tagged w/ Himalayas
Deny this: contested Himalayan glaciers really are melting and doing so at a rapid pace (kind of like climate change)Remember when climate change contrarians professed outrage over a few errors in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s last report? One of their favorite such mistakes involved an overestimation of the pace at which glaciers would melt at the “Third Pole,” where the Indian subcontinent crashes into Asia. Some contrarians back in 2010 proceeded to deny that the glaciers of the Himalayas and associated mountain ranges were melting at all. But now, using satellites and on-the-ground surveys, scientists note that 82 glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau are retreating, 15 glaciers have dwindled in mass, and 7,090 glaciers have shrunk in size.
Why? The culprits include rising average temperatures characteristic of ongoing global warming and changes in precipitation, another sign of climate change, according to Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University and his colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The study appeared online in the journal Nature Climate Change on July 15—and is bad news for the hundreds of millions of people who rely on such glaciers to feed water into major rivers such as the Ganges, Mekong or Yangtze.
But climate contrarians have moved on, of course. This June, atmospheric scientist Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the only remaining climate contrarians actually trained in climate science, dismissed the documented 0.8 degree Celsius rise in average temperatures in the past 150 years or so as a small change during a talk at Sandia National Laboratory. Yet, that small change has resulted in events like chunks of ice double the size of Manhattan breaking free of the ancient Greenland ice sheet last week. Just a few years ago, an even bigger ice-massif crashed into the sea. Events that once happened every few decades in Greenland now happen every year or so.
That “small change” has also been enough for weird weather to play havoc around the world, whether it be the epic drought currently over-baking Midwestern corn crops or the torrents of rain unleashed this year on Beijing, killing at least 77 people, according to the Xinhua news agency. The list of weather-related disasters continues to get longer with each passing year and, while no single weather event can be tied directly to climate change, our continuing fossil-fuel burning loads the climate dice in favor of more and more snake-eye rolls such as deadly floods or searing droughts. It’s all unfolding pretty much as predicted by climate scientists in the 1980s.
More at the linkRemember when climate change contrarians professed outrage over a few errors in the UN... more
Climate change is altering the face of the Himalayas, devastating farming communities and making Mount Everest increasingly treacherous to climb, some of the world's top mountaineers have warned.
Apa Sherpa, the Nepali climber who has conquered Mount Everest a record 21 times, said he was disturbed by the lack of snow on the world's highest peak, caused by rising temperatures.
"In 1989 when I first climbed Everest there was a lot of snow and ice but now most of it has just become bare rock. That, as a result, is causing more rockfalls which is a danger to the climbers," he told AFP.
"Also, climbing is becoming more difficult because when you are on a mountain you can wear crampons but it's very dangerous and very slippery to walk on bare rock with crampons."
Speaking after completing the first third of a gruelling 1,700-kilometre (1,100-mile) trek across the Himalayas, Apa Sherpa would not rule out the possibility of Everest being unclimbable in the coming years.
"What will happen in the future I cannot say but this much I can say from my own experiences -- it has changed a lot," he said an an interview with AFP in the village of Gati, 16 kilometres from Nepal's border with Tibet.
The 51-year-old father-of-three, dubbed "Super Sherpa", began his working life as a farmer but turned to the tourism industry and mountaineering after he lost all his possessions when a glacial lake burst in 1985.
He is on a 120-day walk dubbed the Climate Smart Celebrity Trek with another of the world's top climbers, Nepali Dawa Steven Sherpa, with the pair expected to reach the finish on May 13.
The expedition, the first official hike along the length of Nepal's Great Himalayan Trail since it opened last year, will take in some of the world's most rugged landscapes and see the duo ascending beyond 6,000 metres (19,600 feet).
"I want to understand the impact of climate change on other people but also I'd like tourism to play a roll in changing their lives as it has changed mine," said Apa Sherpa.
Research published by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) last year showed Nepal's glaciers had shrunk by 21 percent over 30 years.
