A high altitude glaciological research station in Himalaya called HIMANSH (meaning a slice of ice) recently begun functioning above 13,500 ft (4,000 m) the sea level in a remote region in the Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh. This is an Indian government’s initiatives to better study and quantifies the Himalayan glacier responses towards the climate change. The research lab has been established by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Ministry of Earth Sciences.

It is expected that the HIMANSH station will provide much needed fillip to the scientific research on Himalayan glaciers and its hydrological contribution. The station will be used as a base for undertaking surveys that would digitize the glacier motion and snow cover variations. The researchers will undertake integrated studies using the glaciological and glacio-hydrological methods to quantify the glacier stability in the region, also to quantify the contribution from water malting from the glacial to the river discharge in the Indus basin region.

The HIMANSH station houses instruments to quantify glacier melting and its relation to changing climate such as the automatic weather stations, ground penetrating radars, geodetic GPS systems and other sophisticated facilities to study glaciers and their discharge. It will also serve as the base for Terrestrial Laser Scanners (TLS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for undertaking surveys.

The Himalayan region, also called the ‘Water Tower of Asia’, houses the biggest concentration of glaciers outside the polar caps. It is the main source of 10 major river systems that provide irrigation, drinking water and power for approximately 700 million people (10% of world’s population) living in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Therefore, understanding behaviour of these Himalayan glaciers and their contribution to sustainable supply of water for mankind and agriculture is one of grand challenges of the global scientific community.

by Ashwani Srivastava

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