Soaring temperatures pace up glacial melt in Pakistan’s north

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ISLAMABAD, May 27 (APP):Growing average temperatures in Pakistan’s north, have increased the melting pace
of glaciers, said Mohammad Saleem, spokesperson for Climate Change Ministry and
environmental educationist.
He said, “This may lead to initially a heightened water flows in the Indus river and
its various tributaries, located in Gilgit-Baltistan region and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
province and then follow the depleted flows.”
While the glacial-fed 3,180-km long Indus river, one of the longest rivers in Asia,
supports biodiversity, ecosystems of temperate forests and food systems in the
country, its sustained flows are vital to the country’s socio-economic, environmental
and ecological sustainability.
Talking to APP in an exclusive interview on Sunday, 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.
“Presently, the glacial melt is among major global warming-caused risk Pakistan
is faced with. Other risks include sea-level rise, floods, higher than average
temperature, a higher frequency of droughts and expanding desertification,” the
Climate Change spokesperson told APP during the interview.
He further said that Pakistan’s weather scientists have already shown through
findings of their various scientific studies based on satellite imagery and field-based
studies that there is strong evidence that glaciers in Karakoram mountain range in
upper Indus Basin are melting at a higher pace.

“The rising temperatures in snow-covered areas in Gilgit-Batistan and Chital district
are causing mountain streams and rivers swell alarmingly in summer months and
burst their banks. Resultantly, this is causing flooding and damages to community
infrastructures,” he explained.

Another big environmental tragedy the country is facing in recent years is the significant
decline in snowfall season and quantum of snowfall .

“The country’s northern regions used to receive snowfall from October to February and
in some cases as late as March. But, what we observed and heard the mountain
communities saying during our field visit two years ago that snow falls during January
and February that too in low quantity,” he observed.
He highlighted that low snow accumulation and spiking warming temperatures are
also causing snowline to recede in the glacier areas, particularly in Karakoram
mountain range.

Quoting findings of the studies of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, he
said, “over last more than 30 years the snow line has receded by over 1.1
kilometres. Apart from it, uphill migration of animals and plants has been
observed that are clear indicator that glaciers are shrinking.”

He told APP that the findings based on glacier monitoring station at the Passu
glacier (having ice reserves of nearly 10.89 cubic km) near Gojal vallly in
Gilgit-Baltistan, has showed that the glacier has retreated by 25 metres in
last one year.

He said that even during peak summer months, temperature never used to go
beyond 28 Celsius in most of the mountain valleys in the country’s northern
region. But for the last nearly eight years, these mountain valleys are in grip
of spiking summer temperatures that rose up to 46 Celsius.

The rising temperatures have also affected precipitation patterns in these
areas, he told APP.

“What we heard from the communities there in mountain valleys was that rain
falls in the month of snowfalls. Besides, snow hardly falls only on mountain
peaks while sloppy grounds in mountain areas either do not receive snowfall
or receive in low quality. However, rainy spells are replacing snowfall spells
in the areas like Hunza, Skardu, Chitral, Gojal, Phander, Ghizer, Gulmit, etc,”
the spokesperson elaborated.

He suggested that that paced up glacial melt and decline in snowfalls quantum
and duration, forewarn a scary water availability scenario for the country.

“Pakistan is caught into a quagmire of rapidly shirking water availability for
agriculture, household and industrial needs and has already suffered more
than five-fold decline in per capita water availability over last around 86
years,” the official said.
The Climate Change Ministry Spokesperson suggested that building more
water reservoirs, adopting low-carbon energy sources such as solar, wind,
hydro, promoting rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharging systems,
enhancing efficient water management and use, particularly in agriculture
sector, which accounts for 94-96percent of the water use and boosting
public awareness about water conservation can help the country survive
socio-economic and environmental repercussions of depleting water
resources.