A three-year research project led by ICIMOD showed 10 glaciers surveyed in the region all are shrinking, with a marked acceleration in loss of ice between 2002 and 2005.
Scientists say the effects of climate change could be devastating, as the Himalayas provide food and energy for 1.3 billion people living in downstream river basins.
Environmental campaigners refer to the mountain range as the "third pole" and say the melting glaciers are the biggest potential contributors to rising sea levels after the North and South Poles.
Scientists blame confusion and scepticism over climate change on a blunder in a 2007 United Nations report which falsely claimed that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by as soon as 2035.
On the ground, however, mountain communities are already alarmed by dramatic shifts in weather patterns, two-time Everest summiteer Dawa Steven Sherpa told AFP as he and Apa completed the first 530 kilometres of their trek.
"Right from the beginning we saw the effects of climate change on tea plantations in Ilam district," he said.
"These areas would not normally get frost and it is destroying their entire crop. These are cash crops that employ thousands of people, even on one farm.
"From what the local people are saying, it's getting colder in the winter and hotter in the summer and it is the cold they are worried about."Climate change is altering the face of the Himalayas, devastating farming communities... more
The world's greatest snow-capped peaks, which run in a chain from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, have lost no ice over the last decade, new research shows.
The discovery has stunned scientists, who had believed that around 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed each year and not being replaced by new snowfall.
The study is the first to survey all the world's icecaps and glaciers and was made possible by the use of satellite data. Overall, the contribution of melting ice outside the two largest caps – Greenland and Antarctica – is much less then previously estimated, with the lack of ice loss in the Himalayas and the other high peaks of Asia responsible for most of the discrepancy.
more at link...
Where's Nobel Prize Winning, IPCC Head, Rajendra Pachauri, who said there would be no ice in 25 years? That paid-off, propaganda spewing, carbon scamming, globalist quack should be charged with intellectual fraud and thrown in jail with his con-man, Ponzi-scheming crony, Al Gore.The world's greatest snow-capped peaks, which run in a chain from the Himalayas... more
India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan were part of the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas held in Bhutan's capital Thimphu on Saturday. They agreed to cooperate on energy, water, food and biodiversity issues.
"The success of our initiative will not only have direct and immediate benefits for our own people, but we could be setting a worthy precedent for other countries that share similar conditions," Bhutan's Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y. Thinley said according to a press statement released late Saturday.
Pakistan, China and Afghanistan were absent from the summit but organizers downplayed that, saying that the summit was focused on securing ecosystems, endangered species,and food and water sources for only the Himalayas' eastern part.
The summit called for action amid the international community's inability to agree on limiting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global climate change. The next round of U.N. climate talks begin in Durban, South Africa Nov. 28, but the expectations of any breakthrough there are limited.
As part of the declaration the four nations agreed to work together to increase access to "affordable and reliable" clean energy resources and technology through a regional knowledge sharing mechanism, a press statement from the World Wildlife Fund said.
The draft of the declaration was not immediately available Sunday.
The most contentious part of the talks dealt with water security, according to the WWF release, but the four nations did agree to work together on ecosystem and disaster management, sharing their knowledge in water use efficiency.
Regional tensions have long prevented Himalayan cooperation, including basic research in the world's largest block of glaciers outside the polar regions, and accounting for 40 percent of the world's fresh water.
There was also consensus on food security and securing livelihoods and the deal covers way to adapt and improve food production and help vulnerable communities get better access to nutritious food.
"These kinds of regional initiatives are really needed," said Liisa Rohweder, CEO of WWF Finland, adding the summit was a good lead to follow for the Durban meeting.India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan were part of the Climate Summit for a Living... more
Think of solar arrays and you'll probably picture panels under blistering desert heat – but we may be able to get more energy from solar panels on snow-capped mountains.
Kotaro Kawajiri at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mapped solar irradiance across the globe in collaboration with colleagues in Japan. They found that some of the highest levels of sunlight can be found in the Himalayas and the Andes: at altitude, less light is lost to the atmosphere.
