July 20, 2011 – INDIA – Receding Himalayan glaciers are resulting in the formation of glacial lakes which climatologists warn are growing at an alarming pace. The Himalayas have 55,000 glaciers but the creation of these lakes could destroy the settlements located close to them. Prof. G.M. Bhat of the department of geology in Jammu University warned that the increasing number of lakes were forming due to rising temperature. If these lakes breach their banks (often formed from loose Morain) the floods can cause devastation in downstream areas said Prof. Bhat. Though little data was available on just how many lakes had formed, 35 glacial lake outbursts have occurred in Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan and China during the last century according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Many of these lakes are located near seismic faults and geophysicists with the Dehra Dun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology warn that an earthquake whose epicentre is located close to a lake could create a disastrous situation. Senior seismologists confirm that the Himalayas record half-a-dozen minor tremors every day. The danger is as much from an earthquake as it is from landslides and avalanches which can make even a small lake dangerous. UNEP experts cite the example of glacial lake Inja located close to the Everest base camp. The lake did not exist in 1950 but has presently expanded to a total area of 1,012 square km over the years. UNEP experts believe nations need to come up with their own strategies to adapt to this new situation. They cite the example of Bhutan, which has partnered with the UNDP to avert the risk of glacial flooding from lake Thorthormi by training a small team of workers to clear the rubble from a channel that drains the lake to prevent flooding. The UNEP confirms that glacial lakes in Nepal have increased by 33 per cent and in case of a burst, “there will be little or no warning to evacuate a great number of people who could be in danger because of this”. –Asian Age
In a startling comparison between the state of glaciers in the Himalayan ranges in the last 50 years, glaciologists say nearly 65 percent glaciers are melting due to global warming. “Almost 65 percent of the glaciers are depleting in the Himalayan region in a comparison between 1955 and 2007. There are many recently formed lakes in the region, resulting to changing weather pattern,” said scientist Alton Byer, who is studying melting glaciers. –Greater Kashmir News
contribution Ping P.