A curious thing has happened as the failure of the monsoon became increasingly evident this year. Even as most reservoirs across the country had run dry by the month of July, the Bhakra dam was gushing with more water than it ever had over the past few years. The reason — the rapid melting or ‘retreating’ of glaciers, as it’s known — wasn’t exactly a cause for celebration.
But there has been some awareness since that India needs to update its know-how on monitoring glaciers. At hand in the Capital was expert Georg Kaser, secretary of the International Commission on Snow and Ice (ICSI) and a professor at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Kaser convened a two-day workshop that kicked off today, organised by the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Glacier Research Group and the Innsbruck University and attended by government officials and policy-makers. Kaser stressed the need for Indian policy-makers to consider a future scenario of a reduced flow of water in Indian rivers very seriously indeed.
He further says about the situation of retreating glaciers that “It is a fact that glaciers are retreating all over the world and it is part of a historical cycle. During the Ice Age, they melted till 1850, when they stabilised. There was strong re-advancement all over the world till 1920. There was a small re-advancement between 1975 and 1985. Right now, we seem to be in a phase where they are losing mass all over the world, without exception”.
He says that,” We have definite proof that the retreating is because of global warming, but the exact role that humans play in increasing this rate of melting remains to be seen. But since we do not know for sure, that does not mean we stop our experiments. In fact, it gives us more reason to study it further and see where it ends. There is a high probability that human input is adding to the greenhouse gases which, in turn, are impacting the glaciers”.
For India he says that,” Despite the importance of glacier monitoring work, there is no assurance that India will offer long-term support to such projects. I believe that such projects should be both increased in number as well as extended in tenure. I believe that the circumstances are not easy, monitoring is very tough. In the Alps in Switzerland, I am able to reach the glaciers in one day, here it takes a week. But it has to be done”.