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Glaciers Feeding Indian Rivers May be Wiped Out

Indo-Asian News Service / keralanext.com 28apr04

New Delhi, India—Glaciers feeding the Ganga, Yamuna, Indus and the Brahmaputra rivers may be wiped out in 40 years, impacting the economic, cultural and spiritual life of India, warn scientists.

The warning bells were sounded in the first report on melting glaciers and their impact by Sagarmatha - the Snow and Glacier Aspects of Water Resources Management in the Himalaya - presented here Tuesday.

Sagarmatha, commissioned by Britain's Department for International Development (DFID), gives a decade-by-decade analysis for Indian rivers over the next 100 years.

The study warns that global warming will result in increased glacial waters in the next 40 years - and then the shortfall of the precious resource will begin.

It also urges timely water management activities.

Syed Iqbal Hasnain, vice chancellor of Calicut University, told IANS: "In today's times, the rivers have shown three to four percent surplus due to the 10 percent increase in the melting of the glaciers of the western Himalayas, and the 30 percent increase in the eastern Himalayan glaciers.

"But after 40 years, most of these glaciers will be wiped out and then we will have severe water problems.

"In order to lighten our fall, we should start taking water management steps, like water harvesting, water recharging."

According to the study, the upper Indus over the first few decades will have plus 14 percent to plus 90 percent increase, after which there will be a drastic fall to as low as 30-90 percent below the baseline level by decade 10.

The Kaligandaki basin in the east, however, contrasts in behaviour. The decadal mean flow shows an increase throughout the next 100 years; the most extreme temperature scenario attaining a peak mean flow of between plus 30 percent and plus 90 percent.

For the Ganga, near its headwaters in Uttarkashi, the flow is predicted to peak at plus 25 to plus 33 percent of baseline level within the first two decades and then recede to as low as minus 50 percent of the baseline by the sixth decade.

Further downstream, de-glaciation impacts are barely noticeable.

David Collins, professor of Salford University, is quoted as saying: "I had been studying the effect of de-glaciation in Switzerland for the past 30 years. The rivers there today have double the expected water amount due to melted snow.

"But in another half century, these rivers will be reduced to half their expected quantity.

"In the subcontinent too, while the Indus basin spreading over Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan will be terribly affected by glacial activity, the Brahmaputra delta in West Bengal and Bangladesh will have increased water flow due to heavy rainfalls caused by the melting of glaciers.

"The level of sea water is expected to rise by 35 cm. Imagine the highest of tides and the biggest of floods to be taller by 35 cm. The issue is very serious.

"This could in fact submerge the whole of India's gradually sloping eastern coastal region."

But the water imbalance is just the tip of the iceberg, says the study.

S.K. Das, a member of the research and design department of the Central water Commission, says: "All this glacial activity will affect the cultural, spiritual and economic life of India as a whole.

"All our irrigation, domestic water supply and hydro-electricity production will go haywire, if timely action is not initiated."

source: http://www.keralanext.com/news/index.asp?id=34755 28apr04

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