Snow and Ice are Nature’s way of regulating temperature and its water supply. In the winter, snow and ice will accumulate on the top of the mountains because of the higher altitudes. Once the snow and ice melt, it will drift downstream during the dry months. The Himalayas are the source for 5 major rivers that flow through most Asian countries. Also known as the “Roof of Asia,” the Himalayan glaciers will release fresh melt water before and after the monsoon season allowing the rivers to irrigate and feed millions of people living in the lower altitude areas. Also the steady flow of the rivers will continuously fill up lakes and reservoirs throughout the year for consumption and hydropower use.
The recent surge in global warming due to the greenhouse gasses and partly due to the ‘soot’ created by diesel fuel, coal and wood burning stoves in the Indian subcontinent has caused the surface of the glaciers to absorb heat rather than reflecting it. “Over the past century, heat-trapping greenhouse gases have caused an average rise in global temperature of 0.74 degrees C. But many scientists contend that, unless current emission rates are radically curbed, it is possible that future average temperatures could rise by as much as 4.3 degrees C.” This rapid increase in temperature due to climate change means the glaciers are receding at a faster pace which has never happened before and will have a multitude of adverse effects to region. First, the decrease in snowmelt means an increase in severe droughts in the off-monsoon season for the low-lying countries, leading to less water and food security. Secondly, the melting of the glaciers also means that the high-altitude lakes and reservoirs will overflow, downstream, and potentially flood the nearby cities. And third, other concerns include irregular rainfall, changes in the monsoon season and the greater risks of catastrophes such as avalanches and landslides.
Climate change is real and is affecting the biodiversity. It will have an effect on almost 1/6th of the world’s population that lives in the snow-melt fed river basins. If we are to continue in this trend of warming our planet, we will soon have no roof over our head.