Gangotri Glacier

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 30, 2022, 11:06

Situated in the Uttarakashi District, the Gangotri Glacier is one of the biggest glaciers in the Himalayas. Flowing roughly Northwest, it is one of the main sources of the sacred river Ganga. With a volume of 27 cubic Kilometres, it is one of the largest glaciers not only in the Himalayas but also in the world. The glacier spans 2 to 4 kilometres wide and is 30 kilometres long.

The Gangotri Group of peaks surrounds the glacier, including Shivling, Thalay Sagar, Meru, and Bhagirathi III, which are known for their exceptionally difficult climbing routes. It rises in a cirque under Chaukhamba, the group's tallest summit. Additionally, it is also a Hindu pilgrimage destination.

But recently the Glacier has started to retreat in recent years which is a cause for concern for the areas surrounding it and the Ganga river.

Why is Gangotri Glacier melting?

Numerous glaciers and ice sheets have been quickly melting since the early twentieth century. Human activity is seen as the main cause of this retreat. Industrialisation and greenhouse gas emissions are leading to a rise in the earth's temperature driving glaciers to melt.

The decline of Himalayan glaciers means that they are disappearing faster than the ice formation each year, posing serious long-term challenges to the region's and consequently the nation's water supply. The glacier is the main source of water for the Ganga river and it nourishes the Bhagirathi river, which is the source stream for Ganga, throughout the summer.

For farming, energy, and drinking water, around 800 million people rely on seasonal flow from Himalayan glaciers. Due to the linked concerns about water scarcity, the retreating glaciers might cause chaos in people's lives in the long run.

Gangotri Glacier Harmful Factors

To summarise, melting Himalayan glaciers could have harmful implications such as:

  • Regular flooding
  • Frequent occurrences of extreme weather
  • Reduction in agricultural yield
  • Fluctuations in energy generation
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Gangotri Glacier Retreat Rate

The Gangotri Glacier has been receding since 1780, although it has accelerated since 1971. The glacier receded 76 meters from 1996 to 1999. The Gangotri Glacier is retreating at a pace of 22 meters per year.

Because the implications of glacial retreat are far too undesired for people and government to overlook, both in the short and long term, it is critical to mitigate the impacts of change and control the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers.

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Nevertheless, a single country cannot singlehandedly address this issue, so there is a need to engage with the other Himalayan countries to develop a unified action plan to reduce, if not reverse, glacier retreat. This will assure water security, and thus food security, as well as the conservation of plants and animals in glacial zones and people's energy security.

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FAQs on Gangotri Glacier

Q1. Where is the Gangotri Glacier situated?

Ans. The Gangotri Glacier is situated in the UttarakashiDistrict

Q2. How long is the Gangotri Glacier?

Ans. The Gangotri Glacier is about 30 Km long and 2 to 4 km wide.

Q3. How quickly has the Gangotri Glacier been retreating in the past few years?

Ans. The Gangotri Glacier is retreating at a pace of 22 meters per year.

Q4. What are the major causes of the Gangotri Glacier retreating? What effects does it have on the region?

Ans. Industrialisation and greenhouse gas emissions are leading to a rise in the earth's temperature driving glaciers to melt. This melting of the Gangotri Glacier could have harmful implications such as:

  1. Regular flooding
  2. Frequent occurrences of extreme weather.
  3. Reduction in agricultural yield
  4. Fluctuations in energy generation