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Rajya Sabha TV: In Depth – Melting of Himalayan Glaciers

Rajya Sabha TV: In Depth – Melting of Himalayan Glaciers


PRELIMS: General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change


At the Paris climate conference in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. This set out a global action plan to limit global warming to well below 2OC and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5OC. But despite the global efforts, there are forecasts that the world global temperature may rise above 1.5OC.

The Hind Kush Himalayas will warm by around 1.8OC by the end of the 21st century.

The Hindu Kush Himalaya region and its river basins


  • The report was made together by researchers, experts and policymakers, brought by Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Report (HIMAP) and International centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)
  • The Assessment has been titled “Mountain, Climate Change, Sustainability and People”.
  • According to report, even the most ambitious goal set by the Paris Agreement to limit global warming would lead to a 2.1 spike in temperature in the Hindu Kush Region, leading to melting of 1/3rd of the region’s glaciers by 2100, potentially destabilizing Asia’s rivers.
  • If the Green House Gas emissions continue at their current level, the region can loose up to 2/3rd of its ice. So, the amount of GHG emissions will determine the amount of glaciers melted in these mountainous ranges.
  • The melting of these glaciers will put a threat on 1.9 billion people.
  • Hind Kush, the world’s third pole is 3,500 km long spread over 8 countries in South Asia and home to 10 major river basins is under severe threat of climate change.
  • 8 Countries covered by Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH region): Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.
  • 10 Major river basins in HKH region: Amu Darya, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Salween, Tarim, Yangtze, Yellow rivers.
  • The HKH region form the largest area of permanent ice cover outside of the North and South Poles, and so are often referred to as “Third Pole”.
  • HKH region is home to 4 global biodiversity hotspots, several important bird areas, and hundreds of mountain peaks. It provides ecosystem services (water, food, energy, etc) to nearly 2 billion people through its river basins.
  • Melting of glaciers can be a threat to water and food security and increase the risks of disasters.
  • Elevation Dependent Warming is a phenomenon of more increase in temperature in mountains than at lower altitudes.
  • Since the 1970s, about 15% of ice in the HKH region has disappeared as temperature have risen.
  • Water supply in the region is closely dependant on rainfall during monsoon and trickling meltwater from glaciers during dry season.
  • Lower flows of river water due to glacial melting will cut power from hydro dams that generate much of the region’s electricity.
  • Farmers in the foothills and downstream will face a serious impact.

Impacts of climate change globally:

  • Climate change is bringing rising incidents of disasters like wildfires, cyclones, hurricanes, droughts, floods, etc.
  • Rising human development and industrial progress are held responsible for the climate change occurring today. Natural resources like trees are being cut for urbanization and non-renewable resources (like fossil fuels) are being used at a very high rate.
  • Global temperatures are rising and extreme weather conditions are being witnessed.
  • Mountain glaciers and ice sheets covering Antarctica, Greenland and Arctic Sea are vanishing.
  • Rapid rise in sea level in recent years has threatened low-lying islands and coastal cities.
  • Wildlife and their habitats are affected. Some species are being pushed towards extinction.
  • Ocean acidity is increasing that threatens shellfish, including crustaceans, affecting marine food chains.
  • Agriculture is facing a threat.

Initiatives done by the Government of India in recent years to save the environment:

  • Formation of International Solar Alliance (ISA)
  • Focus on increasing forest cover.
  • National Clean Air Program (NCAP)
  • Launch of National Air Quality Index in 2015
  • Namami Gange Program for cleaning Ganga river.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana to increase LPG connections.
  • Waste management has emerged as a priority issue.
  • Focus on electrical vehicles.
  • Reducing the use of single use



The United Nations had focussed on environment in the famous Rio Summit in 1992. The development today has to be ‘sustainable’ as mentioned in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that along with socio-economic and other factors focusses on climate and environment as well.

But, even after several efforts and talks at various national and international levels, 2014-2023 was predicted to be the hottest decade in 150 years. The world needs to control the Green House Gas emissions as targeted by the Paris Agreement otherwise, the consequences of increasing global temperature can be threatening.