Glaciers on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the roof of the world, are
beating a dramatic retreat. In the past three decades, they have
shrunk by 131.4 square kilometers annually, according to the latest
report from the China Geological Survey Bureau.
What that means is that an area of glacier equivalent to twice
the size of the Beijing downtown area disappears every year.
A further 13,000 square kilometers of glacier -- nearly 28
percent of the total glacier area and equivalent to twice the area
of Shanghai Municipality -- will disappear by 2050 if no protective
measures are taken, the report said.
Glaciers on the outskirts of the plateau have already decreased
by 10 percent and those in the hinterland have shrunk by five
Researchers said the melting of the glaciers has brought
abundant water to the rivers, lakes and wetlands in the plateau and
its surrounding areas in the short term.
"But as the glacier shrinkage accelerates, the plateau's total
water storage will decrease rapidly," said Fang Hongbin, a remote
Experts point out that since the plateau supplies the
headstreams of many of the major rivers in East, Southeast and
South Asia, the decrease of water storage in the region will have a
significant impact on the economic and social development of China
as well as neighboring countries.
The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in western and southwestern China is
the highest plateau in the world. With an elevation of 3,000-5,000
meters, it is known as the "roof of the world".
It is estimated that the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has over 36,000
glaciers with an area of 49,873 square kilometers. About 84 percent
of the country's total glaciers are located on the plateau.
The report said the plateau's 88,715 square kilometers of
wetlands are also dwindling rapidly and the plateau is suffering
from serious desertification.
"Environmental change on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is closely
connected with crustal movements. But human activities also
contribute to the deterioration of the environment," Fang said.
Researchers said they hoped their investigation would provide
the government with valuable input for regional development plans
and environmental protection programs.
(Xinhua News Agency January 6, 2007)