There's another reason why high-altitude solar power makes sense. At temperatures of around 40 °C, 13 per cent of the energy solar panels would normally produce is lost to heat. The cold air at high-altitude keeps the panels cool and efficient, says Kawajiri.
Keith Barnham, a photovoltaics researcher at Imperial College London, says cold climates may be the new frontier in solar. "There are a lot of underdeveloped regions and communities living high up in the foothills of the Himalayas that could benefit from solar energy," he says.
More at the linkThink of solar arrays and you'll probably picture panels under blistering desert... more
Video at the link
Rivers of ice: Vanishing glaciers
Stunning images from high in the Himalayas - showing the extent by which many glaciers have shrunk in the past 80 years or so - have gone on display at the Royal Geographical Society in central London.
Between 2007 and 2010, David Breashears retraced the steps of early photographic pioneers such as Major E O Wheeler, George Mallory and Vittorio Sella - to try to re-take their views of breathtaking glacial vistas.
The mountaineer and photographer is the founder of GlacierWorks - a non-profit organisation that uses art, science and adventure to raise public awareness about the consequences of climate change in the Himalayas.Video at the link Rivers of ice: Vanishing glaciers Stunning images from high in... more
Already cursed by floods and suicide bombings, Pakistan now faces a new menace from an unprecedented outbreak of the deadly tropical disease dengue fever.
In less than a month, 126 people have died and more than 12,000 have been diagnosed with the virus, which has spread rapidly among both rich and poor in Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore.
Dengue affects between 50 and 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics each year, resulting in fever, muscle and joint ache.
But it can also be fatal, developing into haemorrhagic fever and shock syndrome, which is characterised by bleeding and a loss of blood pressure.
Caused by four strains of virus spread by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, there is no vaccine -- which is why prevention methods focus on mosquito control.
Pakistani authorities in Lahore have blamed the crisis on prolonged monsoon rains and unusually high seasonal temperatures.
But furious locals say the outbreak is yet another example of government inefficiency, citing a failure to take preventive measures to kill off the mosquitos and lengthy power cuts.
Saad Azeem, 45, is a police officer who should be out spraying the streets with insecticide, but he is laid up at home suffering from the fever and mourning the death of his elderly father.
"My father was 79 years old and a retired deputy superintendent of police. His death due to dengue fever really shocked us," Azeem told AFP.
"This dengue has become a calamity."
Of the more than 11,584 people afflicted, 10,244 come from Lahore alone, the provincial capital of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province and the country's political heartland.
In northwestern province Khyber Paktunkhwa, at least 130 people have been diagnosed and six have died. Southern province Sindh has seen 400 suspected cases and six deaths.
Banners emblazoned with giant sketches of mosquitos and public warning messages such as "Eliminate dengue, Have peace" are hung across avenues and crossings in Lahore, a city of eight million.
The chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, whose party runs the local governing coalition and whose brother Nawaz is Pakistan's opposition leader, has urged doctors to do more to restore calm.
"You are doing a wonderful job, but we have to bring down the mortality rate so that the people will be calmed," he said at a workshop this week.
Hospitals are overwhelmed, treating around 1,113 people and having already sent home another 10,000 to recuperate, said Asif Nadeem, a member of a hastily set up anti-dengue task force.
At Lahore General Hospital, where most cases have been reported, the corridors were packed with patients and relatives making it difficult to breathe.
Outside, medics set up large tents to accommodate family members and patients waiting for treatment, offering some shelter in the sweltering heat.
"We have no complaints about the arrangements, but they are not going beyond giving out paracetamol," Rashid Hameed, 27, an accountant, told AFP.
Doctor Zafar Ikram said the hospital was working beyond capacity to deal with the influx of patients.
More at the linkAlready cursed by floods and suicide bombings, Pakistan now faces a new menace from an... more
Bhutan's prime minister has issued a dire warning about the impact of Himalayan climate change, saying it could wreck the tiny kingdom's ambitious plans to be a world leader in hydropower.
