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Rohtang Tunnel access road facing increased avalanche threats as Himachal’s average temp on rise: Study

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Shimla: A research carried out in Himachal Pradesh within the framework of the Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Program (IHCAP), a partnership led jointly by the Indian and Swiss authorities with strong scientific input from University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, has a bad news for the Hill State.

The impacts of global warming are felt especially in mountainous regions, where the rise in temperatures is above average, affecting both glacierized landscapes and water resources.

The repercussions of these changes are manifold and varied, from retreating glaciers to an increase in the frequency and intensity of snow avalanches.

A team of researchers from the UNIGE, Switzerland, has employed endrochronology– the reconstruction of past disasters as recorded in growth series of trees– to disentangle the role of global warming in the triggering avalanches.

The results of this study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Science – PNAS.

Read Detailed Study

Avalanches are a natural phenomenon and occur repeatedly in mountain areas; nonetheless, rising temperatures are altering their triggering. This can lead to disasters and serious consequences in mountain areas where they can severely affect the socio-economic development and the destruction of traffic infrastructure, and buildings.

This is the case in Himachal Pradesh, where increasing residential numbers and tourism are exerting pressure on land use. Along the road to Leh, 500 km north of New Delhi, the Indian government has drilled one of the largest tunnels of the Indian sub-continent.

study of glacier melting in himcahla pradesh

Avalanche slope in the Western Himalayas used for the reconstruction of changes in avalanche frequency. Red dots indicate the locations of sampled trees. Potential release areas are indicated with semitransparent white surfaces and have been detected using the approach suggested by Bühler et al. (26). The access road to the new Rothang tunnel crosses the lower part of the slope.

With the ongoing climate warming, snow avalanches are increasingly threatening the access road to the tunnel. This is why UNIGE researchers conducted their fieldwork at the spot from 2013 to 2015, in a valley located at between 3,000 and 4,000 m.

Trees: silent witnesses to the upsurge in the number of avalanches

The aim of the research group was to evaluate – and add to – the information currently available about avalanches with two goals:

(i) To identify the nature of the changes in avalanche activity currently taking place; and

(ii) To assess future needs for tackling these changes.

In the absence of data comparable to the information collected in European surveys, for which records often exist for the past few centuries, the UNIGE researchers focused on trees: they examined stumps (when the tree had been removed) or cored trees that were still standing to reconstruct past snow avalanches at the study site.

The scientists were able to date individual events by analysing the growth rings and wounds left on the trees by avalanches. The research included nearly 150 trees.

Since we knew the position of each affected tree, we were able to reconstruct the dynamics, lateral extent and runout distance of every avalanche,

explains Juan Antonio Ballesteros-Cánovas, a senior lecturer at UNIGE’s Institute for Environmental Sciences (ISE).

 

This technique meant we could go back to 1855 and record 38 avalanches over this period in the valley, the largest survey conducted to date in the Himalayas.

he added.

The models used for testing the impact of climate change combine the risks of avalanche with local climate data. They were adjusted to include the likely effect on topographical features resulting from earlier avalanches.

Since they destroy the plant cover, they are an aggravating risk factor. The results brooked no argument: from the second half of the twentieth century, there has been an increase in the number of avalanches, both in terms of frequency and intensity. The frequency has risen from one event per decade to almost one event every year.

The impact of temperature on the cryosphere

Avalanches are bigger, travel greater distances and are triggered earlier in the year. These changes can be attributed clearly to rising temperatures, which have reached 0.2 to 0.4 degrees annually in some parts of the Himalayas.

And rising air temperature are also affecting the cryosphere: glaciers are receding and permafrost is melting, losing its role as a sediment stabiliser.

 In addition, the structure of the snowpack is changing: it is being transformed by increasingly warmer air temperatures and/or altered by rain-on-snow events.

Snow is now also falling earlier in the season and is being destabilised before spring, at a time when it is thicker, leading to an increase in the number and intensity of avalanches.

Since the snow is wet, avalanches are descending slowly but over greater distances than in the past.

