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Uttarakhand Tragedy: Glacier slipped from 5,600 meters may have caused disaster, says Experts

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Uttarakhand Tragedy: Glacier slipped from 5,600 meters may have caused disaster, says Experts
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New Delhi: Experts says that glacier slipped from 5,600 meters may have caused disaster in Uttarakhand happened on February 7 that washed away two upcoming hydropower stations and claiming at least 34 dead and 200 missing who are feared dead.

According to preliminary observations by experts "There was a hanging glacier that slipped with rock and ice falling from 5,600 metres altitude owing to gravitational pull and this caused the tragedy"

Earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament that initial inquiry has revealed that a landslide triggered a snow avalanche covering approximately 14 square km area and caused a flash flood in the Rishiganga river downstream in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district.

The scientists, however, say it is difficult to comment right now if climate change has been directly responsible for

Explaining what caused the flash flood, Mohd. Farooq Azam, who is an Assistant Professor at IIT Indore says that the Nanda Devi glacier did not burst.

"There is no terminology in science like 'glacier burst'. But we believe that there was a hanging glacier which slipped with rock and ice falling from 5,600 metres altitude," he said.

"To understand if the incident was climate change driven or not, we need to understand how glaciers grow. They have a pattern of snow and melt in winter and summer seasons respectively. This is the normal phenomenon. Now this was a hanging glacier. It is possible that the glacier also collected mass and debris over a period of time.

"We cannot say with confidence right now if climate change had a role to play, but it is possible that the strength of the mass was weakened due to climate driven factors," he explained.

Azam said a team of scientists are at the site in Chamoli district trying to understand what caused this disaster.

The science behind what is currently happening in the Himalayas was forecasted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2019 report that said glaciers would retreat in the upcoming years, causing landslides and floods.

Himalayan glaciers play an important role in South Asia, providing drinking water and water resources for agriculture, hydropower and biodiversity.

Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region are a crucial water supply for the 240 million people who live in the region, including 86 million Indians, roughly the equivalent of the country's five biggest cities combined.

Another comprehensive report two years ago, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, coordinated by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) notes that eastern Himalaya glaciers have tended to shrink faster than those in central and western Himalaya.

(From IANS with edits)

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