Monday, October 12, 2009

JK's main glacier 'Kolahoi glacier' melting at alarming pace'

Jammu & Kashmir's biggest glacier, which feeds the region's main river, is melting faster than other Himalayas glaciers, threatening the water supply of tens of thousands of people, a new report warned on Monday.

Experts say rising temperatures are rapidly shrinking Himalayan glaciers, underscoring the effects of climate change that has caused temperatures in the mountainous region to rise by about 1.1 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years.

The biggest glacier in Indian Kashmir, the Kolahoi glacier spread over just a little above 11 sq km (4.25 sq mile), has shrunk 2.63 sq km in the past three decades, a new study said.

"Kolahoi glacier is shrinking 0.08 square kilometres a year, which is an alarming speed," said the study, presented at a workshop on "Climate Change, Glacial Retreat and Livelihoods," in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's summer capital.

The three year-long study was led by glaciologist Shakil Ramsoo, assistant professor in the department of geology at the University of Kashmir.

The Kolahoi glacier is the main source of water for Kashmir's biggest river, the Jhelum, and its many streams and lakes.

According to a United Nations Environment Programme and World Glacier Monitoring Service study, the average melting rate of mountain glaciers has doubled since the turn of the millennium, with record losses seen in 2006 at several sites.

But India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in August there was a need for more scientific studies to conclusively establish the link between climate change and shrinking glaciers.

He said while "a couple of" Himalayan glaciers were receding, some others such as the Siachen glacier were advancing, while others like the Gangotri glacier were receding at a decreasing rate compared with the last two decades.

But Ramsoo said: "Other small Kashmir glaciers are also shrinking and the main reason is that the winter temperature in Kashmir is rising."

Experts say the melting of Kashmir glaciers could have serious fallout as most Kashmiris rely on glaciers for water.

A call for coordinated effort to address Climate Change

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Forest Minister inaugurates International Workshop on Glacial Retreat

The Kashmir University vice-chancellor, Prof Riyaz Punjabi on Monday called for a coordinated effort between different governmental and non-governmental agencies to address the issue of climate change in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing delegates at the inaugural function of the 3-day International Workshop on Climate Change, he said, “The need of the hour is to have a coordinated effort to address the issue of climate change at the regional and local levels in Jammu and Kashmir.”

The Workshop titled “Climate Change, Glacial Retreat and Livelihoods” is organised jointly by the University of Kashmir, Government of J&K, and The Energy And Resources Institute (TERI).

“It would be a big contribution if the different agencies like KU, TERI and State Forest Research Institute, Government of J&K are able to pool up the data regarding the status of climate change in the state. There is need to identify factors and remedies for the issues that we confront vis-à-vis climate change and glacial retreat,” Prof Punjabi said, adding that both people and policy makers have to be alive and sensitive to the issue of Climate Change.

Prof Punjabi asserted that there were indicators suggesting climate change in J&K. “For example, we have a lost a season called Sont Kaal (small season before spring). Today youth in the age group of 15 to 25 can’t identify with this season. Besides the change in temperate, variety of vegetables in Kashmir is an indicator of the climate change. Therefore the issue assumes great significance for us,” he said, adding that there was need to address the issue of glacial retreat at the same time as glaciers were a source of water for the water bodies in J&K.

He said it was high time to pay attention to some critical environmental issues like ozone depletion, deforestation, vegetation, cement manufacturing and human influence on environment. “As of now we don’t have much scientific data available on the status of climate change in J&K, but we need to pool this data in a coordinated manner and chart out a future course of action,” Prof Punjabi said while urging the government to pay more attention to the issue.

Prof Punjabi called for a massive sensitization programme about the consequences of climate change. “At any cost, we have to aware our society and policy makers about the consequences of climate change so that they take appropriate steps to arrest it,” he said.

The function was inaugurated by the Minister for Forests, Mian Altaf Ahmad. “We are shortly going for a declaration on the climate change. However we have to monitor this declaration and follow it up. At the governmental level, whatever needs be done will be done,” he said while calling for empowering the Department of Environment.

The Minister of State for Forests, Shabir Ahmad Khan, said the climate change can be mitigated.

A Senior Fellow at TERI, Prof S I Hasnain said the issue of climate change needs be assessed regionally and addressed locally. “Scientists and experts must develop a regional approach to the issues concerning climate change and tackle them accordingly,” he said.

The Principal Conservator of Forests, Jagdish Kiswan, said the receding glaciers were a matter of concern as most of the water sources emanate from glaciers.

The Commissioner/Secretary (Forests), Shantamannu, presented the welcome address while R D Tiwari, Director, State Forest Research Institute, J&K, presented the vote of thanks. Others who shared the dais included Chief Secretary SS Kapoor; Mr Angurana, Principal/secretary, PHE .