Water crisis, a threat to the Tibetan plateau

Tibet is known as the “roof of the world” and is also called at times the “water tower of Asia”. The land at one point was home to innumerable natural resources but then the Chinese illegal occupation took place and the nation has lost its essence and faced degradation in various areas to a great extent. The climate crisis in Tibet has gotten worse over the years and has become a constant issue that raises great concern. Tibet is home to the world’s third largest source of ice water and it also provides water through its river sources to almost 2 billion of the Asian population. The severe climate changes has made the Tibetan region vulnerable and the ice glaciers are melting away at a concerning rate. The matter that causes the most worry is the fact that the drastic changes in the ecosystem would affect other aspects including agriculture and water that will eventually affect the livelihoods of the people who rely on Tibet for their water resources. The Tibetan plateau will apparently go through a great water loss due to global warming in this century itself.

There have been warnings also released regarding how the severity of the climate change will result in a change of the hotspots also. The reservoirs of the Tibetan Plateau that covers major parts of southern China and northern India rely fully on monsoon for its water source and currently supplies and fulfils the water demand of two billion people. Scientists however are finding it difficult to predict the ways in which the warming temperatures and the frequent changes in the weather patterns related to climate change will stir up the region’s water storage. This is mainly because of the complicated terrain of the Tibetan plateau. Over the two decades, satellite-based measurements have been used by the researchers in China and the United States to know the net change in water and ice mass.

They apparently also sued a machine learning technique to predict changes in the storage under cases and scenes of higher air temperature and reduced cloud cover. To do so, they first had to add direct measurements of glaciers, lakes and sub-surface water levels to give an estimation of the water mass. The Tibetan Plateau had reportedly lost over 10 billion tonnes of water a year since 2002 because of the escalating changes in the warm and wet climate. The team who led these studies also wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change that the changes in the water storage all over the plateau seemed to have happened under a middle-of-the-road emissions scenario where the levels of carbon pollution stayed roughly at the current levels before falling gradually after 2050. Out of all the water sources, two river basins have been specifically pointed out to be the most vulnerable ones. Central Asia’s largest river, the Amu Darya shows a water loss that could be equalled to 119 percent of the current demand.

The study also revealed that the communities who rely on the Indus basement for water supply could also see a great loss that equals to 79 percent of the current demand. The numbers presented in the study causes more concern and shows how the current situation is not one to be taken lightly or to be ignored. The anticipated shortfall will happen gradually but the researchers and authors have urged the governments to also look for alternative water supply options which can include more groundwater extraction. The director of the Penn Centre for Science, Sustainability and the Media, Michael Mann has stated that “substantial reductions in carbon emissions over the next decade” would help in the limitation and reduction of the global warming that is increasing at a rapid rate. He has also stated how this would particularly also limit the “predicted collapse of the Tibetan Plateau water towers”.

He hasn’t avoided the fact that the possibility of the losses arising would still remain and has suggested that it would be necessary for the world’s highly populated regions to be able to adapt to the decreasing water resources in this dire state. He made another rather witty remark, “Just what that would look like is hard to say – we’re in uncharted water”. The carbon emission rate has to be cut down for this number predicted to go down. The occurrence of such climate crisis is due to the human activities or mining fossil fuels and oils, deforestation and emissions from power plants and cars. Tibet was once a land where people’s livelihoods were mostly dependent on farming, rearing animals and adopting the nomadic lifestyle was also common. China, since their occupation of the land has used Tibet, their people and it’s land for their own growth, be it socially or economically.

The rivers have been covered with dams and numerous hydro projects that has affected the flow of the rivers and become an area of concern for the other Asian countries who depend on these for water. Tibet’s land in a nutshell has been stripped bare off its richness and purity. The climate crisis is an issue that must receive utmost attention at this stage since the impacts are already being seen and the ones that will happen in the future will also be unavoidable. Like Mann’s statement, the severity and the impact can however be lessened or found ways to be dealt with. Therefore, the climate crisis of Tibet must be on China’s top list of concern and care since they claim to own the land and should also do what is best for the regions that rely solely on Tibet for their water resources.

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