Associate Professor and Head
Department of Environmental Sciences, School of Basic Sciences and Research (SBSR)
Sharda University, Greater Noida, Delhi NCR, India
Since 2001, he is working on Snow and Glacier aspects of water resources in the Himalaya under the influence of changing climate and the global warming. He spends very hard time to trek glacier sites up to the altitude of more than 17,500 ft. and stays for a couple of weeks in those region for the collection of valuable data. He has conducted experiments in the challenging environmental conditions of Himalayan glaciers and successfully generated valuable data on glaciological importance at Gangotri (Garhwal Himalaya), Chhota
Shigri (Himachal Himalaya), Kafani & Pindari (Kumaon Himalaya), glacier in Suru Basin (J&K Himalaya) and a glacier in Baralacha La region (border of Himachal and J&K Himalaya). This is no mean achievement in generating data on Indian conditions but will go a long way in analyzing the short term effects and the long term global warming effects. This is a national service and can be applied in many researches ranging from understanding paleo-climate to current weather and impact of global warming on the future fresh water availability and the water management. Currently, he is involved in teaching to B. Tech. and M. Tech. apart from the Environmental and Cryospheric research. He has completed two projects (1- National and 1-International) and working on two Projects on cryoshpheric research sponsored by Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India and USAID, USA in collaboration with University of Colorado, USA. Here are excerpts from his interview.
1) Tell us something about Naradu Glacier?
Naradu Glacier is a small glacier with total area of about 4.6 sq. km. It is located in Sangla Valley, Kinnaur District, Himachal Pradesh. One has to trek for two days from nearest village Chitkul to reach the glacier.
The glacier was under observation for 2000-2003 by Jammu University in a DST funded project and is being monitored by Sharda University along with State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (SCSTE), Shimla and National Bureau of Plant Genetic Research (NBPGR), Shimla since 2011 under DST funded project. As a part of the project an Automatic Weather Station (AWS) has been installed on the glacier site at an altitude of 4600 m (~15000 ft) asl to be used for continuous observation of changes in various meteorological parameters.
2) What do you mean by glacier fluctuations?
A glacier fluctuation refers to the variation in surface boundary of the glacier. The variation can be caused in the overall surface area of the glacier or horizontal length of the glacier. The common method of knowing glacier fluctuation is the measurement of the position of a glacier terminus (snout).
3) How zero degree isotherm zones are rising?
The rising temperature as reported through several research and IPCC is a fact now and this rise in temperature is responsible for the elevation of zero degree isotherms and forcing more glacial part into ablation zone.
4) Tell me something about alpine regions?
“Alpine” word is used for the areas under Alpine Tundra biome. These areas are characterized by high altitude and extreme climate with extremely low temperature. Alpine word is mostly used for European Alps region but can also be sometimes referred to the Asian Alpine Region i.e. Hindu Kush Himalayan Region. Compared to European Alpine region Asian Alpine region are higher in altitude which gives distinct features of occurrence of snow and glaciers despite the low latitude. The weather is extreme and connectivity in terms of transportation and communication is quite poor in these areas. One has to trek almost two to three days to reach most of the glaciers in Himalayan Region.
5) Why DST has awarded the project?
There has been quite a debate about impacts of changing climate in recent past. Glaciers are very fragile environment with very high sensitivity towards any minute change in temperature or precipitation. Hence this gives an opportunity that glaciers fluctuations can serve as an indicator of changing climate and help in understanding the climate change. But due to extreme climate and lack of data and understanding there has not been much confidence in stating relationship between climate change and glacier retreat. Therefore it is a national need to have long term glacier monitoring to contribute to the database needed to establish any such relationship. For sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem is a national mission of Dept. of Science and Technology, Govt. of India under the National Action Plan on Climate Change. To monitor the glaciers for long term changes to understand the present and future water supply is one of the main objectives of this mission.
6) How accelerated retreat of glaciers could negatively affect the water supply?
