Less precipitation falling, and when it comes it falls in a shorter period of time... photo: Harry via flickr.
Compared to the focus on Arctic and Antarctic ice melting, glacial retreat and climate change in the Himalaya doesn't quite get the same coverage. Which, as a new survey by Indian NGO Navdanya shows, is a shame as the effects of global warming on the region are already directly impacting the lives of people who did nothing to create the problem:In the Uttarakhand region, the Navdanya research shows that in the past ten years 34% of some 809 perennial streams in the region have become seasonal or completely dried up. On average, water discharge has dropped 67%.
Combined with decreasing precipitation, drought caused 50-60% crop failure in the middle to lower mountain regions in 2007-2008; in 2009 that figure increased to 90% in rain-fed subtropical areas.
This ongoing water shortage, coupled with declining fodder availability, has meant the amount of livestock able to be supported in the valleys of several of India's great rivers has declined 57-74%.
In Ladakh, also surveyed by Navdanya, agriculture is imperiled by decreasing precipitation currently, and will be in the future as glaciers continue to melt. Photo: Karunakar Rayker via flickr.
Eyewitness: Hardly Any Rain or Snow in Winter Since 2006
Economic Times quotes a 50-year old woman from Uttarakhand whose first hand experience really nails the situation:
There has hardly been any rain or snow in winter since 2006, and there was very little rain this year even during monsoon. Besides, almost all the rainfall this monsoon took place over two weeks instead of four months, so all the water flowed down the hill instead of going underground. How do you expect the stream to run?...It's becoming impossible to live in our villages any more. If this goes on, we'll all have to shift to Delhi.
Source of the River Ganga, photo: Barry Silver via flickr.
Without Glaciers, Water Source for Billions in Danger
Broadening that out, Navdanya reminds us that glacial runoff is the largest source of fresh water for northern India, providing more than half the water to the River Ganga, as well as being the source of the Indus, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Yellow, and Yangtze rivers.
More: Navdanya - Climate Change in the Himalayas
Global Warming Effects
Black Soot Coating Himalayan Glaciers is Accelerating Melting
Everest and Himalaya Glaciers Could Vanish by 2035, Imperiling a Billion People
House Flies at Everest Base Camp Effect of Warmer Temps