The Siachen Glacier, the second longest glacier in the world in non-polar areas, is found in the Karakoram Range of the Himalayas in the disputed region of Kashmir. The glacier covers 76 km from its head at the Indira Pass on the Sino-Indian border to its terminus, its altitude rising from 5,753 m to 3,620 m above sea level. The Siachen Glacier is bordered to the north by the great drainage ditch, a ditch separating the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian plate in the Karakoram region. Although India administers the entire glacier region as part of the Ladakh Union Territory, Pakistan also claims the region and controls the area west of the glacier.
At 76 kilometers, the Siachen Glacier is the longest glacier in the Karakoram range and the second longest non-polar glacier in the world. The glacier lies east of the main Karakoram range and west of the Saltoro ridge, falling from an elevation of 5,753m at its head in the Indira Pass to 3,620m at the end point. It lies northeast of the northernmost point of the Pakistan-India line of control in the disputed region of Kashmir. The glacial system covers an area of approximately 700 km², separating Central Asia from the Indian subcontinent.
The Siachen Glacier region experiences extremely cold climatic conditions, with temperatures dropping to -50 ° C. Winter snowfalls exceed 1,000 cm, with the area experiencing high winds and avalanches. The Siachen Glacier is the main source of the 80 km long Nubra River, a major tributary of the Shyok River. The Shyok River feeds the 3,180 km long Indus River, which is the water source for the world’s largest irrigation system.
Litigation and conflict
The Siachen region is the subject of a territorial dispute between Pakistan and India, with the two countries claiming sovereignty over it. US and Pakistani maps from the 1970s and 1980s contained a dotted line on the LoC from NJ9842 to Karakoram Pass. However, India felt that the dotted line violated the Shimla Agreement and may be a mapping error. India took control of the Siachen Glacier in 1984 as part of Operation Meghdoot after obtaining information about Pakistan’s plans to occupy the region. Pakistani troops reached the area and discovered that India had already occupied the glacier, including the Saltoro Ridge.
The Siachen Glacier is considered the highest battlefield in the world, with India and Pakistan fighting there since 1984. Troops from both countries have maintained their presence in the region up to an altitude of over 6,000. mr. However, both countries have lost more troops due to the harsh climate than the conflict itself. According to Indian authorities, the country has lost 869 soldiers in the Siachen Glacier between 1984 and today due to harsh weather conditions. Due to the high cost of military outposts, India and Pakistan wish to resolve the territorial dispute. However, India insists that Pakistan must recognize the current line of control in order for it to withdraw from the region.
The strong military presence is a major threat due to melting glaciers and pollution. Both troops depend on glacial ice as their primary source of water for their livelihood. However, they use chemicals to cut and melt glacial ice. In addition, troops also dump large amounts of garbage, including non-biodegradable material. Thus, the presence of military personnel on the glacier is the main cause of glacial retreat. According to a study by the Pakistan Meteorological Department, the size of glaciers has shrunk by about 35% and is currently shrinking by 110 meters per year. Military activities have also affected the flora and fauna of the region, with nearly every species at risk, including the snow leopard, ibex, and brown bear, found here.