World Heritage Glaciers


    In News

    • UNESCO finds that some iconic World Heritage glaciers will disappear by 2050. 
      • One third on the list is under threat. 

    About World Heritage glaciers 

    • As many as 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites are home to glaciers, representing almost 10 per cent of the Earth’s total glacierized area.
      • They include the highest (next to Mt. Everest), the longest (in Alaska), and the last remaining glaciers in Africa, amongst others, giving a representative overview of the general situation of glaciers in the world. 
    • Region wise assessment 
      • Africa
        • Glaciers in all World Heritage sites in Africa will very likely be gone by 2050, including Kilimanjaro National Park and Mount Kenya.
      • Asia
        • Glaciers in Western Tien-Shan (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan) have shrunk by 27% since 2000.
      • Europe:
        • Glaciers in Pyrenees Mont Perdu (France, Spain) are very likely to disappear by 2050.
        • Glaciers in The Dolomites (Italy) are very likely to disappear by 2050.
      • North America:
        • Glaciers in Yellowstone National Park (United States of America) are very likely to disappear by 2050.
        • Glaciers in Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (Canada, United States of America) have lost 26.5% of their volume in 20 years. 

    Significance of Glaciers 

    • Half of humanity depends directly or indirectly on glaciers as their water source for domestic use, agriculture, and power. 
    • Glaciers are also pillars of biodiversity, feeding many ecosystems


    • When glaciers melt rapidly, millions of people face water scarcity and the increased risk of natural disasters such as flooding.
    • Millions more may be displaced by the resulting rise in sea levels. 
    • Glaciers are currently losing 58 billion tonnes of ice every year that is equivalent to the combined annual water use of France and Spain and are responsible for nearly 5% of observed global sea level rise.

    Way Forward/ Suggestions

    • It was still possible to save the other two-thirds if the rise in global temperatures did not exceed 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era.
    • COP27 will have a crucial role to help find solutions to this issue.
    • UNESCO is advocating for the creation of a new international fund for glacier monitoring and preservation.
      • Such a fund would support comprehensive research, promote exchange networks between all stakeholders and implement early warning and disaster risk reduction measures. 

    What is the World Heritage List? 

    • A World Heritage site is classified as a natural or man-made area or a structure that is of international importance, and a space that requires special protection.
    • These sites are officially recognised by the UN and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, also known as UNESCO.
    • UNESCO believes that the sites classified as World Heritage are important for humanity, and they hold cultural and physical significance.

    Source: TH