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Melting Glaciers in Hindu Kush Himalayas

  • 06 Feb 2019
  • 3 min read

Recently, The Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment study has been released by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

  • The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is of critical importance, given that it holds the largest ice mass after the North and South Poles, and has been on a constant warming trend since the 1970s.
  • The study warns that if global efforts to limit global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels fail, it could lead to the melting of two-thirds of the region’s glaciers by 2100.
  • This trend could be catastrophic, given that there are 8,790 glacial lakes in the region, of which 203 could lead to floods from glacial lake outbursts. On an average, 76 events of natural hazard occur every year in the Hindu Kush, with China accounting for 25 and India 18.
  • The Indo-Gangetic Plain, an extremely polluted region, has amplified the effects of greenhouse gases. Deposits of black carbon and dust have sped up the melting of Hindu Kush glaciers.

Adverse Effect

  • Destabilizing Rivers
    • Increasing glacial melts could destabilize rivers by changing their stream flow.
    • The Indus could witness more stream flow due to high glacial melt till 2050, after which the flow would start reducing due to decreasing glacial melt.
    • The Ganga and the Brahmaputra, which are mainly monsoon-fed rivers, will also see variations, as pre-monsoon flows may decline. This will hamper agriculture that accounts for the largest share of water usage.
  • Impact on Monsoons
    • The Hindu Kush range exerts a significant influence on seasonal shifts in the monsoon circulation and the distribution of rainfall over Asia in summer.
    • Changing monsoon patterns, including increased severity and frequency of storms, could lead to mountain hazards that may destroy critical infrastructure.
  • Forced Environmental Migration
    • Forced migration could occur with an increase in the incidence and magnitude of extreme events such as floods.

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)

  • The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre.
  • It has eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush HimalayaAfghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – and based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Globalization and climate change have an increasing influence on the stability of fragile mountain ecosystems and the livelihoods of mountain people.
  • ICIMOD aims to assist mountain people to understand these changes, adapt to them, and make the most of new opportunities, while addressing upstream-downstream issues.

Himalayan Glaciers Impacted by Climate Change

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