Melting Glaciers Giving Rise to New Lakes in Himachal Pradesh

Jul 23rd, 2014 | By | Category: Climatic Changes in Himalayas, Information and Communication, News, Vulnerability

Times News Network: Melting of glaciers is resulting in the formation of smaller lakes in the high hills of Himachal Pradesh and is posing threat to the population living downstream. A recent visit to in Chokhang area of Lahaul-Spiti by MLA Ravi Thakur along with forest officials had revealed that around 6-7 smaller lakes have come in the area during the last couple of years. A flood caused by glacial lake outburst in Chenab took place in the 1880s and it had smashed bridges beyond national borders.

Himachal Pradesh has 249 glacial lakes, of which 11 have been identified as having high potential for breach. Glaciers and ice-bodies cover a total of 2472.49 sq km (4.44%) of the total area of 55673 sq km in the state.

Lahaul-Spiti MLA Ravi Thakur said that they had gone to inspect huts being constructed by the forest department for the facility of pilgrims and tourists visiting Neelkanth Lake in Nainghar. During their visit they found around 6-7 new lakes along the stretch which were not there earlier. “Geologists and experts should study the potential threat of these lakes, in case of breach, to population living downstream besides to the 4.5 MW Thirot hydro power project located down the hill,” he said.

Divisional forest officer, Lahaul, Heera Lal Rana said that these smaller lakes on way to Neelkanth lake have been formed during the last 2-3 years only as earlier they were not existing at their present location. He said that lakes were formed due to the melting of glaciers. “Soil in the area is very fragile and more accumulation of water could pose threat to people living downstream,” he said.

During 2007-08, Geological Survey of India (GSI) had carried out preliminary inventory of glacial lakes in Chandrabhaga basin in Lahaul-Spiti district. For one particularly risky lake in Himachal Pradesh, namely, the Gepang Gath, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) risk mapping in field area was done in 2008, 2012 and 2013 field seasons. The study found that Gepang Gath glacial lake was risky and threatens the Manali-Leh National Highway and the downstream Sissu village.

Dr Milap Chand Sharma, associate professor at Centre for the Study of Regional Development in Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi, said that formation of glacial lakes at high altitudes is a common occurrence where allaround thick spread of ice and snow remains but melts only during the ablation season. Geothermal and geomorphological conditions, clubbed with global warming are supposed to be major causes of formation of glacial lakes, he added.

“Different triggering mechanisms of Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods depend on the nature of damming materials, the position of the lake, the volume of water, the nature and position of associated mother glacier, physical and topographical conditions, and other physical conditions of the surrounding area,” he added.

Senior scientist at Kullu based GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Dr Jagdish Chander Kuniyal, who has specialization in environmental assessment and management, said that formation of lake due to melting of glaciers though is a normal process but their potential threat in the wake of breach could not be ignored. He said that Lahaul-Spiti falls under rain shadow zone where formation of small lakes is quite common.

Filed station to come up in Lahaul

To study the glacier behavior in the wake of concerns on melting glaciers due to global warming a field station is being set up in Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. The proposed station would be set up either at Menthossa glacier of Miyar valley or Gangsten glacier right above Keylong town. The Himalayas have the largest concentration of glaciers outside polar caps with a staggering number of 9575 glaciers within India territory and of it 1239 lies in Himachal Pradesh alone.



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