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Glaciers on study table

Gangtok, Sept. 17: The Sikkim government has constituted a commission to study the glaciers in the state and their impact on the river system amid fear that the glaciers are melting at a faster rate.

The commission will be headed by S.I. Hasnain, senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and comprise scientists and environmentalists from across the country. The members include Mahendra P. Lama, the vice-chancellor of the central university in Sikkim, and the former chief secretary of the state, K.C. Pradhan.

Apart from reviewing the current status of the glaciers and snowmelts, the commission will also study the impact of climate change on the mountain eco-system. It will suggest the scientific and technological intervention and human resource generation required for better management of the environment.

The commission has been asked to submit its recommendations by December 2008 .

The development comes in the wake of unconfirmed reports that the Zemu glacier in North Sikkim, which is the source of the Teesta, was melting at a faster rate than before, leading to flash floods. Last month, two bridges were washed away by the Zemu Chu, or Teesta, at Zema in the North district.

Sikkim has a large number of glaciers and they act as natural reservoirs and supply water to the major rivers of the state.

The state government’s announcement regarding the formation of the commission referred to the “receding glaciers” and “recurring phenomenon of glacial lake outbursts and floods that have been recorded in the entire eastern Himalayan region”. It added that such a phenomenon could impact people’s livelihood and the “array of hydel power plants that are being built on the Teesta and other river basins” in Sikkim.

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