A damp squib

Published: Tuesday 30 November 2004

-- Himalayan Snow and Glaciers, Associated Environmental Problems, Progress and Prospects by Jagdish Bahadur Concept Publishing House New Delhi 2004 Price Rs 300

Remote sensing analyses indicate that many glaciers in the Himalaya are receding fast. This is a critical loss, for these ice-expanses are a source for rivers which supply the water requirements of 10 per cent of the world's population living in India, Pakistan Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Moreover, glaciers and snowfields in the higher Himalaya have stabilising effect on water run-off: during the moist winters, glaciers retain more waters in frozen form and in summers they release more water downstream for use in irrigation and other purposes. Besides, the interaction of snow and ice at higher altitude also has a direct impact on the Indian monsoon. It is not surprising therefore that the study of glaciers has attracted much scholarly attention in India. This ambitiously titled book under review is another effort in the area.

However, Himalayan Snow and Glaciers does not make any substantial contribution to the field. Since 1985 a substantial amount of data on glacier hydrology, glacier hydrochemistry, sub-glacial hydrology, mass balance, glacier dynamics and satellite remote sensing has been generated by the Glacier Research Group, School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun; Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad and the National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee. The scientists from these institutes have published quality research papers in international and Indian journals such as Journal of Glaciology, Journal of Hydrology and Hydrological Sciences Journal, Journal of Geological Society of India and Current Science. The book totally ignores all this research. The lack is particularly disappointing considering its author was, in the early 1980s, the coordinator of the Union government's National Programme on Himalayan Glaciology -- the nodal project behind the glacier research undertaken by the above-mentioned institutes. A simple browsing of of the annual project reports, submitted by principal investigators of the National Programme on Glaciology, could have given the author a huge amount of information on Himalayan glaciers. Instead, this ten-chapter-long book prefers to provide extremely rudimentary information.

Even the hundreds of websites on Himalayan glaciers have more quality information, graphics and photographs. Moreover, the author has very liberally lifted paragraphs, and figures such as 2.3.3, 5.2.1 and 5.2.2, from research papers published in international journals without any acknowledgement of the source. I am aware we don't much care about copyright laws in India, but in this age of globalisation the publishers should demand the source of these figures from the author.

Nevertheless, I do recommend this book for those high school students who have no access to the Internet but are interested about glaciers.

Syed Iqbal Hasnain is vice-chancellor, University of Calicut, Kerala

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