52 glacial lakes termed dangerous
ISLAMABAD, April 11: At least 52 glacial lakes in Gilgit and Astore districts have been identified as ‘potentially dangerous’ by a project sponsored by the European Union and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project report titled “Managing climate risks in the Himalayas: A community-centric approach” says that in the sub-basins of Swat, Chitral, Gilgit, Hunza, Shigar, Shyok, upper Indus, Shingo, Astore and Jhelum (covering the Hindukush Himalayan region) there are 5,218 glaciers with 2,420 glacial lakes.
The report says the Hindukush Himalayan (HKH) region is “one of the most glacierised regions of the world” and monitoring of the size of the glacial lakes there has revealed that quite a few of them are expanding at an alarming rate due to accelerated glacier retreat and melting associated with climate change.
Work under the project was also carried out in Bhutan, India and Nepal.
The Regional Climate Risk Reduction Project supported by EU’s Humanitarian Aid Office and implemented by the UNDP was aimed to develop and implement a climate risk management programme to reduce the risks faced by mountain communities from various hydro-meteorological and climatic hazards and to mitigate their impacts.
The report also says the HKH region is one of the most hazard-prone regions of the world because of its susceptibility to earthquakes, landslides, floods, droughts, wildfires and cloudbursts.
The physical and socio-economic characteristics of the Himalayan region combined with changing risk factors such as environmental and climate change, population growth and economic globalisation have rendered the region highly vulnerable, according to the report.
Quoting studies, it says that most of the glaciers in the Himalaya have been shrinking at accelerated rates in recent decades.
As a result of the rapid melting of glaciers, glacier runoff and increasing frequency of flooding caused by glacier lake outbursts have served to enhance the likelihood of mudflow and avalanches.
Research by the meteorological department based on a long-term climate data reveals that the region which receives almost 65 per cent of the total monsoon rains in Pakistan has shifted 80km to 100km from the northeast towards northwest regions consisting of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northwest Punjab.
The 2010 floods that impacted over 10 per cent of Pakistan’s population were the outcome of an unprecedented magnitude of monsoon rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is mapping and monitoring glaciers and glacial lakes in the region and an inventory of potentially dangerous lakes has been developed Climate-related changes have been altering the hydrological cycle leading to fluctuations in precipitation patterns.
In most of the project districts, unpredictable precipitation is a dominant feature. Climate change can influence monsoon dynamics, cause summer precipitation levels to drop as well as delay the start of the monsoon season.
According to Wapda, it is expected that precipitation belts will undergo significant shifts in the coming years, which will have an impact on livelihoods related to agriculture and forestry.