Receding Glaciers

Greater Kashmir


Glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir are receding at a faster rate compared to other glacial regions in the world. In Suru basin alone, we have lost about 16% of glaciers in the last 40 years. Similarly, we have lost 18% of the Kolhai glacier, the main source of drinking water and irrigation in the valley, during the same period. Climate change is likely to affect a number of sectors, particularly irrigated agriculture, horticulture and hydropower capacity in the state. Changes in flow magnitudes are likely to raise tensions between India and Pakistan, in particular with regard to reduced water flows in the dry season and higher flows during the wet season. Both parts of Kashmir face the risk of higher frequency of floods and increased threat to hydropower development.

• Recently, Kashmir has been witnessing drastic decrease in the snowfall. This reduction in snowfall together with the fast receding glaciers has resulted in water scarcity for irrigation and hydropower generation in some seasons. The data shows that the magnitude and frequency of flooding has increased in the valley during the last few decades. Coupled with the unplanned urbanization and mismanagement of the Jhelum floodplains, the situation is going to be alarming in near future. One can well imagine the future scenario, with most of the wetlands that used to act as sponge during flooding, being urbanized and converted into concrete landscape. Most of our wetlands and water bodies are already fighting a loosing battle for their survival.

• In Jammu and Kashmir, TERI has selected Kolhai glacier, west Liddar valley, as one of the benchmark/ index glaciers for long-term monitoring. Liddar valley covers an area of 1282.55 sq. km. and it sustains about 48 glaciers covering an ice covered area of 39 km2. It is important to establish an index glacier in this region for assessing the water resources availability to the communities in the valley. An expedition was organized to the Kolhai glacier in November 2008 in collaboration with the University of Kashmir.