A Parliamentary panel has recommended the Centre to make adequate financial allocation and infrastructure available for an extensive study of the Himalayan ecosystem to measure the extent of glacial retreat and the ways to mitigate its effects.
Noting that glaciers in the Himalayan region are retreating at an "alarming rate" and that there is a need to regulate tourism activities, the panel has also suggested the Centre to constitute a committee of experts to formulate the guidelines to be observed while preparing the roadmap for Himalayan Eco-tourism.
The Committee on Estimates (2018-19) in its 30th report on the performance of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) said urgent steps are required to create a mechanism involving all stakeholders who are directly or indirectly affected by the changes in Himalayan system so that integrated approach is adopted in the entire region.
Such a platform will need international cooperation from all the countries falling in or connected to the Himalayan range, it pointed out.
The panel chaired by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi noted that "reckless and irresponsible" tourism in the Himalayan ecosystem is one of the major reasons for environmental degradation and asserted that with the construction of roads and luxurious amenities for tourists, the number of people visiting has vastly increased which is increasing the pressure on the ecosystem.
As a result of large number of visitors, the roads, the houses, the hotels and resorts – all of these have to be constructed by cutting mountains and many of these constructions are not as per specifications for mountains but are more inspired by plain areas, the panel said
It recommended public awareness campaigns for sensitising people about vulnerability of Himalayan region and need for sustainable tourism be undertaken by the government.
"The committee, therefore, recommends that adequate financial allocation be made and adequate infrastructure be created for extensive study of the Himalayan ecosystem to measure the retreat of all the glaciers existing in the region and the ways to mitigate its effects.
"Besides there is a need to regulate Himalayan eco-tourism. A committee comprising experts should be constituted to formulate the guidelines to be observed while preparing the roadmap for Himalayan eco-tourism," the committee said.
Quoting media reports, the committee said due to glacial retreat, the Himalayan region has lost 13 per cent of its glaciers in the last four decades resulting in loss of 443 billion tonnes (Gt) glacial ice.
The rate of retreat of glaciers in the region, which varies from glacier to glacier, ranges from a few metres to almost 61 m/year, it said adding if the same rate continues it is apprehended that the glaciers are likely to disappear by the year 2035.
It is also reported that the rate of glacial loss in the Himalayas has accelerated over the decades, from around 9 Gt/year in 1975-85 to 20 Gt/year in 2000-2010, it said.
It also added that glaciers are reported to be retreating faster in Western Himalayas than in Sikkim and asserted that the effect of glacial retreat and their eventual disappearance will change the weather pattern and be catastrophic for the entire region affecting crop cycles, economic development, health, water availability, weather among others.