The isolated, mountainous nation sandwiched between India and China is famed for pursuing "happiness" for its citizens instead of orthodox economic growth, with environmental protection central to its development model.
Bhutan, home to 700,000 people, is already a carbon-neutral electricity producer, with almost all of its power generated at plants that capture energy from the cascading streams that criss-cross its spectacular landscape.
But Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley told AFP the country was powerless to prevent changes caused by shifting weather patterns which threaten regional water supplies and plans to harness the energy of the Himalayan snowmelt.
"The glaciers are retreating very rapidly, some are even disappearing. The flow of water in our river system is fluctuating in ways that are very worrying," he said in an interview in his office in the capital Thimphu.
"In the summer they overflow their banks in a way that used to never happen in the past and in the winter they shrivel and almost dry up.
"The climate is changing, global warming is real and the impact on our hydrology is very severe."
The increase in meltwater caused by warmer summers has also led to the creation of lakes high in the mountains that threaten people in the valleys below.
The government is building an early warning system to alert authorities to any possible breach of the natural dams that hold back the water.
More at the linkBhutan's prime minister has issued a dire warning about the impact of Himalayan... more
The world turns, sometimes strangely.
For millions living in Himalayan mountains the faster melting glaciers are posing a new danger - glacial lakes that may burst. From just a few thousand lakes in mid 1900s, the number has grown over 20,000 lakes in the Himalayan belt from Pakistan in the west to Burma in the East, says a new United Nations Development Fund documentary highlighting the danger of climate change to 1.3 billion people living in downstream valley.
"Some of these lakes pose danger to habitations as there is a risk of overflowing," said Andrew Schild, director of Nepal based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). About 15% of the lakes are said to be in the possible danger zone.
In 2005, Pareechu lake in China had burst in 2005 causing flash in the riverbed of Satluj in Himachal. At least 32 events of glacial lake overflows have been recorded in the Himalayan region causing huge lose to property and human life.
ICIMOD, a transnational body to monitor glaciers, says that lake Imja Toso in the Mount Everest region was non-existent in 1960s but now is one sq km in area and many lakes in eastern Himalayan region have increased by eight times over the past 40 years.
It is just tip of the iceberg as flow of water into glacial lakes is expected to increase further with half of the 32,000 glaciers expected to melt by end of this century. About 75% of glaciers in Indian part of Himalayan region are retreating at a faster than ever before, a recent Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) analysis said.
More at the linkFor millions living in Himalayan mountains the faster melting glaciers are posing a... more
It used to take teacher Mahabir Pun more than two days to check his email from his home in the remote Himalayan village of Nagi in western Nepal.The 55-year-old would walk for seven hours to the nearest road before taking a three-hour bus ride along precarious mountain tracks to the only town in the area with an Internet connection.
LINK : http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101129/tc_afp/lifestyleitnepalpoverty;_ylt=AlWdNUbbS2ERiZBKAmAaVU4jtBAF;_ylu=X3oDMTJ0ZTIwMmg4BGFzc2V0A2FmcC8yMDEwMTEyOS9saWZlc3R5bGVpdG5lcGFscG92ZXJ0eQRwb3MDOQRzZWMDeW5fYXJ0aWNsZV9zdW1tYXJ5X2xpc3QEc2xrA3dpLWZpbGlmZWxpbg--It used to take teacher Mahabir Pun more than two days to check his email from his... more
Nainital the lake city of India is situated at a height of 1938 meters above the sea level in Himalayan region of the state of Uttarakhand. Nainital is surrounded by huge mountains and thick forests. It is a best tourist spot attracting several tourists from all over the world. The city is named after the local Goddess ‘Naini Devi’. Once the city was called as city of 60 lakes but now most of the lakes have disappeared due to deforestation and climatic changes. There are several places in Nainital to visit and 2-3 days stay is required to visit all the places.
