Global warming is not only posing serious threat to glaciers, it will also result in a loss of 33 per cent of total ice volume in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region by the end of the century, leading dire consequences for people living there.
"Climate is warming up. If it rises by 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of 21st century, we will see a loss of one-third of total ice volume in HKH region. This will be of glaciers, snow and ice," Dr Philippus Wester, scientist at the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), said on Monday.
"It is one of the key findings of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP)," he added.
Addressing the "International Conference on Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya: Developing Solutions towards a Sustainable Future for Asia" here, Wester said several studies have suggested that global climate warming should be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius until the end of the century. But even this would be too hot for the HKH region, because it would mean 2.1 degrees Celsius rise in temperature there.
More than 400 experts including scientists, environmentalists and policymakers from 26 countries are taking part in the meet that began on Sunday. Over the next two days, the participants will discuss ideas for strengthening the fragile environment and solutions for mountain communities of the Hindu Kush Himalayas, which extends from Afghanistan to Myanmar.
Wester said the full report of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP) would be launched in mid-2018.
"HIMAP is an unique initiative, first of its kind for HKH region on the line of AMAP(Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme). It is a part of the HKH science policy dialogue to help policy makers from the region."
According to him, the report is like a mini-IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report specific to HKH region. "It is a long term integrated science policy initiative that aims to support policy change and sustainable solutions for problems in the mountains. It will make a difference as it is a landmark report."
A comprehensive assessment of the HKH region will assess the current state of knowledge of the HKH region, address critical data gaps and increase the understanding of various drivers of change and their impacts.
Based on the assessment, HIMAP will recommend a set of practically-oriented policy recommendations. The assessment process will involve a broad and diverse group of researchers, practitioners and policy makers, and culminate in a major publication with a highly-reputed international publishing house in 2017.
A. Kulkarni, scientist at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, said it was a result of global warming that in most of the HKH region, glaciers were thinning, retreating and losing mass volume.
"It is a trend that is projected to continue with possibly large changes in the timing and magnitude of glacier melt runoff."
Kulkarni, who is attending the conference as part of a team of scientists behind HIMAP said: "In future, the volume of seasonal snow is going to decrease and the peak of stream discharge will come early and many springs will become dry."
Kulkarni told IANS here that if temperature rose by 4 to 5 degrees Celsius, then 70 per cent of glaciers will be lost by the end of century.
"If glaciers retreat, new lakes will be formed and this has already happened in Sikkim in India. There will be flash floods if they burst. This is the new risk for people living in the HKH region."
Another findings of HIMAP is that persistent winter fog would lead to greater air pollution and low visibility throughout the HKH region and the Indo-Gangetic plains. Air pollution has already increased and air quality worsened.
The HKH sources 10 major river systems in Asia that provide water, ecosystem services and livelihoods to more than 210 million people. The region holds and distributes water for more than 1.3 billion people living in the downstream river basins.
Climate change and other drivers of change in the HKH have already begun to impact ecosystems and communities, increasing vulnerability and exposure to natural disasters such as floods, droughts and landslides.
The region is also home to some of the most diverse cultures, languages, religions, and traditional knowledge systems in the world. For these reasons, the HKH region is clearly a major global asset, critical to the planet as a whole.
(Imran Khan is at Kathmandu on the invitation of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development - ICIMOD to cover the conference. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)