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Gangotri is shrinking 17 meters a year

March 03, 2007 12:50 IST

A recent study has found that the Gangotri Glacier is shrinking at a pace of 17 metres a year due to global warming and climate change.

Its mammoth neighbour Pindari Glacier, too, is also melting at a speed of about 9.5 metres a year, another study has pointed out.

The study carried out by the Department of Science and Technology on the Gangotri Glacier has revealed that during 1971-2004 it has been receding at the rate of 17.15 metres per year.

The Geological Survey of India's study puts Pindari Glacier melting at the rate of 9.51 metres a year during 1958-2001.

As a consequence of global warming, the melting of ice sheets and glaciers in the high mountains would lead to a rise in sea level and adversely affect the low lying coastal areas in the Indian subcontinent.

But fluctuation in sea level will be 'highly variable' along the Indian coastline with an increase along the Gulf of Kutchh and West Bengal coastline and decrease along Karnataka coast, the studies indicate.

However, government seems helpless in checking the meltdown in view of the spread of glacial debris, economic feasibility and scale of operation.

The environment ministry points out that the prime responsibility of reducing emissions that enhance global warming lay with developed countries, not with the developing countries like India.

"The Indian government is pressing in international negotiations that developed countries should take deeper emission reduction commitments and for a longer period," said N N Meena, minister of State for environment and forests.      

Sounding an alarm on global warming, an advisory for policy makers released last month by Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change pointed out that the rise in sea level due to glacial meltdown in the Himalayas will range from 0.18 metre to 0.59 metre under various scenarios by the end of 21st century.

The rising sea level may lead to increase in soil salinity, besides loss of land area. Though it is a slow process, yet it is going to erode some of the agricultural land in delta and coastal areas close to sea, river and creeks.

Rise in sea level may also push back fresh water and saline water interface in ground water condition resulting in increase in salinity of ground water and the population living near the coast will also be affected, the advisory said.      

The IPCC, in its report 'Climate Change 2007 – The Physical Science Basis,' pointed to an increase in global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide as a result of human activities since 1750.

There has also been an increase in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level, the report said.


The anthropogenic warming and sea level rise will continue for centuries due to the time scales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, it said.

Significantly, the report gives findings only at the continental level and no country-specific findings are given.      

Meena said, "The government is seized of concerns in the wake of climate change."


"India does not have and GHG (green house gases) abatement commitment under the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless, a range of policies and programmes have been chalked out to help mitigate climate change," he said.

The measures include improving energy efficiency and conservation, power sector reforms, promoting hydro and renewable energy, promotion of clean coal technologies and efficient utilisation of fossil fuel.

Conservation of forests, reduction in gas flaring, using less carbon intensive fuel in transport, encouraging mass rapid transport systems and environment quality management are also the key areas the ministry is planning to focus on to check the warming.

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