[Editorial Analysis] A global environment threat made in China

Mains Paper: 2 | International Relations

Prelims level: Global environment threat

Mains level: Halting rampant environmental degradation in the Himalayas is now urgent, and it is possible only through cooperation among all members of the Himalayan basin community.

Context

• Asia’s future is inextricably tied to the Himalayas, the world’s tallest mountain range and the source of the water-stressed continent’s major river systems.

• Yet reckless national projects are straining the region’s fragile ecosystems, resulting in a mounting security threat that extends beyond Asia.

• Stretching from Myanmar to the Hindu-Kush watershed of Central Asia.

• The Himalayas play a central role in driving Asia’s hydrological cycle and weather and climate patterns, including triggering the annual summer monsoons.

• Its 18,000 high-altitude glaciers store massive amounts of freshwater and serve in winter as the world’s second-largest heat sink after Antarctica

• It helping to moderate the global climate.

• In summer, however, the Himalayas turn into a heat source that draws the monsoonal currents from the oceans into the Asian hinterland.

Threat to Himalayas

• The Himalayas are now subject to accelerated glacial thaw, climatic instability, and biodiversity loss.

• Five rivers originating on the Great Himalayan Massif—the Yangtze, the Indus, the Mekong, the Salween, and the Ganges—rank among the world’s 10 most endangered rivers.

• From large-scale dam construction to the unbridled exploitation of natural resources, human activity is clearly to blame for these potentially devastating changes to the Himalayan ecosystems.

• While all the countries in the region are culpable to some extent, none is doing as much harm as China.

• This includes a globally unmatched inter-river and inter-basin water-transfer infrastructure with the capacity to move over 10 billion cubic metres through 16,000 kilometres of canals.

A threat for China’s also

• China’s re-engineering of natural river flows through damming—one-fifth of the country’s rivers now have less water flowing through them each year than is diverted to reservoirs.

• It has already degraded riparian ecosystems and caused 350 large lakes to disappear.

• With these water-diverting projects increasingly focused on international, rather than internal, rivers

• In particular those in the Tibetan Plateau, which covers nearly three-quarters of the Himalayan glacier area

• The environmental threat extends far beyond China’s borders.

• The Tibetan Plateau is also the subject of Chinese geoengineering experiments, which aim to induce rain in its arid north and northwest (rain in Tibet is concentrated in its Himalayan region).

• Such activities threaten to suck moisture from other regions, potentially affecting Asia’s monsoons.

• Ominously, such experiments are an extension of the Chinese military’s weather-modification programme.

• Across the Himalayas, scientists report large-scale deforestation, high rates of loss of genetic variability, and species extinction in the highlands.

• The Tibetan Plateau, for its part, is warming at almost three times the average global rate.

• This holds environmental implications that extend far beyond Asia.

• The towering Himalayan Highlands, particularly Tibet, influence the Northern Hemisphere’s atmospheric-circulation system, which helps to transport warm air from the equator toward the poles, sustaining a variety of climate zones along the way.

• In other words, Himalayan ecosystem impairment will likely affect European and North American climatic patterns.

Conclusion

• Halting rampant environmental degradation in the Himalayas is now urgent.

• It is possible only through cooperation among all members of the Himalayan basin community, from the lower Mekong River region and China to the countries of southern Asia.

• To bring about such cooperation, however, the entire international community will have to apply pressure to rein in China’s reckless environmental impairment.

Link – https://tt93a.app.goo.gl/RSSxKochZDgZbtvS6

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