Water scarcity likely in the Himalayan catchment if warming continues
- A catchment is an area of land where water collects when it rains, often bounded by hills. As the water flows over the landscape it finds its way into streams and down into the soil, eventually feeding the river. Some of this water stays underground and continues to slowly feed the river in times of low rainfall.
- The Himalayas are an important source of water for about a billion people who live in the basins of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers.
- India, Nepal, Pakistan and China hugely depend on these Himalayan rivers for their daily needs and energy production.
- Snowpacks and glaciers act as storage houses of the freshwater, which melt to form rivers.
Why in the news?
- A new study called ‘Components of Himalayan River Flows in a Changing Climate’ has tried to understand how rainfall-runoff, snow-melt and glacier-melt are affecting the Himalayan rivers.
- The study finds that if drier and warmer scenarios continue in the near future (2031–2050), we are more likely to face water stress in the Himalayan catchment areas.
- They recommend a new glacier melt model in contrast with the land surface model used by the Ministry of Earth Sciences. Land surface model does not take into account glacier melt.
- The results show that the glacier-melt increases about 15% to 70% in a warmer environment with its present volume, but then decreases to 3%–38% substantially when the glacier volumes shrink.
- Snow has lower density than glaciers and is subject to melt easily in a warming climate, the scientists say that reduced snowfall due to climate change will in turn reduce the amount of snow-melt which induces water scarcity.
- The research team emphasis on proper water-management and governance in the Himalayan catchment area. They also suggest further study of the effect of Indian Summer Monsoon and Western Disturbances on the Himalayan catchment area.
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