PROJECT LEADERS : DR. OLE R. VETAAS
PROF. RAM CHAUDHARY
COLLABORATORS: PROF. TERJE TVEDT
PROF. TOR H. AASE
ASS. PROF. PETER ANDERSEN
PhD-student POLIT ØYVIND PAASCHE
PhD-student TERJE ØSTIGAARD
Ph D-student KHEM BHATTARAI
Fresh water is a finite and
vulnerable resource, essential for sustaining life and development. The
water resource in Himalaya is partly stored as glacier
ice, i.e. capital water. There are approximately 70 large
glaciers in Himalaya
covering about 166.12 km2 or 17 % of the mountain area (1). This is
the largest body of ice outside the Polar caps, and forms a unique reservoir
which supports mighty perennial rivers such as the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra,
lifelines of millions of people.
The dynamics of the 'ice-to-water' transition are full of uncertainties and hazards, such as glacier lake outbursts , floods and avalanches. Glaciers may also expand into the cultivated landscape as happened during the Little Ice Age (see below 2,3 ). Societies located close to glaciated areas, which are dependent on the meltwater for primary production, are very vulnerable to changes dynamics of the glacier. Most glaciers expanded during The Little Ice Age, which was a global cooling period (c. AD 1350 to 1850) (2,3). Glaciers have been retreating since the Little Ice Age, and acceleration of the this retreat has been observed in Himalaya since c. 1970, probably due to the 'green-house- effect' (4,5). The International Commission for Snow and Ice (ICSI), claims that glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world. According to the Working Group on Himalayan Glaciology, the Himalayan glacier may disappear during the next century if the present rate of retreating continues (4).
This dramatic projection
is realistic due to the positive feedback mechanisms between
rainfall and glacier size. Decreasing glacier may indirectly cause less rainfall
since the amount of summer rains is partly dependent on the cooling
effect from the glaciers. This will reduce the albedo from the ice which will
again lead to higher temperatures and more melting (i.e.) (6). The glaciers
in central and east Himalaya are only fed by summer precipitation,
thus the relationship between size of the glacier and precipitation
is stronger than glacier which also accumulate in the winter.
The consequences for the local populations are also highest in the central and eastern Himalaya because, compared to the rest of the world, the population density near glaciers in this region is very high. It is assumed that most people living in such areas are dependent on the meltwater for both agriculture and pasture land. The effect of increased glacier melt is both local and regional. However, to get an overview of the large-scale effect requires a large interdisciplinary project applying remote sensing (11), but this project will start to focus on the local effect on primary production (gross weight of above-ground standing biomass).
The Gangapurna glacier lies face to face with the village of ManangOld people in Manang village claim that the glacier has retreated more than 150 metres over their lifetime (cf. 8,1), and that the volume of water in the streams that descend from the glaciers has decreased arkedly.Water from the streams is used to irrigate the village fields, but todaythere is a lack of water (9). This pessimistic view may be alleviated by the fact that glacier retreat may open new potential areas for grazing, but relatively low temperatures and a short growing season at this elevation may slow down the development of vegetation in the deglaciated areas (i.e. slow succession)(10).
at 3700 m a.s.l. in central Himalaya, Nepal (84.00' E, 28.41'N) .
This is north of the massive Annapurna range and lies in the rain
shadow, so that the monsoon only brings an annual rainfall of 400 mm
Photo by : Røthlishberger (3) 1980, see also picture from 1957 by Tony hagen (8) (click)
(2) there will
be a reduction in available meltwater to vegetated areas, and reduced
The primary goal is to establish the relationships between primary production (natural and cultural) and the meltwater from the retreating glacier.
This will be achieved as follows:
1. The history of the glacier over the last 150-700 years, i.e. the variation in glacier front and glacier equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) will be described. The terminal moraines that indicate stages in the retreat from the maximum expansion during the Little Ice Age (c. 1840) will be identified. Written information from monasteries will checked by Ph.D-student T. Østigaard.
2. The development of the vegetation on recently deglaciated areas (i.e. primary succession) will be identified, and checks will be made as to whether the vegetation is too premature for grazing animals (yak, goat, and sheep)
3. The vegetation (biomass and number of species ) that are (i) directly dependent on the meltwater from the glacier and (ii) not in contact with meltwater will be described and compared, and checks will be made to identify the vegetation types used for grazing. A Ph D -student from Nepal (Bhattarai, Khem) will participate in data collection for his thesis.
4. Observation will be made on how dependent
the agricultural production (wheat and buckwheat) is on meltwater from the
retreating glaciers, i.e. the absence or presence of channels, and if channels
are present, their maintenance will be assessed.
If you have any questions concerning the project, please contact Ole R. Vetaas,
Centre for Development Studies, Nygaardsgaten 5, N - 5015 Bergen, Norway. TEL: +47 5558 9324
or by e-mail.
If you have any questions concerning the project leader please download the
CV of O.R. Vetaas
Last updated 30.10.2K1 email@example.com