http://www.desicolours.com/nainital-a-beautiful-hill-station-india-joseph-stallin-photography/22/11/2010Nainital the lake city of India is situated at a height of 1938 meters above the sea... more
Sherpa Who Scaled Mt. Everest 19 Times Is Feared Dead After Hit by Avalanche | Updates as of 10/26/2010Sherpa who scaled Everest 19 times feared dead on climb
Chhewang Nima hit by avalanche near summit of Baruntse in Himalayas
By Hanna Ingber Win
Monday, 25 October 2010
Chhewang Nima: guiding has helped lift him and his family out of poverty
A famed Sherpa guide was last night feared dead after being struck by an avalanche while nearing the peak of the 7,129m Mount Baruntse in eaastern Nepal.
Chhewang Nima was leading an expedition of seven people, which included some British climbers, up the mountain when he was struck by the avalanche as he was fixing ropes, his agency said last night.
The accident happened when he was less than 100 metres from the summit. The other members of the team dug the snow but were unable to find him.
Mr Nima, a married father of two boys aged about 10 and 12, is well-known among the professional climbing circuit and well-respected within his own community for his achievements in scaling the world's highest mountain.
He made his last ascent earlier this year, fixing ropes for less experienced groups to make the climb. The only climber who has scaled Everest more times than Mr Nima is Apa Sherpa, who set a record of 20 in May this year.
The poor weather conditions prevented a rescue mission from being launched yesterday, said Jeevan Ghimire of the Sherpa Shangri-La Treks and Expeditions agency for whom Mr Nima has worked for 15 years. Mr Ghimire said it was possible that because of Mr Nima's skills and experience he may still be alive. "He knows how to survive," he told the BBC.
A rescue helicopter was due to begin searching for the missing climber today. But harsh weather conditions, the high altitude and the fickle weather will make any rescue difficult, said Samir Patham of Adventure Pulse.
"As the accident occurred at an altitude of 23,100ft (7,045m), it would be extremely difficult to conduct a search and rescue," Patham wrote in an email. "Only rescuers who have acclimatised to the reduced oxygen content at that height can be deployed."
Expeditions to Mount Baruntse can cost between £2,500 and £4,500 per person, and turning around without summiting is therefore an expensive decision, Mr Patham said.
During an expedition to the Mount Everest base camp two weeks ago, Mr Patham met another group who were planning on scaling Mount Everest but were reconsidering the decision because of the heavy snow.
Mr Nima's employers said that the 43-year-old was a strong and safe climber and able to earn larger sums as a guide because of his achievements and his abilities to keep his climbing partners safe.
On Mount Everest alone, about 250 people have died trying to climb the mountain since it was first scaled in 1953.
A typical Nepali guide earns around 1,000 Nepali rupees (£9) a day, whereas one who has climbed Mount Everest can make five to six times that amount. "If he has climbed Mount Everest then he and his family would be pretty well-off compared to the others," Mr Patham said.
Mr Nima, who grew up poor in the north-east of Nepal and had little education, was able to send his children to a private school in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, on the proceeds from his climbing work. His wife runs a small teashop in the mountains.
During the summer, when he was not climbing in the Himalayas, Mr Nima travelled to the United States for extra training. "He wanted to see more and learn more how to be a good guide, to be a safe climber," Mr Ghimire said.Sherpa who scaled Everest 19 times feared dead on climb Chhewang Nima hit by... more
For the last two climbing seasons, Dawa Sherpa has missed scaling the summit of Mt Everest. But the climate ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and two-time Everest summiteer may not be relishing the thought of bearing witness once more to the impact of rising temperatures on the world’s highest peak.
Indeed, he says that even making one’s way just up to Base Camp, which lies at an altitude of 5,380 metres, can already give one the dismal view of the devastation climate change is wreaking.
"Snow cover in the mountains is decreasing, crevasses are opening up in the glaciers," says Dawa. "Avalanches (have been) occurring frequently (in) the past two years."
