Friday, January 18, 2013

PHOTOS: Between the glacier and the dam - life on the Tibetan plateau

Between the glacier and the dam: life on the Tibetan plateau
By Sean Gallagher
January 13, 2013

[See link for Sean's photos from Heishui:]

The Tibetan Plateau covers approximately a quarter of China's land area,
spreading out over 2.5 million square kilometres in the west of the
country. Home to the largest store of freshwater outside of the poles,
it feeds water into Asia's major rivers which supply water to over a
billion people. As a result of anthropogenic climate change,
temperatures are rising on the Tibetan Plateau faster than anywhere else
in Asia. The effects of these changes are becoming more evident in the
form of melting glaciers, intensified weather events, increasing
desertification and degraded grasslands.

In the town of Heishui, in northern Sichuan province, the effects of
climate change are being felt firsthand by the people who reside in this
south-eastern corner of the plateau. The Dagu glacier which sits above
the town lies at over 5,000 metres. But it's quickly retreating due to
rising temperatures in the region. Just 50 kilometres downstream, the
water run-off from the glacier slows and stagnates behind one of the
country's largest and newest hydropower constructions, the 147-metre
high Maoergai Dam.

At the beginning of July, the Chinese central authority activated an
emergency response plan in order to cope with severe flooding in Sichuan
Province, which receives its water from the rivers that originate on the
Tibetan Plateau. State media reported that more than 4.6 million people
were affected, with flooding damaging more than 37,000 homes and leaving
over 250,000 hectares of crops unusable.

In the summer and autumn of 2012, photographer Sean Gallagher, whose
work focuses on environmental issues across Asia, was awarded his fifth
grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to travel to the
Tibetan Plateau and document the effects of climate change on the "roof
of the world". You can learn more about this work on the Pulitzer Center

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