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Issue 20
December , 2009
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Melting Himalayan glaciers threaten 1.3 bln Asians

Source: Mumbai Mirror, Mumbai, Date: December , 2009

More than a billion people in Asia depend on Himalayan glaciers for water, but experts say they are melting at an alarming rate, threatening to bring drought to large swathes of the continent. Glaciers in the Himalayas, a 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) range that sweeps through Pakistan, India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, provide headwaters for Asia's nine largest rivers, lifelines for the 1.3 billion people who live downstream.But temperatures in the region have increased by between 0.15 and 0.6 degrees Celsius (0.27 and 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit) each decade for the last 30 years, dramatically accelerating the rate at which glaciers are shrinking.As world leaders gather in Copenhagen this month for a crucial climate change summit, campaigners warn that some Himalayan glaciers could disappear altogether within a few decades. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body regarded as the world's top authority on climate change, has warned Himalayan glaciers could "disappear altogether by 2035" and experts say the effects of global warming are already being felt in the region. Experts say the resulting water shortages could hit the economic development of China and India, with potentially dire consequences for development in two of the world's most populated countries.Even in low-lying Bangladesh, prone to severe floods, the IPCC has said rivers could run dry by the end of the century.But research on the impact of global warming on the rugged and inaccessible Himalayas remains sparse, with the IPCC describing the region as a "blank spot" due to a lack of scientific data.Even the experts disagree on the issue, with some arguing that some of the Himalayan glaciers are actually advancing. India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh recently came under fire for denying that climate change was causing Himalayan glaciers to melt, citing research by the Indian geologist Vijay Kumar Raina.


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