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09:02 Mar 29 2010

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Climate change threatens Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (2)
09:01, March 29, 2010  

MELTING GLACIERS

Tibetan tour guide Lhashi says half of Mt. Galadando was covered by snow when she visited the mountain, in Nagqu Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region, in 1997. "This year, little snow was visible on its peak."

The average temperature at Mt. Galadando, the tallest mountain in the Tanggula Mountain Range of the Tibet plateau and the source of the Yangtze River, China's longest waterway, has risen by almost 1 degree Celsius.

The Himalayas have the world's third largest glacier reserve of1 trillion cubic meters in an area of 11,000 square kilometers.

Yet 82 percent of glacial surfaces on the plateau have retreated, and the glacier area has decreased by 4.5 percent in the past 20 years, according to China Meteorological Administration.

"Along my way to the mountain tops, I've seen many landslides caused by melting glaciers," says Zhong Yu.

According to a report released by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body studying global warming, 80 percent of the glaciers on the Himalayas could vanish within three decades at present warming rates.

ECO PRESERVATION

Human activities do not always damage nature, says Dai Sheng, a senior researcher at Qinghai provincial meteorological administration.

As an example, he cites artificial precipitation that produced 8.8 billion cubic meters of rainfall in the Three-River headwaters area last year alone.

"Artificial rain and enhanced environmental protection efforts will hopefully save the water tower," Dai says.

China launched an ambitious project in 2005 to preserve the ecological systems of the Three-River headwaters by relocating millions of herders from the area and curbing excessive grazing and other exploitation.

Meanwhile, Tibet also announced a 450-million-yuan (66 million U.S. dollars) environment protection project last year, following the central government's approval of a 20-billion-yuan investment in building an ecological belt on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The money will be spent on protecting pastureland from desertification, planting trees, safeguarding drinking water sources, and promoting clean energy on the plateau.

"But sadly, the plateau will continue to get warmer, unless global warming is curbed," says Dai.

Source: Xinhua

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