Air pollution in the higher reaches of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region threatens the lives of 750 million people by accelerating global warming, according to a new study. These people living along the banks of Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers that are fed by glacier melt face the immediate risk of flooding and eventually, water crisis in the event of a complete meltdown of the glaciers, according to the World Bank report.
Aerosols, especially black carbon, travel up from these surrounding areas in the form of smoke and settle in the higher altitudes. This film of pollutants skews the albedo (solar reflectance) of glaciers that is crucial for their survival. Thus, the structures end up absorbing more sunlight and the high terrains become hotter.
Accelerated glacier melting in the face of climate change is also expected to exacerbate various water-induced natural hazards, such as glacial lake outburst floods and general flooding, with subsequent impacts on people and assets at risk, according to the report.