The accelerated rate of retreat of glaciers will actually increase the water supply in near future with increased number of floods. But in long term, it is predicted in several studies that the water supply will decrease significantly due to less availability of the snow and glaciers masses to support more water supply. Some of the studies already showed a decrease in flow in some of the basins in Western Himalayas. It is quite evident that the contribution of glacier and snow melt in river flow especially during summer season is quite significant when all other sources diminish.
7) What is mass and energy balance required for study of glaciers?
Mass Balance refers to the overall mass gained or lost by a glacier in a hydrological year i.e. period between start of snow fall to end of melting season next year. This is mostly considered between September to September next year in Himalayas. There are several techniques to observe mass gained and lost by a glacier. But most reliable and accurate is in-situ measurement which involves installation of stakes on the surface of the glacier to observe the ablation and digging pits and snow probing in early summer to measure accumulation.
Similarly energy balance refers to the measure of energy received and radiated back. This measurement gives information about total energy flux available for ablation of the glacier. By this method also the glacier mass balance is calculated and it is estimated the total water equivalent of the snow and glacier melt.
8) How it is related to global warming?
Global warming is one of the projected consequences of changing climate which basically refers to the rise in average temperature. This is evident in Himalayas and has been shown in different studies carried out on the basis of observed data. The increase in temperature will give rise to increase in energy available for the ablation of glacier ultimately increasing the rate of ablation.
9) What are the four components on which you and your partners are working on glaciers?
|Sl. No.||Components||Responsibility of partners|
|1.||In-situ glacier mass balance||Dr. Rajesh Kumar, Sharda University|
|2.||Mass balance through Remote sensing and validation with in-situ mass balance||Dr. S.S. Randhawa, State council of Science and Technology (SCSTE), Shimla andDR. Rajesh Kumar, Sharda University|
|3.||Biodiversity, changes in tree line in the basin||Dr. J. C. Rana, NBPGR, Shimla|
|4.||AWS installation||Snow Avalanche Studies Establishment (SASE), Chandigarh|
10) Tell me your experience with BBC team?
IT was very nice to be on the glacier site along with the BBC team. They had a long shooting session and were keen to understand the science behind the glacier fluctuation. They were carrying several boxes of lenses and took some night shot in the moon light. They started this story from Gomukh and concluded to Rishikesh.
11) What causes global warming?
One of the major reasons for the global warming is air pollution, increasing amount of greenhouse gases. This has increase in the latter half of last century due to the more industrialization and urbanization in many parts of the globe.
12) Tell us about your project funded by USAID.
The USAID funded project entitled “Contribution to High Asia Runoff from Ice and Snow (CHARIS) is with main objectives of estimation of the contribution of seasonal snow melt and glacier melt to Himalayan Rivers. The leading partners of the project are University of Colorado. Another major objective of the project is to build the capacity for carrying out relevant studies in various institutes in HKH region through different meetings, workshops and training programs.
13) What is the role of Sharda University in the USAID project?
Sharda University is responsible for monitoring Shaune Garang Glacier in Himachal Pradesh for mass balance measurements, glacier melt water chemistry and discharge from the basin. We will also monitor glacier using remote sensing method to determine changes in long term.
14) Tell us more about Shaune Garang Glacier.
Shaune Garang Glacier is in Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh and contributes its melt water to Baspa River, which is tributary of Satluj River. The glacier has longest database of mass balance observation in Indian Himalayan region for almost a decade. The glacier has been under observation by Sharda University since 2013.
15) Tell us about other glacier projects in which Sharda University has been involved.
Apart from two ongoing projects funded by DST and USAID Sharda University was also involved in a one year project funded by World Bank under Abu Dhabi Dialogue Small Grants Program (ADD-SGP) through International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in partnership with Kathamandu University, Nepal and Kabul University, Afghanistan. This project was a pilot program to analyze the feasibility of application of glacio-hydrological model known as Positive Degree Day Model in Kafni Glacier, Bageshwar, Uttarakhand. The study also involved long term projection of water availability in the basin. The results of the project have been published as book chapter in special publication by ICIMOD entitled “Research insights on climate and water in the Hindu Kush Himalayas” (ISBN 9789291152964).