Home Climate Change Glacial melting in Pakistan: An impending threat

Glacial melting in Pakistan: An impending threat

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Pakistan host more glaciers than any other place in the world outside of the polar regions. However, with the ongoing climate change, it is increasingly susceptible to sudden glacial meltwater outbursts, posing a significant threat of widespread destruction to its population.

The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), a mountainous region in the north of Pakistan,  has over 2000 glaciers, which are showing alarming signs of rapid melting.

Scientific studies confirm that glaciers like Hinarche in Bagrot valley, Gilgit, have retreated about one kilometer in the past 20 years. The Passu glacier is also diminishing over time. According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, climate change is “eating away Himalayan glaciers at a dramatic rate”.

The rapidly melting glaciers in GB are causing many to fear that the region could be affected by severe flooding, as witnessed in 2010. The danger lies in the glacial lakes that collect water as the glaciers melt, which can burst and cause flash flooding and pose a great risk to life. Several of such GLOF incidents have taken place in the past, causing losses to lives and property in the valleys.

 According to the United Nations Development Programme-Pakistan (UNDP), as of 2018, there were more than 3,000 such glacial lakes, of which 33 are “considered hazardous [with] more than 7 million people at risk downstream”.

The melting glaciers are also causing habitat loss for many species and damaging migratory routes. This poses a serious threat to the biodiversity of the region.

Leading environmental scientist Dr. Sajid Ali underscored the global implications of glacier melting, warning that the effects would extend beyond local communities, influencing weather patterns and contributing to rising sea levels worldwide.

On the future of glacier conservation in Pakistan, Professor Dr. Maisoor Ahmed of Karakoram International University emphasized the critical role of local communities in environmental preservation. With Pakistan boasting over 7,000 glaciers, second only to the polar regions, the rapid melting of these icy giants due to climate change is raising concerns about its far-reaching impacts.

Drawing from studies and expert opinions, Dr. Ahmed highlighted several key points regarding the involvement of local communities in conservation efforts. He emphasized the importance of establishing a shared vision among community members for conserving their natural environment and coexisting harmoniously with wildlife.

Furthermore, integrating indigenous and local knowledge into conservation strategies was deemed crucial for success. Indigenous peoples and local communities possess valuable ecological knowledge, making them essential partners in conservation and sustainable biodiversity management.

Environmental experts emphasized the significance of granting community property rights over resources, which can incentivize local protection, monitoring, and enforcement efforts. Moreover, increasing public participation, particularly among women, in decision-making processes related to conservation was deemed essential for effective implementation of conservation policies.

Highlighting the role of local communities in creating new conservation landscapes, Dr. Ahmed stressed the importance of aligning conservation practices with community interests to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

Local communities are considered as ’integral to the success of conservation efforts’ as their knowledge, participation, and vested interest in environmental preservation make them invaluable allies in combating climate change and biodiversity loss.

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