Groundwater,Glaciers,Global Warming & Flooding in Himalayas -Dr Aryas in World Water Week 2009 Sweden


Water is blood of Mother earth We need better doctors to operate on our Water systems otherwise we may end our lives in in World Water Week 2009 Sweden

Groundwater,Glaciers,Global Warming & Flooding in Himalayas paper presented by Dr Aryas in World Water Week 2009 Stokholm ,Sweden             Author: Dr. Ritesh Arya

Arya Drillers, India
Keywords: groundwater, glacier, flooding, global warming, Himalayas
Introduction/Problem Identification
Groundwater is poorly understood subject in mountains specially the high altitude cold mountain deserts of Ladakh, Himalayas. Geological complexity, geographical inaccessibility, climatic extreme variability and unavailability of hydro geological data all combine to make groundwater, a mystery
to understand and difficult to develop as a resource for policy makers and politicians. Present paper
tries to bridge this gap by compiling the available data from the wells drilled and establishes the relationship between groundwater, glacier, floods and global warming in mountains so that groundwater could be understood and used in totality. On one hand paper laments that global warming is natural
cyclic process and glacial melting will lead to increased water in the natural mountain system which supports increased evolution and diversification of life forms on other it advocates steps required to cope with floods induced due to glacial melt which pose great threat to habitants in valleys.
Analysis/Results and Implications for Policy and/or Research
Present paper highlights significance of groundwater exploration for sustainable water development
in Himalayas. To explain relationship between groundwater, glacial melt, flooding and global warming, I am presenting Case study of Khardungla-Leh catchment in Ladakh Indian Himalayas. This catchment houses Khardungla (K) glacier at the top and Leh town at its distal end on the banks of Indus River. This K glacier extended upto Spituk in geological past but today it is on the verge of extinction and is confined only to the peeks of Khardungla at 18000 feet above the mean sea level.
The K glacier located at top of the Batholithic hill is the main source of water (both surface and
groundwater) to the Leh town. Surface water from the glacial melt and Indus River were the only source of drinking water in the Leh till end of 20th century. Experiments carried by author laid the foundation for sustainable development of groundwater resources. Groundwater today has become
a household commodity and everyone is enjoying the fruits of resource which was considered to be
nonexistent about a decade ago. Important question here is how long are these resources going to last.
Global warming has already taken its toll and K glacier has already receded considerably. It is matter of time, groundwater will last till the snow cover remains in the Khardungla. No Glacier means no water in Leh catchment. All streams and spring sources would dry up or become seasonal. This is
story of all glacial mountain catchments the world over.

All the major glaciers world over had already receded much before the advent of man or industrialisation. Today these mountain glaciers are on verge of extinction. Impact of man and his activities was negligible in those times but still rates of  receding of glaciers were very high. Indus glacier itself owe its extinction from Indus basin to global warming which happens to be natural cyclic process and has nothing to do with man or his activity or rather to any geological activity on sustainable basis in past. Author after studying more than 1000 wells drilled in different hydrostratigraphic formation across Himalayas clearly shows that global warming has resulted in melting of glaciers since time immemorial. Immediate impact of this activity is increased groundwater and its storage in mountains. Long term impact would be their activity leading to flash flooding once storage capacity of these hills exceeds the threshold. This activity will first lead to mountain bursting and cause flash floods which have capacity to wash anything which 168 Workshop 5: Safe Water Services in Post-conflict and Post-disaster Contexts comes in its way downstream within seconds. If cyclones and hurricanes are talked about and feared events in coastal areas, mountain flash flooding is an event to be watched in future in mountains.

Today economic compulsions and geological ignorance is forcing the habitations to flourish along the valleys which were considered to be geologically fragile few decades ago but negligence of the
geological data will lead them to pay a heavy prise in near future. A simple flood will lead to heavy loss of life and property in the mountain state.
Based on observation of samples collected while drilling borewells to develop groundwater resources to provide drinking water for army and civil population in high altitude, cold, mountain deserts of
Ladakh which are geologically complex and geographically isolated for more than 6 months due to extreme cold climatic conditions. Though author was able to develop groundwater for providing sustainable water solutions on one hand but study also resulted in discovering evidences of Indus
Glacier deposits in borewell samples at depth varying from 70 feet to 130 feet below ground and paleoglaciated deposits of K glacier of 290 feet thick at North Polu (base camp for Khardungla) at
altitude of 15000 feet above the mean sea Level. Presence of paleo Indus glaciated channels at these depths are source of rich reservoir of groundwater resources for meeting drinking water requirement for Leh town now and in near future on one hand but did this resource (melting of Indus glacier) lead
to flooding and extinction of Indus Valley civilization has yet to be investigated? Important question here again is will the thickness of 290 feet deposits at North Polu actually lead to dooms day for Leh town in near future! Though glaciers are main source of groundwater recharge in mountains, other
side of glacial melting (FLASH FLOODING) due to global warming is very dangerous event threatening the very existence of the communities residing in hills or mountain valleys. Therefore if proper precautions are not made while selecting habitations entire civilisations along mountain basins will
become extinct. Loss of Indus valley civilisation in past has to be examined from this point of view.

Though at present this subject and phenomenon is poorly understood but detailed study holds key for our very existence in near future.

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