Kullu faces challenges of climate change

SHIMLA: Receding glaciers, increased temperatures, formation of glacial lakes and variability in rainfall and snow cover in Kullu over the last three decades have necessitated an urgent need for an early warning system and climate change adaptation strategies.

editorial@tribune.com

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, November 17

Receding glaciers, increased temperatures, formation of glacial lakes and variability in rainfall and snow cover in Kullu over the last three decades have necessitated an urgent need for an early warning system and climate change adaptation strategies.

These are the findings of a pilot study undertaken in Kullu by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) along with Department of Science and Technology and GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development under the Indian Himalayan Climatic Adaptation Programme (IHCAP).

The Draft Synthesis Report of the study was submitted here today at the results sharing workshop under the chairmanship of Deepak Sanan, additional chief secretary, forest and environment. The indepth study of the available data for the four hot spots of Sainj Valley, Parbati Valley, Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) and Beas river upstream of Manali between 1981 to 2010 has brought to the fore some significant facts.

Kullu has been very prone to cloud bursts, flash floods, snow avalanches and other such devastation. The data clearly indicates increased warming during the spring months by almost 0.35 degrees in 10 years, substantial retreat of glaciers since 1960s, formation of several glacial lakes over recent decades and thawing of permafrost which could have significant implications.

“There has been a shift in the snow avalanche activity from winters to spring since the 1950’s, leading to more wet avalanches,” said Dr Markus Stoffel, Professor from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. He pointed out that with the opening of the Rohtang tunnel on its completion in the near future, there will be a greater need for assessing the hazards and risk factors. He also expressed concern over construction along the rivers and flood prone areas.

Similar sentiments are echoed by Dr Simon Allen, a glaciologist from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. “Though we cannot quantify the exact loss of glaciers but we can safely conclude that the glaciers in the Kullu district like elsewhere in the Himalayan region are receding,” he said.

Dr SS Randhawa, senior scientific officer in the State Council for Science and Environment, said a study of the 302 glaciers in Kullu between 1962 to 2002 have indicated a 14 per cent deglaciation while during the period between 2002 to 2006 it was eight per cent. “This does indicate that the deglacaition is taking place at a faster pace,” he said. He said even in case of Spiti, 21 per cent deglaciation had taken place between 1962 and 2000 while from 2001 to 2007 it was 8 per cent.

The study also indicates a threat to floral bio-diversity and the economically important agriculture-horticulture sector. “Ani and Banjar are the most vulnerable blocks while Naggar, Nirmand and Kullu are the least vulnerable,” said Dr R.S. Rana from Palampur Agriculture University.

With the focus of the study being integrated climate vulnerability, hazards and risk assessment in Kulu districts experts have stressed the need for implementation of the adaptation measures in close cooperation with the local stakeholders. “During the second phase of the study we will suggest adaptation strategies along with an advisory for the Kullu district administration,” said Kirtiman Awasthi, team leader of the Indian Himalayan Climatic Adaptation Programme (IHCAP).

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