakhand.
The Zanskar range, with an average height of 6,000 metres, separates Ladakh from the Kashmir Valley in India and has seldom been studied. It is considered a branch of the great Himalayan range of mountains. Several rivers have their source in the range and flow north to join the mighty Indus River. 
Dr. Manish Mehta, the lead author of the study at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, told Sputnik: "Very few studies have been done in remote areas of the Himalayas which is the reason we chose this area to study the effects of climate change." 
"We studied temperatures of the past 100 years and found that the temperatures in the region are rising during the winter time rather than during the summer period. This single factor is causing a huge impact," Dr Mehta added. 
Warning of more floods in the region that is considered a "cold desert", Dr Mehta said: "Winter is getting shorter in the region where the Pensilungpa glacier is and the summer period is increasing. This means that the glacier is not getting the nourishment it used to."
"Some glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate of  20 to 30 metres per annum which is very worrying," he said.
Though the scientists have been trying to heighten the state of alarm, the federal government has been downplaying the effect climate change has on glaciers.
On Thursday, the federal Minister of State for Jal Shakti (Water) Prahlad Singh Patel, told Parliament's Lok Sabha (lower house): "Studies have shown the  glaciers with an area of more than 10 square kilometres are unlikely to be greatly affected in the coming years. But, smaller glaciers of less than 2 sq km area are likely to show rapid changes," he said in answer to a question in Lok Sabha.
Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, an autonomous institute under the federal government's Department of Science and Technology, suggested in its study that because of the steady rise in air temperature, in line with the global trend, the melting would increase.
The study has said it is possible that the precipitation of summer periods at greater altitudes will change from snow to rain, and this could influence the summer and winter pattern. 
"The rocks found in the region are very fragile. With increasing temperatures and more snow melt, there is a strong likelihood that the frequency of devastating  floods, as seen in 2010 in Leh, will increase," Dr Mehta warned.
In 2010 massive floods occurred across Ladakh which wreaked havoc in 71 towns and villages including Leh, Ladakh's largest town and a global tourist attraction. As many as 255 people died in the floods including six foreign tourists, when heavy rains, which are rare in the cold desert region, triggered mud slides.
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