One Third Of The Hindu Kush Himalayan Glaciers Could Melt By End 2100: ICIMOD Study

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Bhutan will see a rise in temperature higher than the regional average of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

Yaks used as a mode of transportation in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. (Source: The Economic Times)

 

By Sherub Dorji BBS

If the world fails to take immediate action to reduce carbon emissions, the mountainous region of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) will lose more than one-third of its ice by the end of 2100.

A comprehensive study of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, also known as the world’s ‘Third Pole’ by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), recently revealed that over 30 per cent of its glaciers  could melt by the end of this century.

The ecological importance of the Hindu Kush Himalayan mountain system

The Hindu Kush Himalayan is one of the greatest mountain systems in the world. It extends 3,500 km over all or part of eight countries from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east, including Bhutan.

They contain 40 per cent of the world’s fresh water, the tallest mountains (Mount Everest and K2) on Earth and is home to 55,000 glaciers.

It is the source of ten large Asian river systems - the Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra (Yarlungtsanpo), Irrawaddy, Salween (Nu), Mekong (Lancang), Yangtse (Jinsha), Yellow River (Huanghe), and Tarim (Dayan).

 

Photo: ICIMOD

 

The region’s glaciers is a critical water source to some 240 million mountain dwellers and 1.65 billion others living in the river valleys below.

Global warming and its negative impact on the Hindu Kush Himalayan mountain system

Even the most ambitious Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming by 1.5 degrees at the end of this century would not be enough to salvage the situation as the Hindu Kush Himalayan region would still be 0.7 degrees warmer than the global average.

“If we continue with what we have been doing, it will end up with two-thirds of the glaciers, around 60 per cent of the glaciers melting down and disappearing,” warned Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha, the Editor of The HKH Assessment.

The study also found that there has been a significant increase in the number of wet days and extreme rain events recorded over the western Himalaya.

In eastern Himalaya, the total amount of rainfall had not changed much and the number of rainy days actually decreased, which meant that there has been a higher amount of rainfall in a shorter period of time.

 

Global warming is on track to transform the frigid, glacier-covered mountain peaks of the HKH cutting across eight countries to bare rocks in a little less than a century,” said Philippus Wester (ICIMOD).

Photo: Nepali Sansar

 

What is more alarming for Bhutan is that the central Himalayan range, where Bhutan lies, will see a rise in temperature higher than the regional average of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

Constructive steps taken to study and assess the changes in the Hindu Kush Himalayan mountain system

The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment is the first and most authoritative study of its kind to provide an assessment of one of the world’s most significant, yet often overlooked mountain regions.

“We would like to make it not only a one-time assessment. We also call it assessment monitoring. We will keep track of the changes, hopefully in five years’ time we will come up with another assessment which will show us the changes,” Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha said.

 

This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

 


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