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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Climate change and its impacts on a religious epicenter!

The Ganges – the magnificent symbol of culture, fertility, prosperity and civilization, on whose banks has much of India grown, developed and prospered. This 2500 kilometer long river has the water that is considered sacred by the nearly 800 million Hindus that live around the world. Its origins: the largest glacier in the Himalayas – the gangothri.

The Gangothri glacier in the form of the Ganges forms the lifeline of Nepal, much of North India and entire Bangladesh. This mammoth river apart from being the lifeline of this region is an important constituent of India’s rich mythological history and culture. Now it’s a well-known and a much ignored fact that the Ganges today is polluted beyond repair. Let’s not get into that. But what we will discuss is the much bigger problem that may eventually shut down the entire Ganges! Can you imagine such a scenario? Scary isn't it?

The ever increasing global temperatures due to global warming have begun to take a toll on this holy glacier. Scientists from around the world first started studying this glacier and its behavior in the mid nineteenth century. Around the year 1960 it was observed that the glacier was shrinking at an alarming rate of 26 meters a year! But what shocked the scientific community is what came next – by the year 2006, the shrinkage rate was 800 meters a year!
Throughout the Himalayas more such glaciers are continuously melting. While this may have some short term benefits like an increase in the fresh water flow in the rivers, the long term impacts are often disastrous. For example, the continuous melting of the Himalayan glaciers has resulted in the formation of numerous small lakes. We are aware of the fact that climate change is increasing the global precipitation rates. Imagine a cloud burst on these small lakes.  Would we be seeing at an Uttarakhand part two?

The Himalayan glaciers and the Ganges are important religious and cultural centers of India. The Amaranth Yaatra which nearly 700,000 pilgrims undertake to witness and pray to Lord Shiva in the form of an Ice Shivalinga speaks marvels of the importance attached to these holy mountains and their ice.  However, the as per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report 2007, Himalayan glaciers are at risk of disappearing by the year 2035 if the Earth continues to warm at its current rate!
Imagine these glaciers disappear by 2035? Will there be an Amaranth Yaatra left? What about the Ganges and the fertile plains that it nourished all these years? What about the billion people depended on this water?

Wake up earthizen. Time is running out! Lord Shiva may have come down from the heavens to save us then! But why would he? We destroyed and ruined the very place where he explained the meaning of eternity? And that very place would cause our doom! What an irony!
True isn't it?