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Melting glaciers: India contradicts UN report

New Delhi A new report by India's Ministry of Environment and Forests has suggested that the Himalayan glaciers are not wasting away due to global warming.

The report goes on to claim that the retreat of many glaciers in the Himalayas has in fact slowed down, with some glaciers even expanding.

Similar paradoxical reports are also emerging from all over the Karakorams.

NDTV brings you this special report, which puts a question mark on the doomsday findings forecast by the UN panel on climate change. This does not mean that the climate is probably not changing, but just the fact Himalayan glaciers are defying the odds and surviving is little understood.

It could be a controversy of Himalayan proportions. The government has today debunked the UN climate change report, saying its doomsday prediction on glaciers is wrong.

The 2007 IPCC report had said, "The Himalayan glaciers are receding faster than in any other part of the world and at the current rate of global warming, they may disappear altogether by the year 2035, or even earlier."

Now, the government report contradicts that with a warning by the minister not to be alarmist.

"We don't need to be alarmist like the IPCC was, we don't need to write the epitaph for glaciers, but we need a concentrated scientific and policy focus on the Himalayan ecosystem. I think the truth is incredibly complex," said Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

The government report is based on a study of a dozen or so glaciers, although there are close to ten thousand glaciers in the Himalayas.

This says: "Till 6 years ago, the 30-kilometre long Gangotri glacier that feeds the Ganga was retreating annually at the rate of 22 metres. But a study by the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Almora, found that in 2004 and 2005 the annual retreat slowed to nearly 12 metres.

And the Environment ministry report says - between 2007 and June this year, the glacier has stood still.

The government report goes on to cite the examples of the Siachen glacier, which it says has not retreated much in the last 50 years.

The same holds true for the Machoi glacier and the Zemu glacier on the Kanchenjunga in Sikkim.

The 17-kilometre long Dokriani glacier, the most studied in India, continues to retreat steadily, not faster, as the UN predicted.

These claims are backed by a NASA study that suggests Himalayan glaciers are located at much higher altitudes and have not felt the impacts of global warming.

But the author of the original IPCC report stands firm.

"I've sent my comments to the ministry. In my view, glaciers are definitely retreating but their response time is different in different climatic settings," says Seyed I. Hasnain, Fellow, The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi.

According to the Environment ministry, the Gangotri glacier, and other glaciers in the Himalayas will not waste away anytime soon as was forecast by the United Nations Panel on Climate Change.

These counter-intuitive findings will most certainly echo at the Copenhagen summit, when delegates from 192 countries will gather to thrash out a new global treaty on climate change.
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