Gilgit-Baltistan:Environment Experts Say 52 Glaciers in Mountainous Regions of Pakistan have Dangerous Tendencies of more Disasters

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ISLAMABAD (D.Times): Speaking at a seminar, environment experts highlighted that 52 glaciers in mountainous regions of Pakistan have dangerous tendencies and warned of more disasters like Attabad Lake and recent avalanche in Gayari area of Siachen.

They were expressing their views at the media launch of a climate change adaptation project titled “Reducing Risks and Vulnerabilities from Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) in northern region of Pakistan”, on Monday. GLOF project worth of $4.1 million is the first ever of its kind won by Pakistan under the Climate Change Adaptation Fund and is being executed by the Ministry of Disaster Management and UNDP.

This project is also aimed at measuring for averting future disasters and build capacity of the stakeholders to cope with any situation emerging out of glacial outburst. Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, the climate affairs adviser; Malik Amin Aslam, former minister of state for environment; Ghazanfar Ali of Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), Muhammad Javed Malik, the Ministry of National Disaster Management secretary, Saleemullah of the OIC, Environment and Climate Change, UNDP Pakistan and other spoke on the occasion.

The climate change experts stated that 52 glaciers and glacial lakes out of total 5,218 glaciers and 2,420 lakes located in the Gilgit-Baltistan could affect communities through unusual outburst.

Shedding light on the GLOF, they said such an event occurs when a lake contained by a glacier or a terminal ice dam fails. This can happen due to erosion, a buildup of water pressure, an avalanche of rock or heavy snow, earthquake or volcanic eruption under the ice, or if a large portion of a glacier breaks off and massively displaces the waters in a glacial lake at its base.

Dr Qamar Zaman, adviser to the Defence Ministry and author of Climate Change Policy of Pakistan, said that global warming is the most dangerous phenomenon the human beings have created. “Pakistan is among the lowest emitters but among the top 10 and most vulnerable countries,” he said and pointed to recent extreme weather events and erratic monsoon rains resulting in devastating floods. Underlining adaptation and mitigation measures, he suggested a gradually shift to renewable energy, noting that 10,000 square kilometres wind corridor in coastal areas of Pakistan has a potential to produce 45,000MW electricity. “We also need sustainable cities and green buildings to cope with this future challenge.”

He warned that if the temperature increases by 2 degree Celsius today, by the end of this century, it will be devastating. “We need global action but our own efforts to protect our people will count more,” he said. Douglas Hageman, UNDP deputy country director, said that Pakistan realised urgency of adaptation to climate change and UNDP had been supporting various projects in Gilgit-Baltistan since 1996.

He said GLOF was an emerging challenge for the entire Hindukush and Himalaya region and emphasised the need to share regional knowledge and experiences to overcome this challenge.

Ghazanfar Ali said mountains located in north east of the countries were not studied in the past. But after knowing the realities, it is imperative to efficiently use our resources before these water towers become nuisance for us.

He said GLOF is an old phenomenon, and observed that avalanches and landslides result in lakes outburst of already existing lakes with those under the hanging glaciers becoming more dangerous. He asked the policy makers and decision-making bodies to seriously consider glaciers’ mass, slope of bedrock, structures of lake and outflow and lengths of the valley under threat.

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