Islamabad, May 27, 2018 (PPI-OT): Surging temperatures in Pakistan’s northern areas are causing formation of increased glacial lakes in the glacial areas in Gilgit-Baltistan region and Chitral district, which are aggravating socio-economic and environmental woes of the mountainous communities. But, all-out efforts are underway to mitigate the woes, said Mohammad Saleem, spokesperson for climate change ministry and environmental educationist.
“More and more glacial lakes are forming in remote mountain valleys in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral district because of warming temperatures. These pose serious risks to the lives and livelihoods of the climate-vulnerable communities,” he said while talking to media here on Sunday.
The media spokesperson pointed out that over the past eight to ten years, climate change induced disasters have become increasingly frequent and intense in the valleys on the heel of spiking temperatures. The floods are now common disasters in these rugged mountain terrain caused by glacial lakes and cloudbursts, he added.
The official said that the country’s northern region is home to over 5,000 glaciers. But many of them are melting at a much faster rate because of soaring average temperatures in the mountainous valleys. “In 2010 there were about 2,400 glacier lakes in Pakistan’s north. Presently, there are over 3,000 glacial lakes, 52 of them in the north on the verge of outburst anytime,” he elaborated.
The media spokesperson said that the number of such glacial lake formations is on rise. However, the number is most likely to spike as temperatures are rising constantly, which is also leading summers grow longer and warmer, and winters get shorter. These glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) occur when the ice walls containing the reservoir fail, sending entire lakes down to inhabited areas below. During such emergencies, there is severe loss of lives and physical assets.
The official said that after successful completion of the first phase of the five-year Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) project in 2015, the United Nation’s Green Climate Fund approved in October 2016 an amount of $36 million funding for second phase of the GLOF project. Work on this second phase of the project is being planned to start in next few months. He recalled that the Ministry of Climate Change had conceived the idea of the second phase of GLOF some two years ago and hammered out the project proposal in support with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“Mitigating the growing risks from the glacial lakes outbursts in the country’s north Northern, implementation of the GLOF project’s second phase is being mulled over with relevant stakeholders including Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP – Pakistan, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Pakistan Flood Commission, National and Provincial Disaster Management Authorities, community-based organisations, which will cover 15 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, benefiting 29 million people, the spokesperson Mohammad Saleem said.
The official highlighted that around 700,000 people will directly and about 30 million people will indirectly benefit from the project in many ways. Spelling out the expected outcomes and benefits of the GLOF Phase – II, Mr. Saleem said that 95 percent of households in target communities in KPK and Gilgit-Baltistan areas will be able to receive and respond to early warnings about glacial lake outbursts and consequent floods in their areas and take the appropriate mitigation actions to save their lives and livelihoods.
It will address climate change impacts and Glacial Lake Outbursts Floods (GLOF) risks by preventing loss of lives and community infrastructure based on a holistic approach in all seven districts of Gilgit-Baltistan and five districts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, thus, contributing to a climate-resilient sustainable development in the long-term.
Besides, 250 small-scale engineering structures will be established to reduce the effects of GLOF events on livelihoods, such as tree plantation, controlled drainage and mini dams, fifty weather monitoring stations will be set up in GLOF-vulnerable areas to gather meteorological data in catchment areas and 408 river discharge sensors will be put in place to obtain river flood data, the spokesperson added.
He further said that the measures would be also taken to enhance food security of the mountain communities in the country’s northern regions and reduce flood-related hazards caused due to deforestation, landslides, land erosion and inefficient water use. At least, 65,000 women would get training in home gardening and 240 water-efficient farming technologies would be set up and 35,000 hectares of land will be reforested to alleviate devastating impacts of GLOFs, the spokesperson Mohammad Saleem highlighted.
He also highlighted that the project would also strengthen sub-national institutional capacities to plan and implement climate change and disaster-resilient development pathways as proposed outputs and activities will develop the capabilities of local level institutions and federal level institutions to incorporate climate change adaptation considerations into development plans in G-B and K-P.
Talking about positive results of the first phase of the five-year $6.7 million GLOF project implemented in Bindo Gol valley of the Chitral District and Bagrot valley of Gilgit district, he said that the project helped vulnerable communities prepare for and mitigate GLOF risks through early warning systems, enhanced infrastructure and community-based disaster risk management, construct flood diversion walls around more than 10 vulnerable villages and establishment of flood early warning weather stations.
The project was implemented by the climate change ministry with generous funding and logistical support from the UN’s Adaptation Fund, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The media spokesperson Mohammad Saleem recalled, “When a glacial lake burst out in April 2014 and another in July 2015, both triggering flash floods in the Bagrot valley of the Gilgit district. But the flood diversion walls built under the first phase of the GLOF project saved lives of nearly 200 valley people, village properties and maize and vegetable crops from being washed away.”
“What we observed during our field visit that really surprised us was that the floodwater diversion structures diverted the floodwater flow off the settlements and croplands, allowing it gushing safely through the valley,” the official explained.
For more information, contact:
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, Islamabad, Pakistan