In 2010, one of his Sherpa staff lost his life to an avalanche. Dawa also recalls Appa Sherpa, the 20-time Everest summiteer who has been climbing Everest since 1990, as saying last year that he has seen small puddles of water even at an altitude of 8,000 metres.
Snow and glaciers cover about 10 percent of the area of Nepal, where about 10 percent of the stream flows can be traced back to the glaciers.
Melting glaciers and receding snowlines, however, are just among the many manifestations of climate change in this tiny Himalayan nation.
Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Joint Secretary Dr Jagadish Chandra Baral shares with IPS a striking example of how climate change has been affecting Nepal’s horticulture sector.
"The apple-growing belt in the Mustang district is gradually shifting to higher altitudes," says Baral, who writes frequently on climate change, because warming temperatures have resulted in their fruits getting worms. "People there claim that while they could easily produce healthy apples as low as Lete (2,480 metres) until a few years ago, the apples now tend to catch worms even in higher altitudes like Larjung (2,550 metres), Kobang (2,640 metres) and Marpha (2,670 metres)."
Mustang is located near the Tibet border. Recently, a village there was dubbed as Nepal’s first ‘climate refugee village’.
Efforts are now underway to resettle the entire village of Dhe to a lower area of Mustang. Among other things, the sources of water there are drying up, while the flora in and around the area have been vanishing fast, leaving the villagers’ cattle herds and other grazing animals with little to eat.
According to the English-language national daily ‘Republica’, which broke the news about Dhe in June, "(a) total of 150 people (23 households) …are being shifted due to the adverse impact of climate change on the livelihoods of the poor in the village".
"Dhe village has been facing an acute shortage of water for irrigation over the last six to seven years," it added. "The irrigated land over the period has also been reduced to less than 50 percent and animal husbandry (particularly goat keeping) has declined by 40 to 45 percent.
The irony is that Nepal itself is said to contribute next to nothing to climate change, which is traced by experts to greenhouse gas emissions of countries around the world.
China and India, which sandwich Nepal, in fact happen to be two of the world’s fastest industrialising and highest carbon dioxide-emitting countries.
Earlier in 2010, though, those who have expressed doubt that climate change is real had a field day when the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced it had made a mistake in saying the Himalayan glaciers may be gone by 2035. The climate-change sceptics took this as yet another piece of evidence that much of what had been said of the global phenomenon had been nothing but hysterical hype.
But IPCC has clarified that while it had made an error on the date, it did not make a mistake about the melting away of the Himalayan glaciers.
Madan Shrestha of the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology also remarks, "We have ample scientific evidence to prove that climate change is causing the Himalayan glaciers to retreat."
Shrestha has been studying Nepal’s glaciers since 1974, when he was a part of the Glaciological Expedition to Nepal (a joint effort of Japan and Nepal).
He says that he was shocked beyond belief to see a picture taken in October 2009 of the Yala glacier (5,100 metres to 5,700 metres) in Lamtang area in central Nepal. Comments Shrestha: "The photograph was evidence of the fact that the glacier’s mass had decreased and there was a significant terminus retreat."
A comparative analysis of photographs taken during different time periods clearly reveals that the fate of other glaciers such as AX010 (4,950 metres to 5,390 metres) glacier in Shorong mountain in East Nepal is no different, he adds.For the last two climbing seasons, Dawa Sherpa has missed scaling the summit of Mt... more
THE world’s leading climate change body has been accused of losing credibility after a damning report into its research practices.
A high-level inquiry into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found there was “little evidence” for its claims about global warming.
It also said the panel had emphasised the negative impacts of climate change and made “substantive findings” based on little proof.
The review by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) was launched after the IPCC’s hugely embarrassing 2007 benchmark climate change report, which contained exaggerated and false claims that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.
The panel was forced to admit its key claim in support of global warming was lifted from a 1999 magazine article. The report was based on an interview with a little-known Indian scientist who has since said his views were “speculation” and not backed by research.
