The Himalayas or Himalaya is the tallest mountain range in the world. Literally meaning the 'abode of snow' in Sanskrit, this natural wonder has the third largest deposit of snow and ice, after the poles. The Himalayas extend for some 2400 km, spanning Pakistan, India, Nepal, China and Bhutan. It is home for nine of the ten tallest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world which measures 8848 m. The mountain range is also the source of some major rivers in the world, such as Indus, Ganges and Bhramaputra. Himalaya serves as a natural border of India, and has played a big role in sketching the culture and lifestyle of the subcontinent. Himalaya has great significance in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Despite its amazing superlatives, the Himalaya is comparatively a younger mountain range. In fact, it is one of the youngest, with an age estimated to be around only 50 million years. A lot of research had gone into understanding the formation of Himalayas. It is believed to have been formed as a result of a collision between two tectonic plates, Indo-Australian and Eurasian.
According to German scientist Alfred Wagner's Theory of Continental Drift, there had been only a single large continent named Pangaea. The landmass then began to break up and move towards and from each other. About 200 million years ago, India was an island floating off the coast of Australia. It was separated from Asia by the Tethys ocean. As Pangaea began to break, the Indian plate began to drift towards Asia in North. It traveled more than 6000 km in a period of 150 million years before finally colliding with the Eurasian plate. The Tethys ocean went out of existence, having been closed by the Indian plate.
When collided, neither of the plates could be subducted because their crusts were of low density. Instead they were folded and faulted along the threshold, forming the Himalayan mountain range. The mountain grew over millions of years, assuming the current form.
The Indian plate is still drifting towards North, with a speed of 67 millimeters per year. As a result, the height of Himalaya is also increasing, with a rate of 5 millimeters per year, though impeded by erosion and gravity. The movement of Indian plate makes the area susceptible to seismic activities. Recurring earthquakes are evidence of the movement, and it will continue to rise in future years. Hence, the area is becoming more dangerous for living. Add to that unscientific construction practices, a catastrophe is waiting to happen.
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