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Over 1B People Affected If Himalayan Glaciers Continue To Melt

Via India Today, a report on how continuous melting of Himalayan glacier may threaten rivers from the Indus to Brahmaputra:

Water volume and flow in rivers like Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra are set to increase excessively as snow and glaciers continue to melt due to climate change. The change in water volume and flow could trigger a flood-like situation in lower plains affecting over a billion people, who are directly or indirectly dependent on these resources.

 A study conducted by a team from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Indore on the glacial hydrology of rivers in the Himalayan Karakoram region indicates that the melting of glaciers and snow are important components in the region and if it continues through the century, it may one day stop supplying water altogether.

The study was published in the journal Science.

Led by Dr Mohammad Farooq Azam, assistant professor at IIT Indore, the study shows that glaciers and snow melt are important components of the Himalayan Karakoram rivers with greater importance for the Indus than Ganga and Brahmaputra basins.


The team of researchers gathered the results from more than 250 scholarly research papers to arrive at the conclusion of a linkage between climatic warming, precipitation changes and glacier shrinkage.

“The Himalayan river basins cover an area of 2.75 million square kilometers and have the largest irrigated area of 577,000 square kilometers, and the world’s largest installed hydropower capacity of 26,432 MW. The melting glaciers fulfils the water requirements of more than a billion people of the region,” Dr Azam said in a statement. He added that these people will be affected when much of the glacier ice mass melts throughout this century and gradually stops supplying water to inland rivers.

While Ganga and Brahmaputra basins get a big chunk of their water from monsoons, the situation is different for the Indus river, which is largely dependent on the glaciers. However, changing rainfall patterns and rising global temperature will affect the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins as well.


The team projects that the total river runoff, glacier melt, and seasonality of flow are set to increase until the 2050s, and then decrease, with some exceptions. Researchers have called for greater focus on the problems and to assess the current status and potential future changes of rivers for sustainable water resource management for agriculture, hydropower, drinking, sanitation, and hazard situations.

The team proposes a three-tier solution to the challenge and propose enhanced monitoring of glaciers by expanding observation networks that place fully automatic weather stations on selected glaciers, developing comparison projects to examine glacier area and volumes, glacier dynamics and implementing the knowledge of these studies in detailed models of glacier hydrology to reduce the uncertainty in projections, which will lead to improved preparedness.

The research was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 26th, 2021 at 3:29 am and is filed under China, India, Tibet, Tibetan Plateau.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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