A CAUSE OF CONCERN

Greater Kashmir

Fast receding glaciers can wreak havoc in the Valley

IT is said that the third world war will be fought not for any land but for the water distribution. Global warming, which is already a cause of melting glaciers, ice sheets and snow cover at alarming rate, could also speed up the rate at which the planet heats up, causing rise in sea levels, flooding and water shortages that will impact 40 per cent of the world’s population.
The fate of the snowy and icy places in a climatically challenged world should be cause for concern in every ministry, boardroom and living room across the globe. The melting of ice and snow will in itself have severe consequences on nature and society. The sudden rise in the temperatures due to the global warming, glaciers, snow fields and the arctic polar ice caps are getting tremendously affected with the result ice is melting everywhere at an alarming rate and this rising global temperatures is further the cause of long melting seasons, thawing frozen ground, and thinning ice caps and the glaciers. These changes have raised sea water level faster than earlier projected by scientists. This will threaten both human and wildlife populations near the coastal areas and in the mountain belts.
A recent research on global warming says that it could trigger a sudden catastrophe by abrupt climatic changes in which some parts of the world will dramatically heat up while as some will cool down in a span of few years. As a consequence the agricultural lands, farms and forests will face damaging new pests and other insects born diseases. There will be a huge disruption of habitats which will affect the alpine meadows that could push the animals and plant life towards extinction.
 Millions of people living near the basins of Himalayan range of mountains like Kashmir  rely on glacial water for drinking and irrigation. These glaciers are the main source of water to more than nine major rivers which are flowing in south east Asia. If we go by the reports and the predictions of the UNEP scientists, in the next half a decade or so, the Himalayan regions could experience intense flooding as mountain lakes are over flowing with water from melting glaciers and snowfields.
In case of an earthquake all the water will drain out at an alarming speed bringing with it all the debris, mud slides and what ever comes in its way, resulting in devastation of the villages, bridges and the agricultural fields and farms. It will not be out of question here if one says that it is a silent tsunami by which tens of thousands of people who live high in the mountains and down in the valleys   could be at severe risk. If these glaciers disappear as is predicted, by the effects of this global warming, severe water shortages are sure to follow resulting in loss of land and other properties.
Melting glaciers will have an adverse impact on biodiversity, hydropower, industries and agriculture and will make the region dangerous to live in. Himalayan glaciers are likely to contain only half of their volume. This will affect the tourism trade as thousands of trekkers and mountaineers, who visit the mountains for adventure sport, will abandon their activities resulting in huge economic set back to that area. Subsequently it will aggravate poverty and hardships in the regions and all this is going to change fundamentally the way we live.
We are in a situation where we have to act now or never to save this planet from the further damages. We can help the situation to change by making it mandatory to all the developed and developing countries to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide. They should work together to slow down climatic changes while maintaining the economic growth by improving their efficiency in energy making with the reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind, sun and geothermal plants.
 In the recent summit of G8 countries in Italy, United States and other developed nations have decided to take measures to curb the global warming by phasing out the decades old coal running power plants replacing them with more efficient and environmentally clean plants.
 In Jammu and Kashmir we can also contribute our bit by conserving the energy. One positive start from our side could mean influencing others and our contribution to the cause can go a long way in having a positive impact on the environment and cutting down on pollution levels.
Electricity is a precious resource and we have to reduce our electricity needs by using efficient home and office appliances. We should conserve energy by using the fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent light bulbs and making a habit of switching off the lights, computers and other appliances when not in use. By this, we can lower our energy bills and minimize carbon dioxide level in air. We should also limit the number of cars in each family while phasing out the old ones. We have to stop using the plastic cups and polythene bags and ban them in private enterprises and in government departments. We have to make a habit of using the paper on both sides in the institutions and among the student community. We should volunteer for  environmental issues and help maintaining green zones in the rural and urban areas and spread awareness among the masses to protect the environment and ecology.
It is high time for the world to develop such technology which could prove the best alternative to the present day energy sources to save the planet earth, its glaciers and water bodies from dying a premature death.

Rauf Tramboo
Secretary General, Kashmir Ecological & Environment Watch (KEEW)