KATHMANDU: More than a billion people in Asia depend on Himalayan glaciers for water, but experts say they are melting at an alarming rate, threatening to bring drought to large swathes of the continent.
Glaciers in the Himalayas provide headwaters for Asia's nine largest rivers, lifelines for the 1.3 billion people who live downstream. But temperatures in the region have increased by between 0.15 and 0.6 degrees Celsius each decade for the last 30 years, accelerating the rate at which glaciers are shrinking.
As world leaders gather in Copenhagen this month for a crucial climate change summit, campaigners warn that some Himalayan glaciers could disappear within a few decades.
"Scientists predict that most glaciers will be gone in 40 years as a result of climate change," said Prashant Singh of WWF's Climate for Life campaign. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body on climate change, has warned Himalayan glaciers could "disappear altogether by 2035" and experts say the effects of global warming are already being felt in the region.
In Nepal and Bhutan, the receding glaciers have formed vast lakes that threaten to burst, devastating villages downstream.