inbriefclimate | VOL. 9, ISSUE 57, November-December 2009 |

Global warming: Gangotri Glacier Receding

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in a satellite imagery based document released on 25th November 2009, stated that the Gangotri glacier has receded 1.5 km in the last 30 years. Nearly 30 km long, upto 2.5 km wide and holding 27 cubic km of ice, the Gangotri glacier is one of the largest in the Himalaya. At its downward end lies Gomukh, from where the holiest of Indian rivers, Ganga emerges. Gangotri – 18 kms below, is a sacred pilgrimage site visited in hordes by followers of Hinduism. The satellite images also show that Alpine vegetation has started growing at a higher altitude. That the glacier has been receding is known. But ISRO data indicates Gangotri has been receding far faster than shown in earlier NASA studies – by an average of 50 metres per year. UNEP had also recently declared that coral reefs, which support the majority of marine life, will be the first casualty of climate change. ISRO data reiterates that the reefs around the Indian sub-continent are facing maximum impact, not so much in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but in other parts. However, the experts at ISRO are measured in their claim that climate change may be attributed to the glacial melt and say that it could also be a part of the inter-glacial period and other related phenomena. Though debatable and indeed complex, scientists from various fields claim that increased human visitations over centuries and recent warming trends have led to the shrinking i.e. melting and fragmentation of the glacier. As a worst case scenario, Ganga may eventually dry. In the last few years, entry to Gangotri National Park has been regulated. Fixed number of permits for limited number of days is issued to pilgrims, trekkers and mountaineers bound for Gomukh, Nandanvan, Tapovan, Bhagirathi and Shivling peak. Entry of load-carrying animals is banned and mountaineering/camping expeditions have to compulsorily bring back all non-biodegradable trash.

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