DHARAMSHALA, July 21: A study on the glaciers on the Tibetan plateau, dubbed as the “most comprehensive study to date” has concluded that Tibetan glaciers are “retreating rapidly.”
According to the research based on 30 years of satellite and field measurements, published in the Nature magazine, the majority of the glaciers on the Tibetan plateau have been shrinking rapidly with acceleration in the rate of retreat.
For decades, Yao Tandong, a glaciologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Tibetan Research in Beijing and his colleagues analysed satellite measurements of the lengths and surface areas of about 7,100 glaciers and also studied changes in the mass balance — the difference between accumulation and loss of ice — of 15 glaciers.
“The majority of the glaciers have been shrinking rapidly across the studied area in the past 30 years,” Yao concluded after his research. And the rate of retreat has been accelerating.
The Tibetan plateau and the bordering mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, the Karakoram, the Pamir and the Qilian make up a vast region known as the Third Pole, home to 100,000 square kilometres of glaciers that supply water to about 1.4 billion people in Asia through huge river systems like the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Indus, Mekong, Yangtze etc. This gigantic collection of freshwater - mostly ice - has led many to call the Tibetan plateau the Third Pole of the Earth.
Exile Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has often raised the issue of the importance of preserving Tibet’s fragile ecology as it affects the livelihood of more than a billion people living in downstream countries.
Last year, speaking to hundreds of Indians in the capital New Delhi, the Dalai Lama said that India should “seriously consider” the melting glaciers in the Tibetan plateau, as millions of Indians rely on the water that comes from this region.
“India, a free country, I think should express more serious concern, that’s I think important. This is nothing to do with politics, just everybody’s interest, including Chinese people also,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said.
“Since millions of Indians use water coming from the Himalayan glacier, so you have a certain right to show your concern about ecology of that [Tibetan] plateau.”