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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Parliamentary panel holds meeting on glaciers, seeks to streamline research, warning systems

The committee has been examining glacier management in the country — including the monitoring of glaciers and glacial lakes, particularly glacial lake outbursts leading to flash floods in the Himalayan region — since January this year.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
June 22, 2021 2:08:14 am
The standing committee will now look into the possibility of setting up an inter-nodal agency or mechanism to streamline research as well as warning systems.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources, chaired by senior BJP MP Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, held a meeting on Monday in which the possibility of a convergence of data and early warning systems for avalanches and glacier management systems was explored.

The committee has been examining glacier management in the country — including the monitoring of glaciers and glacial lakes, particularly glacial lake outbursts leading to flash floods in the Himalayan region — since January this year. The standing committee will now look into the possibility of setting up an inter-nodal agency or mechanism to streamline research as well as warning systems.

“Our last meeting took place in January. Even before the Chamoli avalanche took place. We wanted to look at the issue because of the frequent landslides and natural disasters in the Himalayas. But after Chamoli took place, the issue became urgent and of great importance,” said a source.

Thirteen MPs turned up for Monday’s meeting, and listened to presentations from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Department of Science and Technology, the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology — which has a glaciology centre — and DRDO’s Defence Geo Informatics Research Establishment.

In the past, the standing committee has examined observations made by the Defence and Home ministries, as well the Ministry of External Affairs to examine how glacial activity in China could affect the country.

“There is a lot of work being done by different institutes in the country and a lot of data on the issue is collected. But all these institutes work in silos and there is no data sharing at all. We will see if it is possible to work towards a convergence of this data on a single platform which will not only help in understanding and monitoring glacial activity, but also help mitigate incidents such as (the avalanche in) Chamoli. We will consider the possibility of setting up an inter-nodal agency for more data sharing,’’ a source said.

Members of the committee also discussed the role of state governments, and how this can shift from a mainly reactive role to a more proactive one in aiding mitigation of disasters.

With inadequate monitoring of glaciers in India right now, the panel discussed the possibility of establishing a separate Centre of Glaciology (currently only the Wadia institute has one department), the establishment of a network of automated weather stations across the Himalayas, the collection of hydrological data and a standardised protocol for local district officials and administration and the possibility of having hydropower project proponents establish their own early warning systems to disseminate warnings to the local population.

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