Hidden in the Himalayas History & Culture

The journey of the Himalayan glaciers

The Himalayan glacier

The Himalayan glacier  

They are not just frozen layers of snow but reservoirs of fresh water

Slow-moving frozen rivers of ice, the glaciers of the Himalayas, provides water to those in the Indo-Gangetic plains. The accumulation of snow over thousands of years on this mighty range have led to the formation of these glaciers. The top layers of the snow exert pressure on the lower layers transforming them into ice.. Again, the pressure combined with the force of gravity make the glaciers move.

Described as ‘nature’s bulldozer’, these solid rivers pick up everything that come in their way creating snow bridges, gullies, glacial lakes, glacial troughs, icefalls, valleys, crevasses and moraines and cause major changes in the topography of the earth. As these natural fresh water reservoirs flow downhill with the rise in temperature, they melt to form rivers rich with alluvial soil.

The Siachen in Jammu and Kashmir (18,000ft.) near the Karakoram Pass is the longest glacier in the Indian Himalayas. It is 78km long and the source for the Nubra River that waters the Nubra Valley near Leh in the Trans Himalayas. The waters of the Nubra drain into the Shyok River and then into the Indus.

The journey of the Himalayan glaciers

Milam and Gangotri are the major glaciers in the state of Uttarakhand. Milam is situated in the Kumaon Himalayas, originating from the eastern slopes of the Trishuli. The river Gori Ganga has its source here. The 30-km long Gangotri glacier located in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand is the primary source for the holy Ganga. Gomukh is the snout of the Gangotri glacier and it is from here that the Bhagirathi, one of the important streams of the Ganges, flows down to the temple town of Gangotri and beyond. This Glacier has many tributaries — Raktavarn, Chaturangi, Satopant and Kirti glaciers to name a few.

River Yamuna has its origin in the Bandar Poonch glacier just above Yamunotri. The Alaknanda has its source in the Alakapuri glacier above Badrinath. The River Mandakini has its source in the Sumeru glacier above the Kedarnath Temple. The Bhara Shigiri glacier in the Chandra Valley of Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh feeds the Chenab river. The Zemu glacier is the largest in the Eastern Himalayas in Sikkim. It is at the base of the Kanchendzonga and is one of the sources for the Teesta that joins the Brahmaputra.

The rapid shrinking, thinning and receding of the Himalayan glaciers due to rising temperatures and sudden rainfalls caused by global warming pose a real threat to the millions who depend on these rivers for sustennance.

The writers are ace photographers known for their travelogues

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 12:35:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-journey-of-the-himalayan-glaciers/article24339175.ece

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