Independent climate scientist Peter Taylor said last night: “The IPCC’s credibility has been deeply dented and something has to be done. It can’t just be a matter of adjusting the practices. They have got to look at what are the consequences of having got it wrong in terms of what the public think is going on. Admitting that it needs to reform means something has gone wrong and they really do need to look at the science.”
Climate change sceptic David Holland, who challenged leading climate change scientists at the University of East Anglia to disclose their research, said: “The panel is definitely not fit for purpose. What the IAC has said is substantial changes need to be made.”
The IAC, which comprises the world’s top science academies including the UK’s Royal Society, made recommendations to the IPCC to “enhance its credibility and independence” after the Himalayan glaciers report, which severely damaged the reputation of climate science.
Wow, didn't know the Royal Society had scientists not on the UN and Rockefeller payroll!THE world’s leading climate change body has been accused of losing credibility... more
The Indus looks nothing like the mighty river from history books. Alexander the Great once sailed galleys along these waters; centuries later, the British used steamboats. Now, the decaying remnants of boats are stranded high on the sandy banks, dozens of metres above the brown trickle that was once a legendary river. Only small fishing skiffs remain on the water, and most sit empty.
As a sandstorm sweeps down from the dunes, obscuring the river with its haze, a fisherman named Ghulam Ali turns away and says what everybody fears in Pakistan: “The desert is coming back.”
Water scarcity in the Indus basin may be the world’s most dangerous environmental phenomenon. If anything will cause a civil war in Pakistan, or a conflict with its nemesis, India, many analysts believe that it will be water.
In southern Pakistan, the legendary Indus river looks nothing like the mighty waterway described in history books. A local fishermen's association says the number of boats has dwindled from 112 to 50 in the past three years, as the water levels decrease and fish disappear.
Civilization in this region depends on snow melting from the Himalayas, feeding tributaries that join the Indus. These pour into the largest continuous irrigation system on the planet, transforming the desert into fields of rice and wheat.
But the system is breaking down. Dry conditions in the past few years have prompted bitter conflicts: Southern Pakistan accuses the north of grabbing more than its share of water; many in the northern regions, in turn, blame their upstream neighbours in India for stealing water. In the mountains that give birth to the rivers, struggles over hydroelectricity are spurring rebellion in Kashmir.
These arguments now dominate regional politics. When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad this week, the top item on Pakistan’s agenda was water, not terrorists or insurgents.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister held an emergency meeting this month, but failed to settle a water dispute between the country’s major provinces, Sindh and Punjab. Senior ministers from India and Pakistan have visited each other in recent weeks, trying to restart peace talks for the first time in two years, but the fledgling dialogue has been hampered by disagreement over water.
The talks have also been dogged by Pakistan’s refusal to crack down on Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a group suspected of links to terrorism. This year, the group took up the slogan “water or war,” accusing India of blocking rivers. It says the rallying cry has boosted recruitment in rural areas.
A presentation by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce to a delegation from the local U.S. consulate this spring spelled out a nightmare scenario in the starkest terms: “It can result in confrontation between two nuclear states,” one slide said. Another slide repeated the warning: “No water means poverty, hunger, war.”
Ironically, these problems have their origins in a triumph of engineering: the spread of irrigation that allowed the Indus basin to support millions of extra people.
The region has always been arid, so farmers have depended on irrigation for thousands of years, but the network of canals and ditches expanded dramatically in the 19th and 20th centuries. Pakistan’s irrigated lands have almost doubled since the country’s birth in 1947; during the same period, its population grew fivefold. Populations have also exploded across the border, in Indian states that rely on the same rivers.
cont.The Indus looks nothing like the mighty river from history books. Alexander the Great... more
While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted wrongly that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035, photographic and scientific evidence shows that the melting third pole is still devastating the region.
In January, when the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged that it was wrong in predicting that the glaciers of the Himalayas could be gone by 2035, skeptics of global warming used the error to assert that much of climate science was a fraud.
