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Alarm bells over Valley’s largest glacier

While Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh believes glacier melting has little to do with climate change,expert...

Written by RIYAZ WANI | Srinagar |
December 14, 2009 3:54:00 am

While Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh believes glacier melting has little to do with climate change,expert Dr Shakeel Ramshoo has rung the alarm bells,saying the Valley’s biggest glacier,Kolahai,may disappear altogether.

Dr Ramshoo believes that if this happens,lesser water would get discharged to Jhelum river,adding another,grave dimension to the Indo-Pak dispute over Kashmir.

The convenor of the Climate Change Research working group at Kashmir University,Dr Ramshoo says the area of Kolahai has retreated 13.87 sq km to 11.24 sq km since 1976. “The annual rate of retreat is 0.08 sq km,which is quite alarming,” he says.

Situated at an altitude of 3,600 metres in the upper reaches of the Pahalgam tourist resort,Kolahai is the source of water for Lidder and Sindh,two major fresh water streams.

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The situation is no different with other glaciers. An Action Aid Report says there has been an overall 21 per cent reduction in the glacier surface area in the Chenab basin. “The mean area of glacial extent in the state has also declined,from 1 sq km to 0.32 sq km from 1962 to 2004,” the report says.

Many areas,the report adds,have seen a complete disappearance of small glaciers,such as some parts of eastern Srinagar and the Pirpanjal mountain range in district Pulwama. “In other areas,like Budgam,the height of the small glaciers has reduced to over one-fourth of the original height.”

Similialy,in the upper reaches of the Sindh Valley in Ganderbal district,the Najwan Akal,which was said to be a major glacier,has completely disappeared. Thajwas,Zojila and Naranag glaciers too have considerably reduced. The length of the Hangipora glacier in Anantnag has reduced from 35 ft to 12 ft and the Naaginad glacier has reduced from 30 ft to 10 ft.

However,it is Kolahai,one of the major glaciers of Himalayan region,that worries climatologists more. Dr Ramshoo is leading the study on Kolahai in the Valley and Suru basin glaciers in adjoining Kargil,a project sponsored by ISRO,which began in 2007.

Like Kolahai,glacialised area of Suru,which was about 72 sq km 40 years ago,has shrunk by 16.43 per cent,with dozens of its numerous glaciers already invisible.

Dr Ramshoo has no doubt about what’s causing the change. “The increase in Kashmir temperature has been 1 degrees Centrigade,which is substantially more than the 0.72 degrees Centrigade rise in global temperature over the past century,” he says. “The result is less snowfall and less formation of glaciers.”

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