The loss of snowpack and the retreating Himalayan glaciers threaten the mighty Gangetic rivers that depend on their water. The seasonal melt after winter feeds rivers such as the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. The excessive melting right after winter could lead to a massive flow that could initially lead to floods in the plains that are home to more than a billion. They are all dependent on the rivers in one way or the other.
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Indore have found that the melting of the Himalayan glaciers every season contributes to the water in the rivers and the destruction of the glaciers would lead to the rivers drying up in the not too distant future.
The Himalayan glaciers are melting rapidly due to climate changes. The study initiated by Dr. Mohammed Farooq Alam, assistant professor, found that the melting has completely altered water supply patterns in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges. The professor and his team collected results from various research papers on precipitation change, shrinking of glaciers, and climatic warming.
These Himalayan glaciers are rightly referred to as the water tower of Asia and are the most extensive glaciated mountain ranges of the planet due to their heights and unique position.
The Himalayan river basin is spread over 2.75M square kilometers and supplies water to 577,000 sq. kilometers plus a hydropower generating capacity of over 26,432 Megawatts. Close to 1.5 billion people live downstream and a third of them would be affected as the glaciers gradually supply less water with each passing year.
Climate Change Affecting The Himalayan Glaciers
The study indicates that the impact of climate change and the subsequent melting of the glaciers has affected the Indus basin more than the Ganga or the Brahmaputra basins. But the rising global temperatures and the change in the rainfall patterns are bound to affect these two basins also.
The glacier melting, the river runoffs, and the seasonality of the river flow will steadily increase going into the middle of the century.
Slowing Down The Melting Of The Himalayan Glaciers
Dr. Alam and his team have proposed the three-layered answer to the issue. They have suggested more vigilant monitoring of the Himalayan glaciers through automatic and permanent weather stations on the affected glaciers.
They have also suggested developing comparative studies of the glacier area and volumes for more accurate future projections.
The region will face extreme heat waves and a drastic fall in water flow on a grand scale and the swelling runoff during the warm season will taper off in decades as the glacier loses mass.