Looming Climate Threat In Himalayas & COP 27
Rapid retreat of Himalayan glaciers and an inconsistent monsoon pattern —two of the most visible impacts of climatic changes in and around Himalayas. This is going to make life more difficult in the coming days for millions of people, according to a report released at the COP 27. “Glacier retreat in the Himalayas threatens water supply, particularly under drought conditions.
The Himalayas provide water for 1.3 billion people in the vicinity of 10 major river basins in Asia. Lack of water resources increases agricultural vulnerability to the changing climate, affecting the food security and health of large populations,” the report said. The report, titled 10 New Insights In Climate Science has been produced by Future Earth, The Earth League, and World Climate Research Programme.
Three are major Himalayan rivers in India —the Indus Ganga and Brahmaputra apart from many of their tributaries. Major part of India is heavily dependent on these three rivers and their tributaries. Glacier retreat leads to the formation and development of glacial lakes. Breaches in such lakes can potentially cause devastating floods in downstream hilly regions affecting hydro projects besides vast tracts of farming and fishing. This year itself the Himalayan region particularly the Eastern Himalayas has seen unprecedented floods and landslides due to record excess rain that too unseasonal ones.
The impacts of glacial retreat may be compounded with the impacts of the changing monsoon pattern. The report said, “More variable patterns of tropical monsoon systems in South America, India and Southeast Asia…could lead to weather extremes that further expose human vulnerability in densely populated coastal areas.” The recently observed monsoon trends in India hint at sudden, heavy rain in quick bursts following prolonged dry periods.
The Himalayan (HKH) region, which is spread across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, is the pulse of the planet. It has the largest reserves of ice outside the polar regions and home to four global biodiversity hotspots. What happens in this region affects close to two billion people which is one-fourth of humanity.