The world witnessed the hottest global temperature ever recorded in the first week of July this year. On July 3, the average global temperature reached 17.01 degrees Celsius, according to the US National Centres for Environmental Prediction’s data. On July 4, it reached 17.18 degrees Celsius and this record-high global temperature continued next day as well. Many countries are concerned about the extremely high global average temperature. Nepal's thousands of rivers are fed by these Himalayas, which are also the key attraction for adventure tourists from around the world.
The Himalaya is also considered as a 'water tower.' Snowmelt nourishes Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, irrigating their lands before eventually reaching the ocean. Fresh water coming from womb of Himalayas is used for multipurpose- drinking, irrigation, washing, sanitation and power generation, among others. In the distant past, the people used to live near the river banks and carry out agriculture activities. Then the cities were established along the side of big rivers.
In order to overcome the acute shortage of water facing the Kathmandu Valley, the government implemented the Melamchi Water Supply Project to bring water from the Melamchi River whose ultimate source is the Himalayas. Then water from Yangri and Larke Rivers will be added to the project. Adventure activities like rafting and boating are popular among adventurers. The Himalayas are a major source of attraction of tourists. Travellers arriving by air are fortunate to witness the stunning Himalayan panorama. Mountain flights offer a chance to them to have a closer view of snow-capped mountains. Many tourists visit Nepal just to watch and reach closer to the Himalayas.
Nepal's Himalayan range spans 800 kilometres from the east to the west. The country is home to eight peaks above 8,000 metres, including Mt. Everest, the tallest peak in the world. When Nepal allowed climbers to scale up more peaks, the country has now turned into a vibrant hub of mountaineering. Mountains have contributed a lot directly or indirectly to the lives of people in Nepal. Himalayas give distinct identity to the country. And that is only possible due to the ice which capped and covered the black rocks. The presence of ice enhances the beauty of the Himalayas, especially when the sun's rays spread across them. The presence of ice leads to the formation of glaciers, which serve as the starting point of water sources. These glaciers melt and swell rivers as they flow downhill.
But with the increase in global temperature due to climate change, scientists and experts have expressed their worries about the life of the ice which made the Himalayas a fresh water tower.
According to a report published by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in May, the world’s highest peaks are at risk of losing up to 80 per cent of their volume of ice by the end of the century. The ice and snow in the Himalayas that feed rivers provide fresh water to 2 billion people in 16 countries, including China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. If climate change continues to affect the Himalayas, these countries are likely to go through a shortage of water.
Scientists have warned that with between 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius of warming, the world’s highest mountain region stands to lose 30-50 per cent of its volume of ice by 2100. If the world sees 3 degrees Celsius of warming, glaciers in Nepal and Bhutan are at risk of losing 75 per cent of their ice, and by just one degree more, that ticks up to 80 per cent.
Though Nepal has no contribution to increase global temperature, the country faces the worst effects of climate change, especially in the Himalayas. Until and unless the country draws the world's attention towards saving the Himalayas, the issue of ice-melting and existence of fresh water towers won't be addressed.
Nepal should not only highlight the rapid ice-melting in the Himalayas but also its effect on the rise of sea level. This may eventually lead to the vanishing of the coastal countries. Earlier in March this year a report published in the journal Nature Climate Change warned that the parts of Asia’s largest cities could be underwater by 2100.
If Nepal cannot raise a strong voice for protecting its Himalayas, the freshwater tower and tourist attractions will be lost. Such a difficult time is approaching for our grandchildren that they might only find images of snow-covered Himalayas in history books. They might see only unsightly and dark rocky mountains.