The Himalayan region is highly sensitive towards changes in global climate, and more than half of glaciers in Satluj Basin are set to vanish by 2050
Satluj — which before merging with Spiti River at Khab, originated from Tibet’s Mount Kailash — enters India at Shipki La. It cuts across the Great Himalayan Range in Kinnaur, where it is better known as ‘Zangti’ or the ‘Golden Water’. Currently, it hosts about 945 glaciers with an estimated ice reserve of 94.45 cubic kilometres — all of which is under grave threat. Photo: Sumit Mahar
The Himalayan region is highly sensitive towards changes in global climate, a fact that was reiterated by a recent study which suggests that more than half of glaciers in Satluj Basin would vanish by 2050. A study by the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment showed that accelerated glacial melting in Himachal has resulted in the formation of 109 new lakes between 2013 and 2015. In the Satluj Basin alone, the number of glacial lakes has increased by over 300 in last two decades. Photo: Sumit Mahar
Springs, or Chashme are a lifeline in the state, where most of the population depends upon them for their water requirements. The decreasing trends in snowfall and rainfall pattern would minimise the groundwater recharge, drying up the springs, as would unregulated construction. A NITI Aayog report also states that “nearly half of the perennial springs have already dried up or have become seasonal”. Photo: Sumit Mahar
Just like the precious metal it is named after, the Satluj Basin has been relentlessly extracted in the name of fast-tracked development. The Karcham-Wangtoo Project is one of the 41 big and 91 small and micro HEPs on the river. The latest technology used in hydropower development in Himachal is ‘Run of the River’ (ROR), where the flow of a running river is diverted through tunnels and let out a few kilometres ahead; Satluj is punctuated by a cascade of such projects. Photo: Sumit Mahar
Reports speculate that when large diversion of rivers takes place, changes in micro climate may occur, causing rise in temperatures. This technology is also accompanied by unscientific muck dumping and blasting and tunneling in an already fragile geography, which will aggravate landslides as a result of heavy rainfall. Photo: Sumit Mahar
The Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment study for planned and recommended hydropower projects in the river, which is currently being examined by the Union environment ministry, remains silent on the impacts of climate change. Draining public resources by constructing more dams in a river that’s fast running dry makes little sense. Photo: Sumit Mahar
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