Count of glacial lakes in Sutlej basin rising

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, February 8

The rapid increase in glacial lakes downstream of Karcham and Nathpa in the Sutlej river basin in Kinnaur is becoming a cause of constant worry, especially against the backdrop of the catastrophe in Chamoli in Uttarakhand.

It is in view of this threat from increasing glacial lakes that the State Centre on Climate Change in the HP Council for Science, Technology and Environment is using more sophisticated equipment which will help provide clearer pictures of the glacial lakes in Himachal and the Tibetan Himalayan Region.

The increase in the number of glacial lakes remains a major cause of worry for Himachal too, especially the Sutlej basin which has some of the country’s biggest hydel projects like Nathpa Jhakri, Karcham Wangtoo and Baspa.

Uttarakhand-like threat

  • The increase in the number of glacial lakes remains a major cause of worry for Himachal, especially the Sutlej basin which has some of the country’s biggest hydel projects such as Nathpa Jhakri, Karcham Wangtoo and Baspa
  • The previous years’ studies have already indicated the phenomena of increasing glacial lakes which are a potential threat to the downstream areas in various parts of the state

Preliminary interpretation of the Sutlej basin right from the origin of the Sutlej basin reveals that the number of lakes is increasing as is evident from the high resolution of satellite data being used. Prior to the installation of these high tech contraptions, these newly formed lakes could not be mapped.

The state centre in collaboration with Space Application Centre, Ahmadabad has been mapping and monitoring all these lakes in the Tibetan Himalayan region and in Himachal.

Nishant Thaklur, Joint Member Secretary of the climate change centre, said the formation of lakes at the snout of glaciers was being mapped and monitored as they contain a lot of water and could cause major damage in case of bursting. Based on the 2019 study, the Sutlej basin has the highest 562 lakes, Chenab basin 242 lakes, Beas basin 93 lakes and Ravi basin 37 lakes.

The previous year studies have already indicated the phenomena of increasing glacial lakes which are a potential threat to the downstream areas in various parts of the state. “The use of LISS-III data having resolution 23.5 mts and LISS-IV satellite data having resolution of 5.8 mts will give detailed information of such changes were taking place in the higher Himalayan region,” explained Dr SS Randhawa, Principal Scientific Officer, State Centre on Climate Change.

Dr Randhawam revealed that the centre has undertaken a detailed study of one of most vulnerable lakes - Geepang Lake in Lahaul Spiti district. “The study has identified the potential locations which are susceptible to damage in case the lake bursts,” he said.

He added that the installation of the new high tech gadgets would help identify and monitor any new changes in all the five basins in the state to avert an Uttarakhand-like catastrophe. Himachal suffered more than Rs 800-crore loss due to flash floods in the Sutlej river in 2000 and later in 2004 the formation of a lake Parechu in the upper basin of the Spiti river in Tibet posed threat to the villages downstream.

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