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Home > India > News > PTI

Of tourists, mules and melting glaciers

Deepti Saxena in Dehra Dun | March 30, 2008 18:30 IST

With alarm bells ringing over the rapid melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, the Uttarakhand government has now decided to regulate tourist flow to protected areas of Gangotri National Park, including Gomukh.

The government would now restrict the number of tourists visiting Gomukh and other Gangotri glaciers, the origin of the holy river Ganga, to only 150 per day.

From the next season beginning in April, the new regulations would come into effect, said Chief Forest Conservator of Uttarakhand B S Barfal.

"Concerns have been expressed over the unregulated number of tourists visiting Gomukh where glacier is receding fast. We have now decided to restrict the number of tourists to the area to only 150 per day," said Barfal.

Official sources said Kawadias, devotees of Lord Shiva [Images], have been thronging Gangotri area during the last decade. On a single day in the annual Kanwad season (July-August), nearly 2,000 to 3,000 Kawadias visit the area, causing ecological concerns.

Besides restricting the number of tourists to 150, the entry of mules and horses has also been banned in Gangotri area, Barfal said. To discourage tourists from visiting Gangotri regularly, the entry fee is also being hiked.

The decision to restrict tourists to Gomukh came after a new report prepared by Dehra Dun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology found that the glaciers were receding
at the rate of 17 to 23 metres per year.

The report was recently submitted to the government.

"Our study has found that glaciers are melting at a rapid speed," said B R Arora, the Director of WIHG.
In the past also, WWF released a report warning that Himalayan glaciers were receding fast.

WWF says environmental impacts associated with faster melting glaciers include an increased risk of flooding and landslides. At least 20 glacier lakes in Nepal have grown to the point where they could potentially burst, according to the study report.

Experts say glacial melting will also increase the volume of water in rivers, causing widespread flooding. But in a few decades this situation will change and water levels in rivers will decline.

This decline could affect 500 million people and leave 37 per cent of India's irrigated land short of water. Himalayan glaciers also feed other Asia's great rivers like Indus and

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