Curb Black Carbon deposits to slow down Himalayan Melting

Glacial Lake Atlas Helps in Better Planning of Himalayan Water Bodies

Black carbon deposits from factories cooking and vehicles that accelerate the effects of climate change and speed up melting of Himalayan glaciers can be aggressively curbed to slow down glacier melt and improve security of water resources in the region, according to a new World Bank report.

The Himalayas Climate Change, Black Carbon and Regional Resilience report points out that the present policies in place to slash block carbon emissions that only reduce by just 23 percent, was not enough to prevent on acceleration of water releases from glacier melt in the region.


Apart from temperature change and other environment conditions, black carbon also adds to glacier and snow melt in the Himalayas.

The report also noted that new economically and technically feasible policies are within reach to contain glacier melt at current levels. The report says that brick kilns add to about half of black carbon emissions. The improvement in the efficiency of brick kilns would reduce melt accelerating deposits, the World Bank report said.  It also said that cleaner cook stoves and cleaner fuels would reduce black carbon emissions.  Another way of reducing emission for households is to switch from biomass or coal to Liquefied Petroleum Gas and in the long run, to solar energy.


World Bank Vice President for South Asia Hartwig Schafer said that recent flash floods in the Himalayas was a sobering reminder of the sometimes disastrous effects of climate change and the dangers one has to protect against. He mentioned that the shrinking of glaciers affect the lives and livelihoods of people downstream. Schafer noted that curbing carbon black deposits helps in slowing down of glacier melt.


The report calls for South Asia nations to work together to manage hydropower resources. The report says that hydropower is a good source of clean energy. The World Bank also points out that the challenges associated with melting glaciers is a trans-boundary task that goes beyond the scope of a single country’s policymakers. Regional cooperation will be necessary to create joint adaptation strategies. A first step could be sharing information about the evolving state of glaciers and risks associated with it, the report said.

Lead economist in the World Bank’s South Asia region Muthukumara Mani called for water resource management policies as the trends point to a different and more challenging future. He is also lead author of the report. “Success will require an active and agile cooperation between researchers and policymakers so both groups can continue to learn about the problems at hand, “he said.

Policy conclusions by authors: 
  • Full implementation of current Black Carbon emissions policies in South Asia can reduce BC deposition in the region by 23 percent.
  • Improving the efficiency of brick kilns could be key to managing Black Carbon.
  • Cleaner cookstoves and especially cleaner fuels can help to reduce B Black Carbon.
  • Managing water resources to mitigate the potential impacts of glacier melt.
  • Countries in South Asia need to manage their hydropower and storage resources carefully
  • Regional cooperation can be an effective transboundary solution, helping countries in the region to manage glaciers and related natural assets collaboratively.

The 2,400 kilometre Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Karakoram ranges is spread across six nations. They hold 60,000 km² of ice – storing more water than anywhere besides the Arctic and Antarctic. Glaciers have been crucial to the balance of the ecosystem: they help to moderate flows in the region’s major rivers by providing a source of melt water in hot, dry years and storing water during colder, wetter years.  Melting glaciers and loss of seasonal snow pose significant risks not just to the people who live at their foot but also to the stability of water resources in the South Asia region.

More than 750 million people depend on the glacier- and snow-fed rivers such as Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra. They depend for fresh water, agriculture and other purposes. Any change in the water volume and timing of flows will have economic and social implications in the region. The World Bank report says that the recent series of flash floods that killed dozens of people and left hundreds missing in the Himalayas was far from the first such disaster to occur among the world’s high-mountain glaciers.


The report notes that glaciers in the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush ranges are fast melting than the global average ice mass. The glaciers in these ranges are retreating at a rate of 0.3 meters per year in the west to 1.0 meter per year in the east. It points out that records confirm that nine percent of the ice area present in the early 1970s had disappeared by early 2000s.

The mountain ranges have about 55,000 glaciers and store more freshwater than any other region outside of the North and South Poles. They contain an estimated ice reserve of 163 cubic kilometres, of which almost 80 percent feed into three major rivers in South Asia.

Muthukumara Mani (lead economist) led the study under the guidance of Hans Timmer (chief economist) and Hartwig Schafer (vice president) of the South Asia Region of the World Bank.


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