Global warming, climate change, Char Dham projects in focus – Economic Times

NEW DELHI: While the exact cause of ‘calving’ of a glacier in Uttarakhand is yet to be ascertained, a team of experts will visit the site on Monday to find out the reasons for the disaster.

Prima facie, global warming and climate change appear to be the factors. The Nanda Devi biosphere reserve, where the glacier is located, hasn’t been assessed yet, except through remote sensors.

While the incident is a strong reminder of the 2013 flash floods, experts point out that the current incident is different from the previous one, which happened due to a weather event — a cloud burst.

“In this case, there has not been any unusually high rainfall or even extreme snowfall. It is also not clear what kind of lake was there and how it was breached at the mouth. At first assessment, a weather event is ruled out. Only closer inspection will help understand the causes clearly,” Vinit Kumar, Scientist at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology specialising in glaciology, told ET.

Kumar and his team will be visiting the site on Monday.

The incident, however, has once again brought into focus climate change and increased human activity in the ecologically sensitive region. The Char Dham road expansion project as well as several hydel projects on the upper reaches of the Himalayan rivers in Uttarakhand are being hotly debated and the matter is currently in the Supreme Court.

Prof AP Dimri of JNU’s School of Environment Sciences and a lead scholar on the National Mission on Himalayan Studies said: “It is clearly not linked to a weather event like 2013. Overall impact of global warming, debris aggregation and multiple factors weighing in are likely to have some role to play.”

Dimri said while developmental activities are bound to have some impact on the overall ecology, mini hydel projects are usually seen in conjunction with the ecology. “The bigger dams obviously have impact as they cause more precipitation and so on. However, in this case there was rainfall, so other factors seem at play,” he added.

Mohd Farooq Azam, assistant professor, glaciology and hydrology, IIT Indore, agreed with Kumar and Dimri and said: “Climate change-driven erratic weather patterns like increased snowfall and rainfall, warmer winters has led to the melting point of a lot of snow. The thermal profile of ice is increasing — earlier the temperature of ice ranged from -6 to -20 degree C; it is now -2, making it more susceptible to melting.”


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