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LADAKH’S FIRST GLACIOLOGICAL SCIENTIST

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LADAKH’S FIRST GLACIOLOGICAL SCIENTIST

DR. JOSEPH THESTAN GERGAN

During the turbulent time of the Indian Partition, Joseph was born on 17th June, 1947 to Sodnam Skybladan Gergan and Florence C. Gergan; fifth in a family of six siblings. Beginning his schooling in Government Primary School Leh, Ladakh, he completed schooling in Kashmir with a couple of years at home followed by C.M.S. Tyndale Biscoe School from 1959 to 1964; glorious schooling under Eric Tyndale Biscoe and Rev. John Ray. It was in this period that he developed his adventure and mountaineering interests and physique, resulting later in forays with Colonel Chandan Nugyal(Retd.Maj. Gen.) and Captain Prem Chand Dogra (Retd. Colonel) of Siachen and Everest fames. Graduating from Amar Singh College Srinagar, post graduation and doctoral degrees were from Jammu University. With the research subject on “Stratigraphic and Tectonic Studies on the Indus Suture Belt between Dras and Kargil”, there were extensive surveys of the region, this being one of the pioneering studies by a local. After joining the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) Dehradun in 1977, major assigned project was the Geological Mapping of Eastern Karakoram in 1980 and 1982 with Sasoma(Nubra) to Daulat Beg Oldi(DBO) in the first and DBO to Shayok Village (Winter Route) in the second survey. He was the first Ladakhi geologist to work on the famous Karakoram Pass. This Karakoram mapping became an important reference for comparison with earlier one by iconic Indian geologist, Dr. D.N. Wadia.

In 1984, on deputation to Sikkim, Joseph spent four years of investigations on landslides in the State with focus on Gangtok City. The final report on Gangtok Landslides was commended by Sikkim Government.

Himalayan Glaciology Program was initiated by the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India in 1990. Under this, he led a Multi Disciplinary, Multi Institutional Glaciological Investigation of Dokriani Bamak Glacier in Garhwal Himalaya as the Principal Investigator cum Leader Glaciological Expeditions. Extensive studies on dynamics of glacier, climate changes and Ground Penetrating Radar(GPR) studies for ice depth and sub glacial topography, were conducted for a span exceeding a decade.

XXth Indian Antartica Expedition (2000) provided him the occasion to lead WIHG Group to undertake GPR Profiling of Eastern Antartica Ice to establish bedrock topography. He is the first Ladakhi scientist on Antartica investigations teams.

Post retirement (as Scientist F) in 2007, he is settled in Dehradun with his wife Leeza and two academically well accomplished children in the USA. He continues to actively contribute through scientific presentations in conferences/seminars, including those of Border Roads Organization for GLOF Occurrences, and Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI) in Leh.

DR. J.T. GERGAN’S GLACIOLOGICAL CONCERNS FOR LADAKH:

A. GLACIER STUDIES of Ladakh have not received due attention as these have deserved in the light of depleting water resources, especially by national agencies. International research has been of academic nature rather than applied. Ladakh’s glaciers, small and at high altitude, determining the water potential for agriculture, are alarmingly receding, endangering future. In view of the enormity of this problem, he advises a boosting of the present medium level work. Heavy responsibility lies on the present generation of glaciologists, primarily Ladakhis.

B. PERMAFROST MONITORING in Ladakh has been completely neglected, a study of the substantial water resources. For an example, Permafrost Cover in Ganglas Catchment is SIX TIMES that of the Phutse Glacier (other smaller being Nangtse) in its headwaters. This Permafrost (frozen layer under surface) in Ganglas and elsewhere, is essential to ecosystem with economic repercussions. Its importance is especially accentuated in Leh City where hundreds of bore wells significantly depend upon the groundwater recharge. Specific monitoring of Permafrosts of Ladakh has to be dedicatedly enhanced and consolidated.

FOR QUERIES on Glaciological studies of Ladakh/Himalayas, he may be contacted on: gerganjt1@gmail.com

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