Given the heavy snow in north and parts of central China, it seems perverse that more than half a billion Chinese living along the rivers that flow from the Himalayas are at risk from water shortages as a result of disappearing glaciers. That assessment comes from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development following a survey of the region conducted jointly by China, India, Pakistan and Nepal. The report (pdf), released at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, says the Himalayas are warming more rapidly than the world overall because the rate of change is faster at higher altitudes.
One of the five field studies for the report was conducted in Yunnan, which contains the headwaters of Asia six largest rivers. One of its findings is that a shift in the monsoon season, said to be a result of global warming, has triggered more frequent landslides in the mountains and more drought in lowlands. Another is that the increased use of fertilizer is polluting water supplies and becoming a threat to public health. Recommendations include intensifying afforestation efforts to control landslides and soil erosion in the uplands, and restoring more responsibility for water-resource management to the hands of village-level organizations.
For all the grand plans being discussed in Copenhagen, it will be billions of small actions like these on a local level that will undo the damage of the billions of small actions that have contributed to global warming.