Friday, December 03, 2021


Pangong lake of today was a river and tributary of Shyok river 1000 of years ago

Yadavindra S Rana | October 28, 2021 05:21 PM

CHANDIGARH:Around 1000 years ago, Pangong Lake in Ladakh was a river and tributary of Shyok
river. It is the conclusion of investigations carried out by the team of geologists and environmental
students of Ladakh Science Foundation (LSF) headed by Dr Ritesh Arya, renowned international

Fresh water lakes once were lifeline for traders travelling with their camels and horses on
Old Silk Route. But with passes of time, these lakes dynamics have been changed due to climate
conditions and unprecedented changes in climate ultimately led to the end of trade on Silk Route.
The Pangong lake came to limelight after the shooting of film 3 Idiots and presently has
become the bone of contention between India and China. Dr Arya says, ”one has to say that the
lakes which were centre of attraction in the past are nowhere in the present.” He further added that
famous paleolake of DBO Shey Spituk and Lamayuru rivers known as the moon land on earth and
Pangong and Tsomoriri were well-flowing rivers and tributaries of Shyok and Satluj now have turned
into lakes.
It is revealed in an international conference on “Earth and Environment in Anthropocene-
2021 “ (ICEEA) by the team of geoscientists from LSF worked under the guidance of Dr Ritesh Arya
who had spend more than two decades studying the impact of climate change on the water
resources in Ladakh specially on the ground water based on the borewells drilled by him. Dr Arya
also warned that glaciers in the Himalayas were either extinct or on the verge of extinction and it
was happened much before industrialization.
According to World report ‘Glaciers of the Himalayas: Climate change, black carbon and
regional resilence there were 55, 000 glaciers in the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK)
mountain ranges that store more fresh water than any region outside of the North and South Poles.
Ice reserves feed three major river basins in South Asia—the Indus, the Ganges and the
Brahmaputra—were also home to 750 million people.
During Ice Age the glaciers were massive and evidence of the Indus glacier extending from
Mansoarvar in the Himalayas to the Arabian sea have been found in the borewells drilled by Arya in
2013. On the other, glacial recedes of more than 74 kms and 24 kms have been found at Siachen and
Khardungla compared to present respectively, claimed Dr Arya.
It is evident from the small lakes found at the South Polu today. Similar deposits in Shey
indicate a paleolake formation in the past which was fed by the receding Stakmo glacier. But the
lake dried due to lack of water from Stakmo catchment area. In Spituk lake dried up due to paleo-
flooding event from Indus and cloud burst at Spituk, seismic activity could also have triggered the
breach of the lake wall leading to its rapture and final death of the once massive lake. Global
warming leads to increased discharge creating a hydrostratigraphic disequilibrium.
Glacial evidence is very well preserved in the valley, says Dr Arya. Temporary lakes were
also formed due to blockage of Indus at Phyang and Nimmu but their life was very limited as the
flow of Indus and lake created a hydrostatic pressure which breached the wall leading to
instantaneous death of those lakes. Phenomenon similar to the Leh floods of 2010.
Present paper highlights the impact of global warming on the lakes located in the high
altitude deserts of Ladakh Himalayas. Pangong and Tsomoriri lakes of today in the Changthang
region were once perennial tributaries of Shyok and Satluj respectively in the past. Since the end of
the Last Ice Age around 11700 years from present the impact of global warming led to melting of
glaciers. “Receding glacial melt decreased dischage in the tributaries and the natural blockage at
Lukung resulted in conversion of perennial tributaries leading to the formation of Pangong lake, ”
states the paper.
Paper also analyses and establishes the role of Chortens/ Stupas and Manay walls
constructed by man in response to mitigate and manage natural disasters caused due to glacial
melt 1000 years ago when the floods from glacial melt dominated the scenario. Today their
actual role has been forgotten and is confined to religious rituals by the buddhists.

Need of the hour is protect and preserve these paleo glacial lake deposits so that
entire record of climate change is preserved for further study.

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