Source: Xinhua | 2012-8-16 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
POLLUTION caused by humans is the second leading cause in the melting of a glacier in Xinjiang, experts say.
The No. 1 glacier in the Tianshan Mountains in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, has been retreating by more than four meters every year and its thickness has shrunk by more than 15 meters from 1958 to 2010, said Li Zhongqin, head of the Tianshan Mountains Glacier Observation Station under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The shrinking of the glacier has gathered pace since the 1980s, Li added.
David Molden, director of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development said climate change was the leading cause in the acceleration of the glacier thawing, with the second leading cause being black carbon.
Black carbon refers to particles generated by incomplete combustion of carbon-containing material.
Researchers at the Tianshan Mountains Glacier Observation Station under the Chinese Academy of Sciences said several power plants and building material factories had been operating for nearly 30 years near the glacier.
The black carbon emissions from the plants have been accumulating on the surface of the glacier, and the black color of the particles absorbs heat from the sun and intensifies the thawing of the glacier, researchers said.
The plants have also been polluting the water supply of the regional capital Urumqi, since the Urumqi River that runs through the city originates from the glacier.
Approximately 120 kilometers away from the regional capital, Urumqi, the No. 1 glacier is the closest to a city in the world.
Reporters also found that apart from some birds and wild flowers, there were no other wild animals or vegetation near the glacier. Added to this, plastic bags and fruit peelings were scattered there.
In 2006, the Urumqi government ruled that the tourists were not allowed to visit the glacier in order to protect the city's water source.
However, some managed to find their way to the area as there are no fences or guards to prevent entry. More than a dozen households of herdsmen now inhabit the area. In order to make money, some herdsmen had been taking tourists to the area by motorcycle.
China has 46,377 glaciers with 18,311 of them in Xinjiang.
The melting of the glacier should ring alarm bells to the whole world, Molden said, and all countries should take measures to reduce carbon emissions.