August 2017 News

Kashmir Glaciers Shrinking Rapidly, Says Study

13 August 2017
The Economic Times
Jayashree Nandi

New Delhi: The impact of climate change is being felt in Kashmir as snowfall has lowered over the years and glaciers are losing mass leading to reduced flows in Chenab, Jhelum and Indus. A recent research has highlighted that Srinagar is facing one of the highest black carbon (caused due to incomplete combustion of fossil fuel) pollution, nearly as much as in Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world. Kashmir University's department of earth sciences has published a number of studies recently highlighting the severity of water stress and more recently poor air quality in the region. According to Shakil A Romshoo, who heads the department of earth sciences, loss of glaciers in Upper Indus Basin (Hindukush Himalayas, Karakoram and the Himalayan mountain ranges) could be highest among those in the Kashmir valley. Rearchers Romshoo and Khalid Omar Murtaza studied the health of nine 'benchmark' glaciers in Kashmir Himalayas between 1980 and 2013. The data analysis showed the glaciers in Lidder valley have shrunk by 17%. The annual air temperature has shown increasing trends while a slight decrease in precipitation has also been noticed. The total glaciated area of the nine benchmark glaciers in 1980 was 29.01 sqkm which reduced 23.81 sqkm in 2013. Smaller glaciers lost more area, the research shows. 'It is evident that if this trend of recession continues into the next few decades, it may pose a serious threat to the availability of water for irrigation, hydropower, horticulture and recreational use,' the study concluded. Romshoo highlighted these concerns at a meeting of the Indus basin countries organized by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in Colombo last month. He said a related worry is the shifting of peak rainfall discharge from summer to spring. Water requirement for irrigation in the Upper Indus Basin (UIB) starts around June. 'But the shifting of hydrographic cycle to spring would have long term consequences for agriculture in UIB unless the government initiates creating water storage infrastructure in the form of dams to store spring water,' said Romshoo. His department, which has been studying the air quality in Kashmir and climate change impacts, has reasons to believe that high black carbon (BC) emissions in Kashmir Valley could be one of the major reasons for the poor health of glaciers in the region. 'There is no doubt that glaciers in the UIB are showing a retreat. However, the rate of retreat or mass loss is varying in different mountainous ranges. We have observed that the loss of glaciers is highest in Kashmir valley in the Jhelum basin and one of the reasons is the high black carbon levels due to increasing biomass and fossil fuel burning here,' he said. (The reporter was at the Indus Basin Media Dialogue in Colombo on invitation by IWMI)