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Tourism takes a toll on Thajiwas glacier, experts urge swift action

The glacier was once a haven of cleanliness and natural splendour, untouched by the litter and chaos that now plague it.
tourism takes a toll on thajiwas glacier  experts urge swift action

New Delhi, June 3: A tragic incident occurred when a portion of the Thajiwas glacier collapsed at Sonamarg in Ganderbal district, leading to one person going missing and two tourists being rescued.


On May 25, 2024, a tourist from Maharashtra died after falling into a snow cavity at Thajiwas glacier, emphasising the growing risks visitors face.


On February 4, 2024, an article in The Scroll warned that Kashmir’s unusually dry winter could accelerate the decline of the Thajiwas glacier, a vital natural resource.


The recent string of incidents at Thajiwas glacier in Sonamarg, combined with alarming scientific observations, paints a concerning picture of this once pristine and safe natural wonder.


Thajiwas Glacier, easily accessible and visible from nearly every vantage point in Sonamarg, is a remarkable site situated 3000 meters above sea level.


Its year-round snow cover made it a prime spot for trekking and camping as well as a tourist attraction.


Historically a serene destination where school children trekked and tourists marvelled at its icy beauty, the glacier is now a site of frequent accidents and environmental degradation.


The glacier's health is rapidly deteriorating due to a combination of climate change and human interference.

These troubling events highlight the urgent need for comprehensive measures to preserve and restore Thajiwas Glacier.

The need to give the glacier a respite is critical; restricting trekking and pony rides could help it recover.

The glacier was once a haven of cleanliness and natural splendour, untouched by the litter and chaos that now plague it.

The area used to be meticulously maintained by locals, defence forces, and environmentally conscious tourists who respected its fragile ecosystem.

Saving the melting Thajiwas Glacier in Sonamarg, like glaciers worldwide, requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach.

This vital natural resource demands immediate attention and coordinated efforts to ensure its preservation.

Some suggestions that need official attention and actions that can help safeguard the Thajiwas Glacier include:

Local involvement is crucial for the glacier's preservation

Harnessing the traditional knowledge and cultural practices of the locals, alongside government support, could make a significant difference. Engaging local communities and educating the public can foster a culture of conservation and sustainable practices.

Reforestation efforts in the alpine meadows surrounding Thajiwas Glacier are essential

Coordinated efforts by locals, NGOs, and volunteers to plant thousands of pine and fir trees could help restore the ecological balance. Plant thousands of trees and restore forests to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Any school or college visiting Sonamarg should be given a project that every student needs to plant a pine or fir tree in and around Sonamarg area including mountains leading towards the Thajwal Glacier. In addition, promote eco-friendly practices such as waste reduction, recycling, and sustainable agriculture.

Regulate Tourism

Implement sustainable tourism practices to minimize environmental damage. Limit the number of visitors and enforce strict waste management protocols. Control and reduce pollutants from vehicles, industries, and local activities contributing to air and water pollution.

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

With a lot of construction in and around Sonamarg and on the highway leading towards Drass need to adopt and promote renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro to reduce dependence on fossil fuels or central heating. We need to encourage energy-saving practices for the local population living around the area.

Scientific Research and Monitoring

It is already happening but needs to be further encouraged and more money needs to be invested into it. Understanding the glacier’s behaviour and the factors affecting it is critical for developing effective conservation strategies. Establish monitoring stations to collect data on glacier thickness, melt rate, and climatic conditions. Fund and support research in glaciology, climate science, and environmental science. Use satellite imagery to monitor changes in glacier size and health over time. If needed explore geoengineering solutions like artificial snowmaking to slow down glacier melt. Invest in and deploy clean energy technologies to reduce carbon footprints.

The article from The Scroll highlighted the glacier's accelerated retreat, with studies indicating a 34 percent reduction in its mass from 1992 to 2020.

Experts like Dr Irfan Rashid warn that the recent warm winters could worsen the situation, causing earlier and faster melting of the glacier's ice. This not only threatens the glacier itself but also the Sindh River, which is crucial for irrigation, drinking water, and hydroelectricity in the region.

Broader Implications

The decline of Thajiwas Glacier could have far-reaching consequences, particularly for 70 percent of Kashmir's population that relies on agriculture and related activities. The glacier's meltwater is vital for maintaining water supplies throughout the summer months. The lack of snowfall in winter months has already led to anxiety about water availability, affecting both agriculture and daily living.

The distressing incidents and scientific warnings about Thajiwas Glacier demand immediate action. Preserving this natural treasure of the Thajiwas Glacier in Sonamarg requires a collective effort and holistic approach combining national and local efforts. By mitigating climate change, protecting the local environment, advancing scientific research, engaging communities, enforcing effective policies, and leveraging technology, significant strides can be made in saving this vital glacier. It is essential to act swiftly and collaboratively to ensure the longevity and health of the Thajiwas Glacier or future generations, our progeny will not pardon us.

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