Global Warming Threatens Himalayas

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

A new report says the Himalayan mountains of south Asia are threatened by the warming of the Earth's climate. The report says human activities are partly responsible for the warming temperatures. The climate changes threaten people's lives, the local economy and the environment.

The United Nations Environment Program produced the report with the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development, based in Nepal. It was released June fifth in connection with World Environment Day and the United Nations Year of the Mountain.

The Himalayas are the highest mountain system in the world. They extend from Pakistan across Nepal and Bhutan. The Himalayas include Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain.

A team of mountain climbers from Britain, New Zealand and Chile recently traveled to the Himalayas. They gathered information about the environment. They spoke to Buddhist monks, local people and other travelers about the condition of the world's most famous mountains. Their findings confirmed the U-N report. The mountain climbers found that warmer weather has been melting huge mountains of ice in the Himalayas. These melting glaciers are creating lakes that could overflow and flood wide areas.

Temperatures in the area have risen one degree Celsius during the past thirty years. Satellite maps show that the glaciers are shrinking at a rate of thirty to forty meters each year.

The study identified almost five-thousand glacier lakes in Nepal and Bhutan. Researchers say forty-four of these lakes could overflow during the next five years. U-N officials say this flooding could have serious effects on local communities and the environment. However, they say it may be possible to remove water from the lakes before they overflow and use that water to create energy.

Researchers say the Himalayas have been harmed by an increase in visitors to the area, over-cutting of trees and other environmental destruction. Observers say community action is helping to restore the mountain environment. However, U-N officials say the glacier melt in the Himalayas should be a warning to industrial countries to reduce heat-trapping gases that cause global warming.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

Voice of America Special English

Source: ENVIRONMENT REPORT - June 14, 2002: Global Warming Threatens Himalayas
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