- The glaciers of the Himalayas are under
threat from global warming, which could melt most of them within 40 years
- perhaps unleashing floods across areas inhabited by millions of people.
- New data collected by scientists at Jawaharlal
Nehru University in Delhi shows that glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating
faster than anywhere else on Earth. Together with those on the neighbouring
Tibetan mountain plateau, the Himalayan glaciers make up the largest body
of ice outside the polar caps.
- Now there are fears that as the glaciers
retreat, the meltwater will produce catas- trophic flooding as mountain
- Nepal's Saramartha national park, which
is popular with Western trekkers, holds the Imja glacier lake which has
been growing for the past 30 years. Such meltwater lakes build up behind
the mound of debris and rock, known as a moraine, left behind as the solid
- The Imja glacier lake now holds 30 million
cubic metres of water - and researchers think it could burst its banks
within five years, according to a report described in today's New Scientist
- "The moraine is unstable,"
Syed Hasnain, the principal author of the new report, said. "Occasionally
these lakes burst, releasing enormous amounts of water."
- In August 1985 scores of people died
in the Khumbal Himal region of Nepal when a moraine breach let a wall of
water 15 metres high pour down a mountain valley. Villagers were drowned
in their homes and a hydroelectric plant was wrecked.
- "All the glaciers in the middle
Himalayas are retreating," said Professor Hasnain, who warns that
glaciers could disappear from the central and eastern Himalayas by 2035.
- The report, which took four years to
prepare, will be presented in July to the International Commission on Snow
and Ice. Last year, research by a team at the University of Colorado, in
Boulder, found that mountain glaciers everywhere were in retreat.
- The Alps have lost about 50 per cent
of their ice in the past century, while 14 of 27 glaciers that existed
in Spain in 1980 have disappeared.
- The largest glacier on Mt Kenya has shrunk
by eight per cent in the last 100 years, while those on Mt Kilimanjaro,
also in Kenya, are only a quarter as big.