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Uncertain future if the glaciers melt

Melting glaciers bring energy uncertainty

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Will hydroelectric production be disturbed?

Seasonal meltwater serves as the main source of power for an increasing number of hydroelectric dams on the rivers served by the glaciers. However, hydropower faces a difficult future in South Asia because of climatic, environmental and politico-economic factors. The region is starved of energy, and power shortages of up to 20 hours a day are stunting development. Importing oil and gas from the Gulf, Iran or Tajikistan is expensive or politically difficult. Since the amount of electricity generated varies with the flowrate, the changing river patterns in South Asia will disrupt hydropower production.

Melting glaciers bring energy uncertainty

Imperfect timing of water flows causes drought

Because rain, rather than snow, falls on mountains in spring, river flows will peak before the main growing season.

Summers will increasingly see dry streams, withered and abandoned crops, dead fish and low groundwater levels. Most villages face acute water shortages, particularly during the two crucial months of April and May when there is little water in the streams and the villagers compete to water their newly-planted crops. The water spouts geyser-like from a vertical pipe, freezing into a cone of ice shaped like a Buddhist shrine. It’s designed to stay frozen until the spring sun warms the fields.

Village in Himalaya

Water scarcity conflicts after deglaciation

Himalayan rivers support nearly half of humanity in the area.

Everyone who depends on water from the Himalayas will be affected. The result of this deglaciation could be conflict as Himalayan glacial runoff has an essential role in the economies, agriculture and even religions of the region.

Drought in Himalaya

Imperfect timing of water flows causes flood and landslides

By mid-June there is an excess of water and even flash flooding due to rapidly melting snow and glaciers in the mountains.

By mid-September all farming activities end, but a smaller stream flows throughout the winter, steadily but wastefully joining the Indus River without being used.

As the glaciers melt, soil saturation and slope failure will induce landslides as the ground is exposed. There will be volumes of water released onto slopes which were previously protected by solid sheets of ice. The underlying soil may consist of rocks and sand without binding clay, and may be mobilized by the meltwater, causing landslides.

Landslide area in Himalaya