Central Asia is facing a crisis: the glaciers are shrinking, and they are shrinking fast. How fast, you may ask? About four times faster than they should. This is not an issue that can be overlooked: the phenomenon is endangering river flows that ensure hydro power and agriculture in between Uzbekistan and western China.
According to the German Research Centre of Geosciences, global warming is not going to slow down by the end of 2050, increasing the risk of melting around half of the remaining ice by then. If this does occur, then the entire ecosystem and the population in the area are in grave danger.
According to the study conducted by the German institute, the temperatures in the Tien Shan area are rising quickly due to climate change in the north Pacific and north Atlantic oceans. This means that summers bring more rain in the area and rain erodes the glacier ice, melting it slowly, but surely.
The reason why this melt is “of particular concern” is because the population in the area is quickly rising and the area is already suffering from disputes about how to share water in between its members.
The Tien Shan glaciers have already lost approximately one third of their total mass within 50 years (1961-2012). The German institute declared that they have satellites monitoring the ground and what is very worrying is that the glaciers are losing a rate of 5.4 billion tons of ice each year. They also stretch up to 1,500 miles through Central Asia, which means that their meltdown will affect many regions on the continent.
In short, the issue is that river flows are high now, and this server the population very well, but if the glaciers melt, river flows will decay over time, leading the population into further disputes.
Daniel Farinotti, the lead author of the research conducted by GFZ and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, declared that the current situation is a “golden one”, when there is enough water to please everyone. But he expressed concern as to what could happen.
Back in 2012, Islam Karimov, the Uzbek President, declared that the disputes over Central Asian water resources are on the verge of causing military conflict, but the area was under control with the help of Moscow.
One thing is for certain: the situation is very delicate in Central Asia and only diplomatic relations and a proper way to ensure water for the population are the only solutions we can apply. Only time will tell how the issue will be resolved.
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