 

Environment

Disturbing Ashwani Khad viral video is real, but fake for Govt (more clips)

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ashwani khad comparison 2

Shimla: A disturbing viral video showing a large stream carrying tons of solid garbage is indeed the Ashwani Khad or Asni river – a major source of drinking water to Shimla town and Solan.

It has been confirmed that Shimla has now begun to destroy the very sources that offer them invaluable drinking water. Anyone who came across this scene was bewildered.

Himachal Watcher talked to the person, Abhay Sharma and a few other locals, who had recorded the videos as well as the one who had uploaded it on social media. The video was recorded on July 2 near Ashwani Khad not far from Salogra in Solan district.

The gigantic amount of thrash and various sorts of other waste is also real, HW was told.

Not just solid waste like plastic and plastic bottles and bags, thermocol etc., but it also carried a large amount of sewage allegedly discharged under the cover of the heavy rain. The entire region was filled with an unbearable smell of sewage. HW was told.

The contamination of the stream not only threatens the environment but also poses a serious health hazard to the health of the people who receive this water as a drinking water supply.

However, as a shocker, when HW asked the Deputy Commissioner of Shimla, Amit Kashyap regarding the video, he insisted that it was a fake video.

The video is edited and the location also appears to be foreign. The type of plastic visible in the video is not found in Shimla, and there is no such green patch near Salogra or Ashwani Khad,

the DC insisted.

It was a typical ostrich approach – closing eyes and denying the threat. 

When asked about waste management in rural areas of upper Shimla region, he said everything is fine and the waste is disposed of properly.

We have formed teams to monitor and ensure proper arrangements for the waste disposal,

he said.

He also insisted that the daily solid waste generated by the town is also collected daily and taken to the waste treatment plant in Bhariyal.

Officials of the Shimla Municipal Corporation and the State Pollution Control Board are also washing their hands off by terming the video as fake. As per these bodies, everything is at its place.

As per complainants, it began to happen from past couple of years, especially during heavy monsoon rains.

It’s not the first time that the Khad (rivulet) was flooded with an overwhelming amount of thrash. We have witnessed it at least thrice earlier including twice this year,

Abhay, who is also a member of the non-profit organization Healing Himalayas, told Himachal Watcher.

The complainants suggested that it happens when it rains heavy in Shimla. Ashwani Khad flows through upper areas of Shimla like Charabra and passes through the periphery of Shimla town.

The solid waste collection and treatment is in tatters in both the Shimla town and upper areas under Panchayats.

Himachal Watcher also talked to the former Mayor of Shimla town, Sanjay Chauhan.

He rubbished these statements of the district administration and the civic body saying that a large amount of garbage begins to enter the stream starting from upper Shimla due to lack of waste management.

To check random dumping of the trash generated by panchayats, we had taken an initiative under which panchayats were provided facility to remove garbage, and a small amount of fee was charged from panchayats. The scheme was now suspended and the solid waste is thrown anywhere. With heavy rain, it’s washed away and enters the stream,

said Sanjay.

He further pointed out that the garbage generated by residents of Krishna Nagar (Slum) is thrown down the hill. This waste keeps accumulating throughout the year. When it rains heavy, it’s washed away and goes directly into the Khad in Lalpani.

The solid waste collection and management have deteriorated during the past one year. The workers either remained on strike as much as four to five times or didn’t collected the garbage regularly due to poor attitude of the MC towards their demands and grievances,

Sanjay said.

Now, the SMC has handed over the job of door-to-door garbage to a private contractor. The company was supposed to take the charge of sanitation work in five wards from July 1, 2018, however, neither the contractor nor his workers begun the work so far, said Sanjay.

The only way to control it is to ensure that no waste is dumped near the Khad, which is not happening.

Meanwhile, the video is doing rounds of social media not just in India but also in other foreign countries.  Now, it is to be seen whether the State government bothers to order a probe into it or just take it casually.

