New Delhi, Nov 9: Most glaciers in the Indian Himalayas are retreating, but there is "no conclusive scientific evidence" to link this to global warming, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said here Monday.
Releasing a discussion paper that puts together recent studies on glaciers by Indian scientists, Ramesh said: "The scientists may debate the causes, but the health of the glaciers is very poor and the level of debris has reached alarming proportions."
'The paper says that while most of the 9,500-odd glaciers in the Indian Himalayas are retreating, some, like the Siachen Glacier, are advancing, while some, like the Gangotri glacier, have reduced their rate of retreat. Most of the glaciers in trouble are the small ones.
Ramesh said there was serious lack of data on the Himalayan glaciers — only about 10 of them have been studied at all, and long-term temperature data is available only in Srinagar. The environment ministry is now sanctioning Rs.14-15 crore in the first phase of three studies — Rs.3 crore for 15 new weather stations, Rs.7-8 crore to monitor the glaciers from satellites and Rs.4 crore for a study on the effects of soot on glacier melt.
Former Geological Survey of India official V.K. Raina, who put the discussion paper together, said that while glaciers were retreating, "we cannot say if it is abnormal, because we don't know what is normal". He hoped that with the new studies being started, the level of knowledge would improve in the next five-ten years.
While glaciers contribute only about ten percent of the water flow in south Asian rivers — with the rest coming from rainfall — they are vital in ensuring perennial water flow in these rivers. With 1.3 billion people dependent on them, the Himalayas have been called the water tower of Asia and sometimes the third pole.