Next month, though, the Asia Society Museum opens a month long exhibition in New York of alpine photographs by David Breashears that are the strongest visual proof ever compiled that climate scientists may have been aggressive in predicting the rate of glacial melting at the top of the world, but not by much.
Breashears’ work, collected by the museum in “Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalayas,” documents the rapid retreat of one of the world’s thickest and most important sheets of ice. A mountaineer, Breashears has scaled the world’s tallest mountains to take photographs of dozens of glaciers from the same perches that great photographers of the early and mid-20th century used to shoot the highest, and some of the longest glaciers in the world.
In “Rivers of Ice,” the Asia Society Museum presents Breashears’ 21st century pictures alongside those archival photographs. The message, say the museum’s curators, is unmistakable: “The comparison starkly reveals the catastrophic glacier loss sustained during the intervening years.”
“[M]ore than one-sixth of the world’s population live in glacier-or snowmelt-fed river basins and will be affected by the seasonal shifts in stream flow.”The Breashears exhibition coincides with a new scientific reckoning of the pace of Himalayan melting, and the consequences to watersheds, rivers, communities and nearly 3 billion people that rely on what some scientists have come to call “the water towers of Asia.” Two years ago, Circle of Blue documented the risks to Asia’s ten major rivers--the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Amu Darya and Tarim–as well as to hundreds of lesser streams that rely for water on snow, and glacial melt from the Tibetan Plateau and its young, heaven-scraping Himalayan range.
More recent studies conclude that without sharp changes in global policy to curtail carbon emissions the Himalayan glaciers–and there are more than 40,000 of them spread across the peaks and valleys of the Tibetan Plateau–could be mostly gone by 2070. The underlying and inescapable fact reached by scientists who study ice and the Himalayas is that atmospheric conditions are changing fast and dramatically.
A year ago Ravinder Kumar Chaujar, a scientist with India’s Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, published an important paper in Current Science on the increasing temperatures, diminishing accumulation of snow, and rapid retreat of the Chorabari glacier in northern India’s Himalayan territory. Surface temperatures around the glacier since 1980, said Chaujar, have increased 0.8 degrees Centigrade (1.5 degrees Fahrenheit). Average snow accumulation, Chaujar reported, has dropped from more than 2,000 kilograms per square meter in the decades of the 20th century to just over 1,500 kilograms per meter in 2006, the lowest snowfall in the 50 years of record-keeping.
The blue glacial ice of such famed fields as Tibet’s Main Rongbuk Glacier below Mount Everest today are thin, black with soot, and shrinking. Climate scientists and geologists from China and India warn that the range of ice on the Tibet plateau and in the mountains could shrink by 43 percent by 2070. Between 1950 and 1980, about half of the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau were in recession, according to a number of studies. By the first decade of the 21st century, 95 percent were retreating.
Ya Tandong, a Chinese glaciologist, recently described in a UN report the condition of Himalayan glaciers this way: “Studies indicate that by 2030 another 30 percent will disappear. By 2050, 40 percent. By the end of the century 70 percent. The full-scale glacier shrinkage in the plateau regions will eventually lead to an ecological catastrophe.”While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted wrongly that the... more
Although the global warming doubters were quick to denounce the IPCC for its unproven warning about the Himalayan glaciers disappearing by 2035, a new report by three Dutch scientists has renewed concern about the continuing threat that glacial melting poses to the food security and political stability of 60 million people in South Asia.
http://looncanada.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/good-and-bad-news-about-our-melting-glaciers/Although the global warming doubters were quick to denounce the IPCC for its unproven... more
The so-called "glacier-gate" scandal of earlier this year may have given global warming skeptics a false sense of security as a new Dutch research report confirms that the Himalayan glaciers are melting due to climate change, threatening the food security of 60 million people.
http://looncanada.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/good-and-bad-news-about-our-melting-glaciers/The so-called "glacier-gate" scandal of earlier this year may have given... more