Water security threatened by low snow in the Himalayas

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Water security threatened by low snow in the Himalayas, According to scientists, tens of millions of people are depending on Himalayan snowmelt for water this year and they now face a “very serious” threat of shortages as one of the lowest snowfall rates ever recorded has occurred.

Approximately a quarter of the total water flow of 12 major river basins in the region originates from snowmelt, according to a report prepared by the American Rivers Institute.

Organizers of the report believe that the findings should serve as a wake-up call to both policymakers and downstream communities, according to the report’s author, Sher Muhammad, from the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

As the amount of snowfall is lower than normal and the snow level fluctuates more frequently, there is an increased risk of a water shortage, particularly this year, with less accumulation of snow.

As a result of the snow and ice covering the Himalayas, approximately 240 million people live in mountainous regions, and an additional 1.65 billion people are living in the river valleys below the Himalayas, according to the International Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

It is true that snow levels vary from year to year, but scientists have also concluded that the erratic rainfall patterns caused by climate change are also altered.

A report out this week measured how long the snow remained on the ground, and the levels of the phenomenon dropped almost a fifth below normal over the Hindu Kush and Himalayan region this year, according to the report.

The amount of snow persistence this year (17.5% below normal) is the second-lowest in 22 years, just behind the record-low level of 19% set in 2018, which Muhammad said was the lowest ever.

Changes that are significant

Aside from Nepal, members of the intergovernmental ICIMOD include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and the Republic of Korea.

According to the report, ICIMOD observation and projections indicate significant changes in the timing and intensity of streamflows, and snow has a key role to play in this.

“In order to ensure seasonal water availability, snow plays a particularly important role,” said the statement.

According to the organization, snow in the region has been monitored continuously for over two decades, but 2024 marked a “significant anomaly” for the region.

As a result of this, the Ganges river basin, which flows through India, had the “lowest snow persistence” according to ICIMOD. Its 17 percent below average was worse than last year’s 15 percent.

A 32 percent drop in snow persistence levels in the Helmand river basin in Afghanistan was recorded as being the second lowest on record.

According to the National Weather Service, snow levels were down 23 percent in the Indus river basin, while 15 percent below normal had been recorded in the Brahmaputra river basin, which reaches Bangladesh.

It is strongly recommended that the authorities take proactive measures to deal with any possible drought situation, according to Miriam Jackson, senior cryosphere specialist at ICIMOD.

Timenews1 provided that information.

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