Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan has a unique and vital role in the sustainable development of Pakistan. Nature has endowed this area with high mountain ranges, massive glaciers, glorious rivers, and magnificent valleys. This article is all about climate change in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan is rich for biological diversity. It includes most important forests, extensive mineral resources, and hosts for many of the world’s endangered species. Gilgit-Baltistan is dominated by one of the world’s most significant landscapes. It contains 101 peaks, above 7,000 meters (IUCN 2003).
Climate Change in Gilgit-Baltistan: Mountain Ranges
Northern Pakistan hosts three of the largest and most spectacular mountain ranges in the world, the Himalayas, the Karakorams, and the Hindukush.
Glaciers of Gilgit-Baltistan
With northern Pakistan, there are 5,218 glaciers and 2420 glacial lakes, 52 of which have been classified as potentially dangerous Glaciers in Pakistan recede at an average rate of nearly 40 to 60 meters per decade and pose a threat to the region and to the 1,3 billion people living in the basins of the nine river systems covered by the HKH glaciers.
The threat of climate change is almost impossible to overstate. Global warming will have catastrophic effects such as accelerating the rise of the sea level, droughts, floods, storms and heatwaves.
This will affect some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, disrupting food production, and threatening vitally important species, habitats, and ecosystems.
Climate Change in Gilgit-Baltistan: 52 Glacial lakes termed dangerously
The 62 kilometer Baltoro Glacier is one of the longest glaciers outside the Polar Regions. A project sponsored by the European Union and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has identified at least 52 glacial lakes in the Gilgit and Astore districts as potentially dangerous.
Climate Change in Gilgit-Baltistan and Floods in the area
Since June 2013, Gilgit-Baltistan has suffered extensive flooding, though this was caused not so much by heavy rainfall in the area as by high temperatures resulting in increased runoff from the melting glaciers.
Landslides are a common problem following severe weather events, as the excess pore water pressure can overcome soil and sediment cohesion, allowing them to flow like liquids. The area also suffered significant floods in 2010 and 2011, due to the melting of glaciers.
Retreating Himalayas in Gilgit Baltistan
Glacial retreat is a phenomenon that scientists normally attribute to global warming; it is caused by an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities such as deforestation. Glacial retreat bodes ill for all of the region’s villagers whose livelihoods depend directly on their cultivation.
Human activities are the main cause of snow melting
Two nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India battle in Siachen, in the Gilgit-Baltistan mountain glaciers, at 5,653 meters above sea level. In addition to billions of dollars on each side on military extravaganzas at Siachen, the war has cost 5000 lives on both sides by now.
Since India and Pakistan are at war in Siachen, preliminary infrastructures such as ports, helipads, and pipelines have been developed to supply kerosene to their camps.
Climate Change in Gilgit-Baltistan and Deforestation
Overall forest resources in Pakistan are minimal, covering just 4.8 percent of the total land area, well below a country’s average 25 percent forest cover level. Most of Pakistan ‘s natural forest resources are concentrated in the mountainous regions, where there is more than 60 percent of the country ‘s natural forest resources.
Climate Change in Gilgit-Baltistan and loss of capital
Over the past 20 years, 140 climate-change triggered events in Pakistan had resulted in an average of 500 deaths each year and a loss to the country’s economy of $200 million.
The average temperature had risen globally by 2 degrees Celsius in the last 120 years. Pakistan ‘s temperature had risen by 0.57 degrees centigrade. The sea level had risen by 1.2 mm per annum and is likely to rise by 40 mm in 2100.
Studies have shown that glaciers feeding the Indus will disappear by 2035, and they are rapidly melting, and water conservation needs the hour for Pakistan to ensure sufficient water is available for future generations.
Pakistan needs to focus on agriculture, to improve the infrastructure for water storage and distribution. Over 20 years, the extreme weather calamities resulted in Pakistan losses worth 0.7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product ( GDP). The Climate Risk Index for 1993-2010 for 2014 ranks Pakistan by climate-related events as the 12th most affected region.
Impact of Climate Change in Gilgit-Baltistan on livelihoods
Livelihoods are becoming more aware of climate change. The region’s people earn their livelihoods from the agriculture sector that is vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.
Climate factor variability, temperature, humidity, increased CO2 levels; flooding and land sliding are factors influencing productivity in agriculture. Rising temperature and humidity lead to outbreaks of disease born from insect/pest sun.
Climate change in Gilgit-BaltistanPre and post-harvest losses (reduced fruit and vegetable quantity and quality) Soil erosion, flooding, land sliding lead to road blockage and irrigation channels.
Impact on Health Conditions
Another significant effect on health issues from climate change is. Health is affected either by the direct impact of changes in temperature, droughts, or floods or indirectly due to climate-induced economic disruptions caused by factors such as crop failure, mudslides and associated malnutrition and famine. The spread of diseases like malaria, dengue, diarrhea, etc. will affect more health.
Gilgit-Baltistan communities can not respond to such massive destructive events, caused by climate change like floods and droughts.
Long-term projects or community-based disaster risk management, adaptations and mitigation activities should be undertaken to enhance Gilgit-Baltistan ‘s livelihoods, ecosystems, biodiversity and infrastructure.
In order to ensure the prosperity of agriculture and food security in the region, both India and Pakistan should decide to retreat from their glacial warzones and be more attentive to their preservation;
A new international climate agreement is the need of time.
- Promoting energy efficiency: the most rapid and cost-effective way to reduce CO2 emissions.
- Promoting renewable energy sources: wind, solar, and geothermal power.
- Preventing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.
- Developing and promoting climate change adaptation strategies.