Gangotri Glacier

The Gangotri glacier is a crucial subject for the UPSC exam's geography, environment & ecological portions. The Ganga, the national river of India, has its source there. As a result, it is of great significance.

Gangotri Glacier:

One of the biggest glaciers in the Himalayas and one of the main sources of the holy Ganga is the Gangotri Glacier.

  • It has an estimated more than 27 cubic kilometres and is situated in the Uttarkashi District of Uttarakhand.
  • The glacier is between 2 and 4 km wide and around 30 km long.
  • The Gangotri Group of mountain peaks, which includes summits like Meru, Shivling, Thalay Sagar, Chaukhamba, etc., encircles the glacier.
  • Under Chaukhamba, in a cirque, the glacier first appears. It ends at a location known as Gomukh or Gaumukh, which means "cow's mouth" because it is supposed to resemble a cow's mouth.
  • Hindus also visit the Gangotri Glacier as a place of worship.

Melting of the Gangotri Glacier:

  • Black carbon deposits have been discovered for the first time on Himalayan glaciers, according to a study done by researchers at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) in Dehradun. This was based on information gathered in 2016 from two observatories with aerosol sensors close to the Gangotri glacier. Due to the reliance on the Himalayan rivers in the northern states, black carbon can speed up glacier melting, which has major consequences for those who live downstream and the general public.
  • Black carbon is the second main contributor to glacier melting after greenhouse gases.

What causes glaciers to melt?

  • Many glaciers have been quickly melting since the turn of the 20th century. Anthropogenic activity is the main cause of this. Glaciers are melting due to rising global temperatures from industrialization and GHG emissions.
  • The Himalayan glaciers are vanishing, which means that each year, their melting exceeds their ice creation.
  • Flooding is a short-term and urgent consequence of glacial melting in various regions in northern India. The ongoing glacier melt in the Himalayan region is responsible for the Uttarakhand disasters of Kedarnath in 2013 and the Chamoli flash floods in 2021. Such widespread flooding has the potential to ruin residents' livelihoods as well as the environment and infrastructure.
  • The region's and, by extension, about half of the country's water security will face serious long-term issues due to glacial melting. The Ganga River's principal source is the Gangotri Glacier. The glacier supplies the Bhagirathi River, Ganga's parent stream, throughout the summer. For farming, hydropower, and drinking water, about 800 million people rely in part on the seasonal runoff from Himalayan glaciers. The long-term effects of retreating glaciers can be disastrous for human existence due to worries about water scarcity.

The following harmful impacts may arise from the melting of Himalayan glaciers, in brief:

  • heightened floods
  • regular extreme weather conditions
  • Decreasing agricultural outputs (since global warming causes glaciers to melt in the spring itself with decreased water availability in the summers when crops need more water)
  • Modifications to energy generation (downstream, the volume of water in dams may impact the production of hydroelectricity)

Rate of Gangotri Glacier Retreat:

Since 1780, the Gangotri glacier has been receding, but since 1971, the loss rate has accelerated. The glacier retreated 76 meters just from 1996 to 1999. The Gangotri glacier is receding at a 22 m per year rate.

Future Perspectives:

  • Since the effects of glacial retreat are far too unfavourable for people and the government to ignore, both in the short and long term, it is crucial to reduce the effects of climate change and stop the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers. 
  • However, addressing this issue requires cooperation with other Himalayan nations to develop a coordinated action plan that will halt and, if possible, stop the glacier retreat. 
  • This will provide water and, consequently, food security, preservation of flora and fauna in the glacier zones, and energy security for the inhabitants.

Book A Free Counseling Session