Sana JamalTuesday, April 17, 2012 - Islamabad—At a time when glacier melting is a burning issue in Pakistan, concerned experts met here on Monday to highlight the emerging climate-change challenges and to reduce threats of floods in Northern Pakistan. To mitigate the risks caused by sudden discharge of a huge volume of water from glacial lakes, a first of its kind project titled “Reducing Risks and Vulnerabilities from Glacier Lake Outburst Floods” in Northern Pakistan (GLOF Project) was launched.
Pakistan’s first Climate Change Adaptation project would focus on mitigating risks stemming out from the Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF). The project, managed by the Ministry of National Disaster Management in collaboration with UNDP, would be implemented in two pilot sites: Bagrot Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan and Drongagh Valley Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Calling the GLOF as ‘Mountain tsunami in the making’, Jawed Ali Khan, DG Environment and Climate Change explained that “the objective of the project is to develop human and technical capacity of public institutions to understand and address immediate GLOF risks for vulnerable communities in Northern Pakistan” and to enable local communities to adapt to climate change pressures by responding to GLOF risks.
“Climate changes pose risks as well as opportunity to a region like Pakistan, rich in biodiversity,” asserted Dr. Qamar uz Zaman Chaudhry, Advisor on Climate Affairs. “Pakistan is the lowest emitter of greenhouse gas but the worst sufferer which justifies the urgent need to implement the GLOF project” he stressed. Global warming trend and challenges such as avalanches, massive landslide, and cloud bursts, and threat of GLOF was greater in Pakistan than global average change which calls for adaptation measures, he added.
“Northern Pakistan is home to 5218 glaciers, and 2420 glaciers lakes out of which 52 lakes have been classified as potentially dangerous”, informed Dr. Arshad Muhammad Khan, Director of Global Change Impact Studies Centre. “However Pakistan could not initiate any extensive research on glaciers due to harsh weather condition and non-accessibility to the region” he added.
The Hindu Kush Himalayan region contains the largest area in the world covered by glaciers and has about 15,000 glaciers which is nature’s renewable storehouse of fresh water. The glaciers in Pakistan are receding at a rate of almost 40-60 meters per decade posing threat to the region is also the cradle of nine major river systems in Asia whose basins are home to over 1.3 billion people.
Douglas Hageman, the Deputy Country Director from UNDP, speaking at the launch said that “GLOF is an important emerging challenge of the entire Hindu Kush Himalaya region” and emphasised to share regional knowledge and experiences to overcome the GLOF issues.
Muhammad Javed Malik the Secretary of the Ministry of National Disaster Management said that the “project is timely and would help local communities in reducing the risks from the floods and will also help to minimise the losses to property, lives and livelihoods of the people of Pakistan.”