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India, Pak melt ice in wrong place

Sunday, 28 January 2007 - 2:05am IST
A WWF-Pak study says deployment of troops on the Siachen and Gangotri glaciers is causing a meltdown, endangering lives of Indian and Pakistani citizens.

LAHORE: Global warming is not the only trigger. Military activity on the Siachen and Gangotri glaciers is also contributing to the meltdown, endangering the lives of Indian and Pakistani citizens, says a study carried out by the Pakistan chapter of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The study predicts extreme environmental fallouts in the subcontinent.


All this because of intense human activity on the glaciers since 1983, when the Indo-Pak Siachen war began. A senior WWF official said human activity on the glaciers cannot be stopped unless governments on both sides of the border agree to stop the hostilities.


Attributing the increased natural calamities of the last 20 years to the melting glaciers, the study says the future may see more floods and droughts.  


“The rivers of the sub-continent will see an increase in extreme rainfall. The Bay of Bengal will get more cyclones, especially in the post-monsoon season, and winds will be faster and stronger. Crops will have to be rethought; water-saving techniques developed and flood control and sewage systems redesigned. Roads, railways and ports will become vulnerable. Temperature increases may weaken building materials. The sea level will rise and increased rainfall may cause flooding and waterlogging, resulting in structural damage, erosion and increased risk of building collapse.”


All these will hit power supply even as irrigation systems and construction crews fight to maintain status quo, predicts the study. “Disputes between states over power and water-sharing will intensify as water supply becomes even more erratic and power unreliable. Internal migration will increase. Farmers will be hit hard,” it says.


Gangotri is the second largest glacier in the world. The Ganges originates from it; so, it is sacred for Hindus. Gangotri also irrigates large parts of India. On the other hand, Siachen, from which the Nubara River originates, is the main source of the Indus River, the lifeline of Pakistan’s agro-based economy. It meets around 75 per cent of Pakistan’s irrigational requirements.


THE FINDINGS


According to Ali Habib, director-general of WWF Pakistan, India has conducted a study on the melting glaciers. In June 2005, the Marine and Water Resources Group, the Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, and the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Chandigarh, prepared reports on the melting glaciers, which substantiates WWF-Pakistan’s claim.


THE DOUBTS


Says RK Pachauri, director-general, The Energy and Resources Institute: “A number of scientists say Siachen should be made a protected area, a heritage site of sorts, and that there should be no army presence on either side. For purely ecological reasons, this might be a good idea. But I don’t see why there would be melting as a result of military presence and activity.”




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