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No clear sign of alarming retreat in Himalayan glaciers,says report

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had been saying it all along. Now he has the findings of a report to back his claims.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had been saying it all along. Now he has the findings of a report to back his claims. A study by a former scientist at the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has sought to downplay the scare-mongering over an apparent alarming retreat of the Himalayan glaciers due to global warming.

Sourcing his findings from a wealth of literature on the subject as well as some fresh analysis,V K Raina,a former deputy director general at GSI,has concluded that it was “premature to make a statement that glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating abnormally because of global warming”.

Instead,he says “Himalayan glaciers,although shrinking in volume and constantly showing a retreating front,have not in any way exhibited,especially in recent years,an abnormal annual retreat of the order that some glaciers in Alaska and Greenland are reported” to be showing.

The glaciers in the Himalayas,as indeed everywhere else,are widely believed to be receding at a fast pace due to climate change and are often cited as evidence to shake the non-believers out of their inaction. Ramesh has been contesting this saying there were studies that pointed to an opposite trend in the case of some glaciers in the Himalayas and therefore more scientific analysis was necessary to reach any conclusion. Raina’s report supports this view.

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“A glacier is affected by a range of physical features and a complex interplay of climatic factors. It is,therefore,unlikely that the snout movement of any glacier can be claimed to be a result of periodic climate variation until many centuries of observations become available. While glacier movements are primarily due to climate and snowfall,snout movements appear to be peculiar to each particular glacier,” the report says.

Ramesh,who made the report public on Monday,said Raina’s analysis only pointed to inadequate science on the subject. He said over the next three years his ministry would focus on “studying the glaciers from the scientific point of view rather than looking at the issue from a political angle”.“Let’s depoliticise the glaciers melting issue by generating scientific critique or debate on the issue,” he said.

First published on: 10-11-2009 at 05:13 IST
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