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Campus Watch

HIMCOSTE PLS: Eminent scientist & activist Dr Vandana Shiva to speak at Shimla on July 17

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Navdanya founder dr shiva

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Council for Science Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE), Shimla is organising Popular Lecture Series (PLS) under its Science Popularisation programme.

This programme started under Science Popularisation since 2017 for Science students of Govt. Degree Colleges of all the Districts of Himachal Pradesh. The programme is funded by Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India, under the Science Day and Mathematics Day celebration.

Eminent speakers/scientists are invited to address students so that they are motivated for taking up Science & Technology and work for the betterment of the community.
This series of lectures will be organised in the first phase at the:

  1. Government Degree College (GDC), Sanjauli, Shimla on July 17
  2. GDC Bilaspur on August 1
  3. GDC Hamirpur on August 2
  4. GDC Nathan on August 8
  5. GDC Solan August 9

Following five renowned and eminent scientists and environmental activist will deliver lectures :

  1. Dr Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya
  2. Retd. Prof. PK Ahluwalia, Department of Physics HP University
  3. Dr Patrick Das Gupta, Department of Physics & Astrophysics University of Delhi
  4. Dr Kiran Katoch, Dr AS Paintal Chair (ICMR) IIHMR University, Jaipur
  5. Dr Ravi Chopra, Director Peoples Science Institute Dehradun
  6. Dr Rajeev Kumar Puri, Department of Physics University of Punjab

 

The second phase in other Districts would be organised in September and October 2018.

Dr Vandana Shiva at Sanjauli College on sustainable Mountain Agriculture & Organic Farming

The First lecture in this series would be delivered by Dr Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya – a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds and to promote organic farming and fair trade

For the last two decades, Navdanya has worked with local communities and organizations serving more than 5,00,000 men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in conservation of more than 3000 rice varieties from all over the country and have established 60seed banks in 16 states across the country.

In 2004, she started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley in collaboration with Schumacher College, U.K.

Dr Shiva combines the sharp intellectual enquiry with courageous activism. She is equally at ease working with peasants in rural India and teaching in Universities worldwide.

Time Magazine identified Dr Shiva as an environmental “hero” in 2003 and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia. Forbes magazine in November 2010 has identified Dr Vandana Shiva as one of the top seven most Powerful Women on the Globe.

The topic of the talk by Dr Vandana Shiva would be “Sustainable Mountain Agriculture & Organic Farming” at Govt. Degree College, Sanjauli on July 17, 2018, where 1000 science students are expected to get benefitted by this talk. The Science faculty of Sanjauli College would attend this talk.

Kunal Satyarthi, IFS Member Secretary HIMCOSTE, will be present on the occasion.

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Environment

15 lakh saplings planted in Himachal by 80,000 people in 3 days, claims Forest Minister

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15 lakh sapling planted in Himachal Pradesh on van mahotsav

Shimla: The Forest Minister Govind Singh Thakur today said that three days statewide plantation campaign from 12 to 14 July 2018 was launched in the State and more than 15 lakh saplings were planted in different parts of the State.

He said that the campaign was undertaken in all 13 Forest Circles in the state and Forty-one Forest Divisions participated in the campaign. Plantations were performed at 600 sites of the state. Chamba Forest Division with 99,281 plants was at First position followed by Ani and Rampur Forest Divisions with 81,369 and 80,059 plants respectively.

More than six lakh deodar species were planted beside broad leave and other conifers. He said that the entire plantation campaign was monitored online.

He said that all walks of life including school children, women, senior citizen and youth comprising 80000 people actively participated in the campaign. Plantation activities were performed from the boundaries of the state in the north with Jammu and Kashmir to Yamuna River in south and Kinnaur district in the east to boundaries of the state with Punjab in the west, he added.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had inaugurated state level Van Mahotsav on July 10 from Rajgargh in Sirmaur district. Governor Acharya Devvrat also participated in the campaign at Nehra in Shimla District on July 13 2018.

He said that plantation activities are still going on and it is expected that total 17 lakh plants will be planted by the end of the campaign.

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