A recent report from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has raised concerns about the accelerated melting of Himalayan glaciers as a result of climate change.The report focuses on the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) glaciers, which are crucial water sources for approximately two billion people. Unfortunately, these glaciers are rapidly disappearing, with a 65 percent increase in the rate of melting between 2011 and 2020 compared to the previous decade.
The HKH glaciers play a vital role in providing water to around 240 million people living in mountainous regions and an additional 1.65 billion people in the valleys below. The report covers several countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. It warns that if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, up to 80 percent of the glaciers could vanish by the end of this century.
These glaciers are essential for ten major river systems, including the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Mekong, and Irrawaddy, which support billions of people by providing crucial resources like food, energy, clean air, and income.
Izabella Koziell, the deputy chief of ICIMOD, emphasized the far-reaching consequences of losing this frozen zone for the two billion people in Asia who rely on its water.
Even if the world manages to limit global warming within the targets set by the Paris climate agreement, the report predicts significant glacier loss by 2100. Philippus Wester, the lead author, called for urgent action to mitigate climate change and highlighted the profound impacts that incremental changes can have.
The report also acknowledges the advancements in technology and high-resolution satellite imagery that have enabled more accurate predictions. It further emphasizes the link between global warming and extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts, and intensified storms caused by rising sea levels.
Despite their minimal responsibility for fossil fuel emissions, vulnerable populations and poorer countries bear a disproportionate burden of these changes. Amina Maharjan from ICIMOD stressed the need for proactive efforts to anticipate and address future changes, pointing out the lack of support available to these communities.