June 16, 2008 | Along the Ganges River, India
Rivers are the lifeblood of water. They are the most essential source of the substance that sustains life on earth. Their age far exceeding human civilization, they are the strongest connection we as humans have with our planet.
Each continent has its major river, the one all others are compared to. In South America the Amazon reigns. The Nile runs from the heart of Africa to the Mediterranean, a cultural conduit from the cradle of humanity. For India and the Himalaya, the Ganges is the river. Sourced high in the Himalaya glaciers and flowing a 1000KM TK to the Bay of Bengal this river supports 500 million people. This river provides more than physical sustenance from crops and well being. It is central to the Hindu religion.
The Gangotri Glacier, located on the crest of the Himalaya is the source the Ganges River. Snow, which accumulates in the shadow of 22,000-foot peaks, is compressed into ice, which over time due to its elasticity flows down to a lower elevation and melts. This melt water is the original source of the Ganges.
During mid June this year I joined a team of journalists from PBS-NOW to look into to correlation between glaciers, their relative health and the humans that live from the Ganges. “On Thin Ice” is the title of the one-hour special, which will be presented by David Brancaccio this, coming January. Glaciers across our planet are melting an accelerated pace, a fact that regardless of its cause, that will have severe impacts on humanity. The loss of glaciers is clearly visible and backed by straightforward data. The Himalayas, which separate the Indian subcontinent from Asia, are home to over 8000 glaciers. These high altitude frozen reservoirs are the source to the five major Asian rivers. These rivers in turn sustain a population of 1 billion people. Melting glaciers are forecast to flood in the near term 50 years as they melt out which will be followed by drier seasonal rivers. By visiting the Gangotri Glacier and the Ganges River to see the impact of glacier recession.