Scientist Calls for Glacier Protection

Renowned glaciologist Yao Tandong Wednesday called for intensive protection and monitoring of glaciers, saying development for tourism has caused the melting of ice and snow and polluted the environment to some extent.

Glacier-covered Tianshan, Qilian, Gongga and Yulong mountain ranges, all in northwestern China, have been affected to varying degrees, said Yao, deputy director of Cold and Arid Regions Environment and Engineering Research Institute affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"It is good to develop the tourism industry, but we have to enhance public awareness of the importance of protecting glaciers, " he told Xinhua in an interview.

Yao is in Beijing for the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, as a deputy.

He said that glaciers are a major source of rivers and that the shrinking of glaciers will pose a threat to mankind. Yao supported his argument with the fact that the disappearance of nearby glaciers had a direct bearing on the disappearance of many oases along the famous Silk Road.

The scientist warned that some glaciers in China are experiencing intensifying melting, citing statistics that the size of glaciers in the Qilian Mountains shrank by 4.5 percent between 1850 and 1950, and further by 4.7 percent from 1950 to the present.

He suggested the state increase investment to establish glacier monitoring stations, a glacier alarm system and make a thorough study into the reserve of glaciers and the law of its changes with the help of remote sensing technology so that prompt countermeasures can be taken once a glacier is found shrinking.

(Xinhua 03/14/2001)