Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, two mountain states in India, are feeling the effects of overexploitation and tourism while a full-blown climate crisis looms over their heads.
According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), a heatwave is characterized by prolonged periods of extreme heat. In the mountains, a heatwave is defined as temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, but in the lowlands, temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius are considered extreme.
Even iForest’s chief executive officer, environmentalist Chander Bhushan, acknowledges that the average temperature of the Earth has risen. Even a change of 1 or 2 degrees Celsius in average temperature can have far-reaching consequences for the climate. Besides its intensity, the fact that this year’s heat wave occurred in the early summer months of March and April is causing concern in the mountain states.
Shimla, a former British hill station, only recently adopted the usage of electric fans and air conditioners. This summer, demand has increased by 70-80% from last.
“This is the first time the hill state has recorded so many heatwave days, that too in March-April,” said Kunal Satyarathi, joint secretary at the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Himachal Pradesh has seen forest fires, a water crisis, and the drying up of rivers in Himachal Pradesh as a direct result of the heat, dry periods, and global warming.”
Due to the dry season, most natural sources upstream in rural settings hit their lowest bottoms, leaving no water to be raise for delivery in the town of Shimla, the capital of the state. This water crisis was the worst in Shimla’s post-Independence history.
As the Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam’s total available water supply dropped to 33-35 MLD, compared to the 42 MLD that was needed, rationing became commonplace.
Due to the enormous demand for drinking water caused by the flood of visitors, water restriction has begun in Shimla, and hotel owners have resorted to hiring water tenders to keep up with the workload. These things also affect the shimla tourism.
Within three years of 2018, when Shimla’s water crisis made headlines in the Washington Post and New York Times, when not a drop of water was available for eight consecutive days, exacerbated by the non-availability of water at the source of Shimla’s supply—perennial rivers and streams that had dwindled to trickles—the environmentalist’s worst fears are coming true.
Protests over a lack of water erupted again last week in Theog, leading to the blocking of the Shimla-Rampur National Highway and the filing of a FIR against Rakesh Singha, the lone CPI(M) MLA in the state, and nine others.
“For five or six days, the villagers had no access to water because the source had run dry and the remaining water was being distribute to Shimla town. The women, who had to walk six or seven kilometers to fetch water on foot, threaten to cut off the water to Shimla if their demand for regular supply was not met. A serious conflict was on the horizon.” “Himachal Kisan Sabha leader and former Indian Forest Service officer Kuldeep Tanwar has issued a stern warning (IFS).
The state’s hydro-power sector is in disarray, and climate change is to blame for both the water deficit and the crisis. The glacier and snow-fed river Satluj is seeing a significant decrease in its water input. Evidence that melting glaciers and reduced snowfall in high elevations are having a negative effect.
Shocking findings from this year’s study on shifting snowfall patterns. The catchment areas of the three perennial rivers, the Ravi, the Beas, and the Satluj, have seen a decline in snowfall of 19–27%. Ravi has the greatest variation in snowmelt among these rivers at 27%, followed by Beas at 26% “according to SS Randhawa, a senior scientist who worked on the study alongside colleagues from the state council of Science, Technology, and Environment and the Indian Space Applications Centre, ISRO, in Ahmedabad.
The lowest discharge in the Satluj river, which is feeding several mega hydel projects like the 1,500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Hydel project and the 412 MW Rampur project, has resulted in a massive shortfall in power generation this year, according to data from Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Ltd, the country’s highest profit-making power PSU.
There is data showing reduced water discharge in the river in the summers due to less snow cover and no rain in the high mountains. In June 2022, the Nathpa Jhakri project generated 884.28 MW of power, down from 1,033.384 MW the previous year.
SJNL Ltd. Chairman and Managing Director Nand Lal Sharma adds, “It is highly unusual for there to be a shortage of energy production during the peak summer months. The water discharge at the projects has always been sustain by snowmelt from the high mountains. Climate change, melting glaciers, and insufficient snowfall are all major threats to the success of run-of-the-river projects in the Himalayan basins of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
One other event in high-altitude locations associated with global warming and the climate catastrophe is glacier outburst floods (GLOFs). One may find 958 glacial lakes in Himachal Pradesh, each measuring 500 hectares. meters, as stated in a study by the State Council of Science and Technology. There are currently 352 of them in the Satluj Basin, 109 of which have emerged in the past several years. It is impossible to overstate the amount of harm that GLOFs may do to a state and its various enterprises.
The increasing heat and humidity in Shimla are particularly worrisome. The town experienced an abnormal increase in humidity after the monsoons arrived last week. There’s a clear correlation between days when extreme heat is present and this phenomenon. Further research is require to fully understand the consequences of climate change.
On May 27, 2010, Shimla reached a record high of 32.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which is around 8 degrees hotter than average. On May 20, 2004, the temperature hit 31.7 degrees, breaking the previous record.
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