Himalayas: The climate time bomb threatening India

In the world's highest mountain range, global warming threatens thousands of glaciers, resulting in increasingly frequent natural disasters: landslides, avalanches and glacier collapses. Our reporters Alban Alvarez and Navodita Kumari travelled to the small northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, where these disasters are compounded by a rush to develop infrastructure such as hydroelectric dams.

Up in the foothills of the Himalayas, the region of Uttarakhand is getting the Indian government’s attention. The state of 10 million inhabitants, bordering both China and Nepal, has become a vast open-air building site. The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi fully intends to take advantage of the region’s geographical position to make it a hub for renewable energy.

India, the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter, which gets 80 percent of its electricity from coal, is counting on the large-scale construction of hydroelectric power stations in the region to achieve carbon neutrality by 2070. Uttarakhand certainly has assets: the state is home to dozens of rivers, especially the Ganges and the Yamuna, the country’s largest waterways. But in addition to being located in a seismic zone, Uttarakhand is threatened by global warming, resulting in the accelerated melting of its glaciers.

For the past decade, the region has experienced natural disasters every year: landslides, avalanches, glacier collapses and even "cloudbursts" – sudden storms that can destroy a valley in a few minutes. In 2013, some 10,000 Hindu pilgrims died there during sudden bad weather while praying at a religious site. The bodies of almost 4,000 of them were never found.