Zee Media Bureau
Beijing: In an alarming discovery, a comprehensive environmental assessment of the Tibetan Plateau has found that the region is getting hotter, wetter and more polluted, threatening its fragile eco-systems and those who rely on them.
Released in Lhasa, the study carried out by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the government of Tibet, finds that precipitation has risen by 12 percent since 1960 and temperatures have soared by 0.4 degrees Celsius per decade - twice the global average.
The report said that glaciers are shrinking rapidly and one-tenth of the permafrost has thawed in the past decade alone. This means that the number of lakes has grown by 14% since 1970, and more than 80% of them have expanded since, devastating surrounding pastures and communities.
According to Yao Tandong, director of the CAS Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research in Beijing, “The Tibetan plateau is getting warmer and wetter. This means that vegetation is expanding to higher elevations and farther north, and growing seasons are getting longer.”
But some areas, such as the headwater region of Asia`s biggest rivers, have become warmer and drier and are being severely affected by desertification and grassland and wetland degradation, he added.
The plateau and its surrounding mountains cover five million square km and hold the largest stock of ice outside the Arctic and Antarctic, the region is thus often referred to as the Third Pole.
“Like the actual poles, it is increasingly feeling the effects of climate change but rapid development is putting it doubly at risk,” says the report.
While pollution from human and industrial waste as a result of rapid development is considered a serious risk, the assessment report also calls on the concerned agencies to make conservation and environmental protection top priorities.
“Human activity, too, is on the rise. The population of the plateau reached 8.8 million in 2012, about three times higher than in 1951. And the number of livestock has more than doubled, putting more strain on grasslands,” said the report, whcih was published in the journal Nature.
Since the plateau feeds Asia`s biggest rivers, these problems are likely to affect billions of people, added the report.
(With Agency Inputs)