India turns to Central Asia glacier management

By Chandrika Mago

NEW DELHI: Shadowed by Ayodhya is history of very different sort in the making: An Indo-Central Asian Republics glaciologists workshop, which ended Friday, is said to have marked the first time that a security sensitive government allowed foreign glaciologists in for possible official collaboration.

This first international conference organised by Jawaharlal Nehru University glacier research group and sponsored by the Union government’s department of science and technology. Eventually, representatives from three Central Asian countries made it here: Kyrghyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Tajikistan experts were invited but couldn’t reach here in time. India was looking for joint research projects, says A K Kalra, advisor in the department of science and technology. Some glaciers had been identified for further detailing-among these. on the Indian side, are the Pindari and Hamtak (in HP) glaciers. Avalanche forecasting is one possiblc area India may get some help on, says Kalra. India s record in glaciology has been poor so far, says Syed Iqbal Hasnain, professor, JNU’s glacier research group. It doesn’t have the re-sources, the expertise or the trained manpower. "We have hardly covered a few glaciers," says Kalra.

Yet, given the realities of climate change and glacier meltdowns, glaciology is becoming a vital field-the glacier ice mass in the Himalayas is the third largest in the world, after the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Major rivers, such as the Ganga, Brahmputra and Indus, originate in the Himalayas.

So, the flow Of water in north India’s rivers will determine lifestyles in the future-it will decide the requirements for water supply, agriculture use and hydropower. It will determine the frequency of natural disasters such as floods. One area of focus has been the Gangotri glacier — it feeds north India and it is the only major basin entirely within the Indian system, be sides being religiously significant for millions Hasnain says the global change in temperature in the 20th century was 0.6 degrees Celsius but the past two decades have seen average temperatures rising by upto 10 degrees Celsius in Himalayan glacier regions. The Duspou glacier in Tibet, he says, has seen temperatures rising by 0.35 degrees Celsius at 7,000 metres elevation. Therefore, the need to cooperate with countries such as those from Central Asian which, with nearly 30,000 glaciers spread over 78,000 sq km, have both skills and stations. In addition, they have contiguous ranges and similarities in conditions. And, their own shopping list to fill the gaps in their own experiences.