The adverse impact of climate change in the higher Himalayan region has resulted in considerable increase in the number of glacial lakes within a short span of one year, which could pose a major threat to downstream villages if they swell up and burst.
The study by the State Centre on Climate Change under the aegis of Council for Science, Technology and Environment has indicated that there has been a considerable increase in the number of glacial lakes up to five hectares in various river basins in the Upper Himalayas. The study by Dr SS Randhawa is based on the comparison of satellite images of 2017 and 2018.
The Sutlej basin has seen the highest increase —- 127 lakes, including 49 with an area of more than 10 hectares —— followed by 34 lakes in the Chenab basin and 12 in the Ravi basin. It is only in the Beas basin that the number of lakes has gone down from 101 to 65. The increase in the Sutlej basin has been 16 per cent within a year.
The 2013 tragedy in Uttarakhand has also been correlated with the bursting of an 8-hectare lake in front of the snout of the Chorabari glacier that caused widespread damage in the downstream areas during heavy rain. The findings also assume significance in view of a major threat that had been caused due to the creation of the huge Parechu lake in Tibet in 2004, following which it is being monitored by various agencies to avert any major loss to life and property in case it bursts.