Controlling the negative effects of global warming has recently become the bone of contention of many global superpowers in the world. These negative effects are in consonance with the climate change caused due to global warming. Researches reveal that in the past 100 years, the average global temperature has risen by 0.8 degree Celsius and the average temperature of weather stations located in the Himalayan region have registered an upsurge of 1.25 degree Celsius leading to natural disasters causing massive death and destruction.

One of the hazardous effects of global warming has been observed at the world’s highest and arduous battlefield in the world- The Siachen Glacier. Located in the Karakoram range in the eastern lap of Himalaya Mountains, it is the second-largest glacier in the non-polar areas of the world, situated at 20,000 ft above the sea level.

Since 1984, the entire Siachen Glacier including all the major passes is under the control and management of Indian Government. The Indian Army soldiers are continuously deployed in the entire region to protect the country from China and Pakistan.

However ironically, Siachen is one of those battlefields which has been taking more lives of soldiers continuously due to extreme weather conditions, (temperature often stooping to as low as -50ºC) in comparison to the enemy bullets. The rise of temperature due to continuous global warming is now having adverse effects on the Siachen Glacier, further aggravating the risk of soldier’s life which is already at risk due to dangerous weather conditions and enemy bullet. As, due to rise in global warming the snow is melting faster causing dangerous snow avalanches taking the lives of soldiers.

One of the recent deadliest avalanche claiming lives of 10 soldiers deployed at the critical Sonam post located at about 19,600 feet near the Pakistan Line of Control in the Hind Kush Himalayas earlier this year is recorded as one of the worst incident in the history of Siachen battlefield. Experts reveal, that the deadly avalanche was triggered due to rise in temperature as generally Siachen Glacier doesn’t have long history of avalanches.

Explaining the reasons, Lt. Col. S Sengupta, Commandant of the Siachen Battle School told that 15-20 days before the incident the temperature in the surrounding area of Sonam post has been rising and a hanging glacier stuck at the ice wall had fallen off triggering the deadly avalanche. Even the days of rescue operations couldn’t retrieve nine soldiers buried alive under the snow. They could only rescue Lance Naik Hanumanthappa, who was buried 30 feet below snow for six days but he also couldn’t be saved later. The rising temperature at the Siachen Glacier is making life tougher in comparison to extreme weather conditions, making life tough in the region.

Researches reveal that the effect of rapid climate change is such that the snout of the Siachen Glacier has actually receded back by about 800 meters in the last one decade. Also, as per the recent (2014-2015) report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the higher frequency of glaciers retreats eventually leading to snow avalanches are the worst impacts observed in the Himalayan region. SASE (Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment) had also issued a snow avalanche warning a day before the incident. But still the soldiers couldn’t be saved as the ice avalanches are extremely difficult to predict.

As per the official records, since the Army launched Operation Meghdoot in 1984, around 869 Indian soldiers have been martyred due to avalanches, extreme weather conditions, and sickness due to extreme weather conditions at high altitude. A massive avalanche occurred in year 2012 claiming the lives of around 130 Pakistani soldiers.

The effect of climate change can be confirmed by the fact that in the past few decades rain has never been observed in this area, however now it witnesses light drizzle sometimes. No greenery was either possible or visible at 12000 feet height but now greenery is visible even at 15000 feet, which is certainly due to rising temperature observed in the region.

Another major cause of the glacier retreat is that before 1984, the glacier was uninhabited but since the Army has been deployed in the region, the glacier has been introduced to pollution leading to the melting of ice. Cutting the ice and melting it through chemical for constructing Army posts and camps, dumping of non-biodegradable waste material like empty ammunition shells, non-usable parachutes, plastic waste, and the use of arms and ammunition has also disrupted the Eco-system of the region considerably.

To protect the Environment and the precious lives of Indian soldiers, the Indian Army has launched the, “Green Siachen, Clean Siachen” campaign to airlift the garbage from the glacier, and to use biodigestors for biodegradable waste in the absence of oxygen and freezing temperatures.

By - Manisha Bhatia 

Media & Communications I Fiinovation

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