The fast meltdown of the Tibetan and Xinjiang glaciers - the major source of Asia's biggest rivers - is seriously threatening the survival of major rivers, including the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Yellow River, the Indus and the Ganges, according to a recent study by climatologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
The study, which began in 2000, said that at certain spots, the world's highest glaciers had melted by up to an alarming 17 percent.
"About 4.2 percent of the glaciers have disappeared since the previous survey was carried out between 1956 and 1980," said Liu Shiyin, a researcher at the CAS' renowned Cold and Arid Regions Environment and Engineering Research Institute in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province.
"The shrinking of glaciers has picked up speed in the past decades. While there might be more water in the rivers at present because of the increased melting, in the long run, the glacier water will decrease, and droughts will follow," he said.
According to Shiyin, the most drastic melting has been observed at the origin of the Yellow River in the Mount Anemaqen on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, a massive 17 percent shrinkage in the past four decades.
Elsewhere in the Qomolangma and its surrounding areas in the central-north part of the Himalayas, glaciers has shrunk by nine percent, while at the western parts which feeds the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Indus and the Ganges, the glaciers has shrunk by eight percent.
Shiyin said people living in the Gansu Corridor (or Hexi Corridor), a chain of oases linking China's central plains with its western frontier of Xinjiang, have been hit most by the meltdown's consequences, especially desert expansion.
Glaciers in the Qilian Mountains have for centuries been the most important water source in the area which has little rainfall, and they have been reduced by eight percent in the past decades, China Daily quoted Shiyin as saying.