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Dry lands, glacier retreat, polluted cities: India is devastated by climate change

In India, i ghiacciai dell’Himalaya sono sempre meno in grado di garantire l’acqua necessaria al sistema agricolo. E Nuova Delhi è immersa nell’inquinamento.

Melting Himalayan glaciers, drier and drier farming lands, the capital’s inhabitants exposed to toxic substances in the atmosphere: India is on track to become world’s most densely populated country and overtake China in ten years but it is dramatically dealing with the issue of climate change.

 

The agency AFP reported Shakil Ahmad Romshoo’s words, scientist at the University of Cachemire who studied the effects of temperature increase in the Himalayan region. Here, at least two large glaciers have disappeared over the last fifty years. Others shrinked of about 27%. A huge problem for a nation that depends on these sources for water supply: “The impact of climate change is loud and clear and this is evident from rapid shrinkage of glacier which is the storage house of water for all purpose”.

 

At least two large glaciers have disappeared over the last fifty years in the Himalayan range © Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
At least two large glaciers have disappeared over the last fifty years in the Himalayan range © Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

 

Due to glacier retreat, some farmers had to give up rice crops, which require large amounts of water. Haji Mohammad Rajab Dar, a seventy-year-old inhabitant of the Chandigam village explained that “all the snow melt on the mountains now melts away by April when we actually start needing it for agriculture. I used to get 230 to 260 sacks of rice from my fields. It is reduced to just 90 this year. So we are ruined and turning into beggars slowly”.

 

The Himalayan glaciers provide less and less water to Indian rivers © Paula Bronstein /Getty Images
The Himalayan glaciers provide less and less water to Indian rivers © Paula Bronstein /Getty Images

 

In October, the Dalai Lama called for the protection of Tibet, another country strongly affected by climate change: “This blue planet is our only home – he explained – and Tibet is its roof. As vital as the Arctic and Antarctic, it is the third pole”. The Tibetan huge plateau is seeing a twice as rapid temperature rise than the global average: this threatens seven large rivers in India as well as in Bangladesh, China and other neighbouring countries.

 

All this is caused by human activities and, in particular, by energy production. And it’s exactly because of coal plants as well as increased car traffic that a few thousand kilometers to the east of the Himalayas, seventeen million inhabitants of the Indian capital are exposed to high pollution levels. In hospitals, the number of people suffering from respiratory problems is rising and the most affected ones are children.

 

Pollution in New Delhi reached unbearable levels © Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Pollution in New Delhi reached unbearable levels © Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

 

In the city, the amount of Pm2.5 fine dusts in the atmosphere, the most dangerous ones for the health, exceeds by fifteen times the limit set by the World Health Organisation. This problem is even more serious in the winter: between December 2014 and January 2015 the levels topped 226 mcg per cubic metre. For this reason, according to a study conducted by German Institute Max Planck, New Delhi could record the highest number of premature deaths due to air pollution by 2025.

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