Glaciers Current Affairs

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Himalayan hydro power projects face flood risk

The potential hydro power projects in the Himalayan region face increased flood risks from the formation of new lakes and the expansion of existing ones due to melting glaciers.

It was revealed by study conducted by Swiss researchers on the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.

The study made analysis of Himalayan glaciers and their possible future impact on livelihoods in States adjoining the region. It found that the global warming could cause Himalayan glaciers to melt rapidly increasing the flow of water.

According to the study

  • 441 hydro-power projects spanning India, Nepal, Pakistan and China are on possible Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) tracks.
  • It means that these projects could be gorged with extra water from melting glaciers. These 441 projects accounts 66% of constructed and potential hydro power projects,
  • Thus, almost a third of these hydro-power projects could experience GLOF discharges well above what these dams account for.
  • If the hydro-power projects are situated close to these glaciers, they would have to account for higher water flows.
  • The fear of floods can be mitigate by taking in to consideration extra need of design or safety features in these projects.

What is Indian Scenario?

In this study, 129 hydro projects from India were analysed. In the Parvati Valley catchment area, 12 lakes in 1989 had increased to 77 lakes in 2014 and in the Beas basin, six lakes (in 1989) had increased to 33 (in 2011). Most of the lakes were in Himachal Pradesh are relatively small or with a capacity less than of a million cubic metres, and only a few of them had a capacity larger than 10 million cubic metres of water.

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Uttarakhand High Court bans construction near glaciers in Uttarakhand

The Uttarakhand High Court has banned near glaciers in Uttarakhand and directed the state government to preserve the rapidly melting glaciers, a source of major rivers.

The High Court issued an order, taking notice of the degradation in the Himalayan ecology and environment based on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed on encroachment and illegal construction around various water bodies including the Nainital lake.

What is the issue?

The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand alone has 968 glaciers spread across an area of 2,857 sq km. These glaciers are a source of major rivers including the Ganga and the Yamuna. In recent times these glaciers are facing severe problem of rapid reduction in snow cover due to climate change and the melting of ice.

High Court order

  • No new permanent constructions must come up within a 25 kilometre radius from the edges of all the glaciers across the state.
  • Restriction on burning of fossil fuels within a 10 kilometre radius of the edges of glaciers. Complete ban on the use of plastic, in all forms, within a 20 kilometre radius of glaciers
  • State Government must provide the LPG and Kerosene Oil in abundance to the people living in these areas by involving Oil Companies to mitigate their hardships.
  • The entry of persons visiting the glaciers must be regulated and Chief Secretary of state must be the authority to issue “limited passes” for these visiting persons.
  • The State government can also impose a cess in the form of “Glacier Tax” on persons visiting places in the vicinity of the glaciers.
  • State administration must put up stations 20 kilometres from each glacier to ensure the enforcement of the Court directions.
  • Army and paramilitary forces are permitted to set up infrastructures but they too must consider the environment of the area before undertaking constructions of any kind.

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