Between 2000 and 2012 a study was conducted along the Line Of Control (LOC) and Line of Actual Control (LAC) and a total of 12,243 glaciers were included in the study for their thickness and mass changes.
It was found that around 1,200 glaciers in Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh saw an annual change in mass of about an average of 35 cm. According to satellite data, glaciers in J&K and Ladakh are melting at a crucial rate. The research team from the Geoinformatics Department of Kashmir University used two observations made by NASA in 2000 and the German Space Agency DLR in 2012. The thickness change was studied for the entire upper Indus Basin.
The glaciers in the Pir Panjal range are melting at a shocking rate of more than 1m per year. The glaciers in the Karakoram the glaciers are melting relatively at slower rates around 10 cms per year. Some glaciers in the Karakoram are even improving. In other mountains ranges like the Zanskar range, the Leh ranges the glaciers no doubt are melting but their melting rate is inconsistent. The Zanskar range is melting at a rate of 117 cms per year and the Leh ranges are melting at a rate of 46 cms per year. The less affected glaciers are in the Karakoram range.
According to the researchers, the glaciers are melting continuously. As per a team report, the region has lost about 70.32 gigatonnes of glacier mass which no one has observed. The continuous melting of glaciers will have a severe impact on the different sectors which contribute to the economy of J&K and Ladakh. This becomes a serious problem to note because of the water scarcity in low-lying areas that are already facing water shortage in both the UTs. Kashmir’s biggest glacier which feeds the maximum rivers of the valley is melting much faster than the other glaciers which can affect the water supply of 10 thousand people. The study has helped in determining the sustainability of water resources in the South Asian region.
The researchers have identified the cause for the glacier melting. The increasing temperature and decreasing snow precipitation are the two main causes of the glacier melting and both are caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses. The rapid industrialization and an increase in the use of fossil fuels have increased the emission of greenhouse gases. According to the experts, the temperature in the mountains has increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius in the past 1000 years. The Kolahoi glacier in Kashmir spread over a little area of 11 sq km has shrunk 2.63 sq km in the past 3 decades.
According to the UN Environment Programme and World Glacier Monitoring Service study, the average rate at which the glaciers are melting has doubled since the past 1000 years. In 2006 the record of glacier melting was seen at several sites. India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said “there was a need for more scientific study to establish a link between changing climate and glacier melting”. A couple of Himalayan glaciers are receding while many glaciers in Siachen are increasing. The Gangotri glaciers are melting at a decreasing rate as compared with last two decades”. The melting of glaciers could have a serious impact as the most population in both the Union Territories depends upon glaciers for water.
A recent study published in the journal climate change found that J&K and Ladakh may witness an increase in temperature of about 6.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century due to changes in the climate. The researchers have warned that if the assumptions come true then the glaciers in the Himalayan region could shrink by 85%. A research also found that the glaciers in J&K and Ladakh have already lost 23% of the area and in the coming year the region could face severe water scarcity which could result in less agricultural production. By 2050 the annual discharge of the Jhelum river will drop by 50% and the agricultural production will be less by 50%. The UTs are already under a food deficiency of about 36% which may rise to 50% by 2030 if the government doesn’t take measures. Most regions in the UT depends upon the hydro resources for electricity generation. The experts have warned that the melting of glaciers will severely affect the stream flow which in turn will affect the hydroelectricity generation projects. The government and the local residents should take measures at the individual level to limit the emission of greenhouse gases. Deforestation should be reduced to the least and more and more trees should be planted. J&K and Ladakh had not witnessed much industrialization but are still affected by climate change. If immediate measures are not taken by the government then the future generations have to face the consequences.