Glacier melting

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One can attribute melting of glaciers in the regions to Global Warming due to many factors. Floods from glaciers melting can be devastating to the infrastructure in surrounding areas. Such floods are known as Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), and occur when a glacial lake dammed by a glacier is inundated beyond its capacity. These lakes build up over time as a result of glacial thinning and retreat, and floods can occur due to erosion, water pressure, glacier melting or avalanches. Due to the changing behaviour of glaciers and rainfall patterns in Northern Pakistan, the volumes of these lakes as well as the probability of discharge from them has greatly increased. When this catastrophic event occurs, the water carries boulders and debris alongside it downstream damaging the infrastructure, houses and crop lands resulting in scores of life losses alongside economic devastation.
In order to solve this pertinent issue, a joint effort should be made by the Government of Pakistan, Ministry for Climate change and the Pakistan Meteorological Department. One of the main hurdles in preventing GLOF’S is the lack of technical knowledge available about these glacial lakes. While research has been carried out in the Gilgit-Baltistan and Ghanche districts, huge gaps in knowledge persist due the vast terrain and its rugged topography which makes the glacial region inaccessible. Research has been intermittent, uncoordinated, myopic and is credited to an assortment of institutions and individuals.
The GoP alongside ICIMOD(International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) should take an inventory of these glacial lakes and identify sub-glacial lakes which have a potential for causing GLOF’S . To date, 2500 lakes have been identified, 52 of which pose a potential threat. However, if this issue is to be tackled, further information is to be required. The GoP should forge collaborations with international organizations such as the WWF or ICIMOD or the WMO (Worlds meteorological organization) in order to map out risk or hazard maps to illustrate which areas are most vulnerable for flooding by GLOF’S. Virtual monitoring tools such as satellite or radar maps can be useful in this regard too.
Hassan Imran Faiz
Lahore

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