Tuesday 01 August 2017Lok Sabha
Himalayan region has the largest concentration of glaciers outside the polar caps, and this region is aptly called the "Water Tower of Asia" as the source of the 10 major river systems that provide irrigation, power, and drinking water for over 700 million people living in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh – nearly 10% of the world's population. Understanding the behaviour of these glaciers and their contribution to the sustainable supply of water for mankind and agriculture is one of the grand challenges for the Indian scientific community.
As part of the Indian government's initiatives to better study and quantify the Himalayan glacier responses towards climate change, the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, has established a high altitude research station in Himalaya called HIMANSH (literally meaning, a slice of ice), situated above 13,500 feet (> 4000 m) at a remote region in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
The station was unveiled on October 9, 2016, and many instruments to quantify the glacier melting and its relation to changing climate. Some of the instruments that are available at this research facility include Automatic Weather Stations for weather monitoring, water level recorder for quantifying the glacier melt, ground penetrating radar to know the thickness of glaciers, geodetic GPS systems to study the glacier movements, snow fork for studying snow thickness, steam drill, snow corer, temperature profilers, as well as various glaciological tools. Further, the researchers would be using this as a base for undertaking surveys using Terrestrial Laser Scanners (TLS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that would digitize the glacier motion and snow cover variations with exceptional precision.
The ongoing initiatives by NCAOR would contribute to the integrated study of glaciers in the upper Indus basin (Chandra basin) in Himachal Pradesh and their contribution to discharge. According to the UN data, the contribution of snow/glacier melt in annual stream runoff is substantially higher (>40%) in Indus basin as compared to Ganga and Brahmaputra basins (<10%). Therefore, understanding the glacier mass balance and their contribution to the Indus River is more critical than other basins towards the understanding on the impact of glacier retreat on the water cycle in the northern India and Pakistan. Some of the bench mark glaciers that are already being studied under this project include Bada Shigri, Samudra Tapu, Sutri Dhaka, Batal, Gepang Gath and Kunzam. An integrated study using glaciological, geodetic, glacio-hydrological methods will shed light on the glacier response to the changing climate in this region and will also quantify the contribution from glacial melt water to the river discharge in Indus basin. "Himansh" will provide the much needed fillip to the scientific research on Himalayan glaciers and its hydrological contribution.
Further, the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) encompasses, inter-alia, conservation measures for sustaining and safeguarding the Himalayan ecosystems through establishment of monitoring network, promotion of community based management, human resource development, and strengthening regional cooperation.
Major initiatives taken under NMSHE include establishment of a Centre for Himalayan Glaciology at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, and setting up of six Thematic Task Forces viz., Natural and Geological Wealth; Water, Ice, Snow including Glaciers; Micro Flora and Fauna and Wildlife and Animal Population; Himalayan Agriculture; Traditional Knowledge system; and Forest Resources and Plant Diversity.
State Climate Change Centers have been set up in the eleven Himalayan states namely, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and West Bengal.