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Global Warming Threatens Himalayas

2002-6-13

This is the VOA SpecialEnglish ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

A new report says the Himalayan mountains of south Asia arethreatened by the warming of the Earth's climate. The report sayshuman activities are partly responsible for the warmingtemperatures. The climate changes threaten people's lives, the localeconomy and the environment.

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

The Himalayas are the highest mountain system in the world. Theyextend from Pakistan across Nepal and Bhutan. The Himalayas includeMount Everest, the world's highest mountain.

A team of mountain climbers fromBritain, New Zealand and Chile recently traveled to the Himalayas.They gathered information about the environment. They spoke toBuddhist monks, local people and other travelers about the conditionof the world's most famous mountains. Their findings confirmed theU-N report. The mountain climbers found that warmer weather has beenmelting huge mountains of ice in the Himalayas. These meltingglaciers are creating lakes that could overflow and flood wideareas.

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

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

Researchers say the Himalayas have been harmed by an increase invisitors to the area, over-cutting of trees and other environmentaldestruction. Observers say community action is helping to restorethe mountain environment. However, U-N officials say the glaciermelt in the Himalayas should be a warning to industrial countries toreduce heat-trapping gases that cause global warming.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written byCynthia Kirk.