Himalayas warming since 70s: Report

Kathmandu, July 11:

The Nepali Himalayas warmed about 1°C since the 1970s, almost twice the global average, affecting hundreds of glaciers and glacial lakes, said a release issued today by the World Heritage Center and Greenpeace.

It says the rise in temperature has resulted in the retreat of 67 per cent of Himalayan glaciers, posing risk of outburst flood. This could snowball into economic threat since the region is largely agricultural.

The release quoted a survey of 83 countries which said “125 world heritage sites were... threatened… by climate change, including 19 glacier sites and seven coral reefs worldwide.” It pointed out the need of a mission of experts visiting the sites to suggest damage management.

The petition to have Everest put on the “In Danger” list was also backed by Sir Edmund Hillary.

The sites in question are Mount Everest and Sagarmatha National Park (glaciers) in Nepal, the Peruvian Andes (glaciers), Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the US and Canada and the Great Barrier and Belize Barrier (coral) Reefs.

While the pleas to prevent glacial lakes bursting in the Himalayas and Peru were not taken up, the World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO accommodated the US and Canadian governments’ well known sceptical positions on climate change.

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Earth International (FEI), the Climate Justice Programme (CJP) and Greenpeace have resented the lacklustre attitude of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of the UNESCO.

The threat to the sites was assessed in a survey conducted by the World Heritage Center. The UNESCO body also ignored the importance of countries significantly reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. It, however, agreed with the US demands to delete reference to the Kyoto Protocol.

It also endorsed a ‘world heritage and climate change strategy’ which focuses on the impacts but not the causes of the problem. The issue will be debated at the 2007 UNESCO General Assembly, statement said.

The threat to sites was pointed out by 37 organisations and individuals which suggested they be put on ‘in danger’ list, the release further said.