Environmental alarm bells have rung with studies indicating an increase in the number of glacial lakes within a short span of one year in the higher Himalayan region due to the adverse effects of climate change. These glacial lakes have formed in the river basins with the highest increase of 127 reported in the Sutlej basin, with all its future impact open to assessment in the downstream areas in the shape of floods and the pressure on the storage capacity of the dams. Glacial lakes have also formed in the Chenab, Ravi and Beas river basins, but it is the increase in the Sutlej basin— of 16 per cent in a year — that has caused concern. Snow-clad mountains are usually good news for it ensures the flow of water in the rivers most of which are perennial in nature — the source of irrigation and drinking water. The mountains have their own ecology, habitation, flora and fauna that adapt to life there. Crops like apples and apricots are grown and tourism is a major business proposition. There is a nature-man-spirit complex about the surroundings and its inhabitants with a discernible distinctness.
But the Himalayan range has been sensitive to climate change, while being crucial for India’s weather pattern. Erratic rainfall and rising temperatures have created problems. The 2013 tragedy in Uttarakhand was said to have been caused due to the bursting of a lake in front of the Chorabari glacier; and the creation of the huge Parechu lake in Tibet in 2004 had also caused a major threat. The mountain areas witness devastation caused by cloudburst and landslides. The devastation in Ladakh during the 2010 floods and the flood threat in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam after China warned of discharging water from the Tsangpo are still recent in memory. India is known to release excess water of the Sutlej into Pakistan.
Rivers like the Sutlej and Brahmaputra have a course running through different countries and the development will have a connotation for them too. Regular monitoring of the catchment areas can help avert any natural disaster. Coordination between different climate agencies as well as the countries concerned will not be out of place in this regard.
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