During an event focused on the preservation of glaciers on Wednesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres cautioned that the melting of glaciers and ice sheets caused by global warming could result in reduced flow of major Himalayan rivers such as the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra, which are essential to India. According to reports, Guterres emphasised the significance of glaciers for all life on earth, stating that they shaped the land and currently provide the world’s water supply as well.
Guterres expressed his apprehension that the planet’s temperature is being dangerously elevated due to human activities, and he likened melting glaciers to a warning sign of impending danger. Additionally, Antarctica is losing an average of 150 billion tons of ice mass annually, while the melting of the Greenland ice cap is even more rapid, with a loss of 270 billion tons every year. In the Himalayan region, ten major rivers originate, which supply freshwater to approximately 1.3 billion individuals living within its watershed.
According to Guterres, as glaciers and ice sheets continue to retreat in the coming decades, major rivers like the Indus, the Ganges, and Brahmaputra in the Himalayan region will be impacted, resulting in a decrease in their water flow. Guterres also noted how melting in the Himalayas has already exacerbated flooding in Pakistan, demonstrating the devastating consequences of climate change.
He added that rising sea levels combined with saltwater intrusion will decimate large parts of these huge deltas. The event was held on the margins of the UN 2023 Water Conference – formally known as the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028) – currently underway at UN Headquarters.