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‘Himalayan glaciers will not disappear'

Sharath S. Srivatsa
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ISRO studied 2,190 glaciers from 1989 to 2005

A treasure:There are 32,540 glaciers in the Himalayas covering an area of 77,310 sq. km of which 16,627 glaciers are in Indian territory.— File Photo
A treasure:There are 32,540 glaciers in the Himalayas covering an area of 77,310 sq. km of which 16,627 glaciers are in Indian territory.— File Photo

Scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), who conducted one of the biggest studies on glaciers in the world, have played down the threat of the meltdown of Himalayan glaciers in the near future.

As many as 2,190 glaciers in 14 basins and sub-basins were selected based on physiology and climatic zones, and monitored during the period between 1989 and 2005. The report is expected to be submitted shortly.

“Himalayan glaciers are not going to disappear as has been made out to be. They are quite lengthy, very big and located in very high altitude. Glaciers are also well distributed in the Himalayas,” Dr. Ajai, Group Director of Marine, Geo and Planetary Science Group at ISRO's Space Applications Centre (SAC) Ahmedabad, toldThe Hindu.

He, however, said a small percentage of loss of area has been identified. Apart from that 700 glaciers were also assessed for mass balance, which included studies on quantum of snowfall, accumulation and melting. Field visits were undertaken to corroborate the satellite imageries.

The study was undertaken by the ISRO's Space Applications Centre (SAC) Ahmedabad following a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Space and Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF). It assumes importance in the light of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) report, which was subsequently withdrawn, stated that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 causing anguish and anxiety among the people.

Involving 14 organisations and about 50 scientists, the study has revealed that out of 2,190 glaciers, 75 per cent retreated over the 15-year period while 18 per cent advanced and rest showed no changes.

“The total loss of glacial area in the study period was 3.5 per cent,” he said, adding that the glacial melting not only depends on the temperature but also on its altitude and orientation.

“Nowhere in the world has an effort been made to assess and monitor such a large number of glaciers. Even in Alps in Europe only a few glaciers are monitored,” Dr. Ajai claimed.

In all, there are 32,540 glaciers in the Himalayas covering an area of 77,310 sq. km of which 16,627 glaciers are in Indian territory, covering an area of 40,563 sq. km.

Besides glaciers in the Indian part of Himalayas, the study covered glaciers in China, Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan falling in Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra basins.

The second phase of study will consider 2,600 glaciers in the period between 2005 and 2010. “Data collection has started, and it will be analysed before submitting a report by the end of this year,” Dr. Ajai said.

Besides, glacial study would be taken up for the period between 2010 and 2013, he added.


  • 50 scientists and 14 organisations took part in the study

  • ‘Total loss of glacial area in the study period was 3.5 p.c.'



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