THOSE who think that climate change is hype propagated by environmentalists should perhaps rethink such assertions. There is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that rising temperatures indeed pose a clear and present danger to man including in this country. Glacial lake outburst floods in Pakistan’s north may threaten regional villages in the summer months, according to officials of the Pakistan Meteorological Department. The fact is that in Pakistan, as in the rest of the world, glaciers are retreating even as rising temperatures, believed to be caused by global warming, are playing havoc with the ecosystem as glacial floods are becoming a yearly phenomenon. Meanwhile, large segments of the population are settled in floodplains as well as along the coastline, which is vulnerable to flooding. Blocking the natural flow of water to facilitate irrigation has also been cited as a reason for worsening floods. On the other hand, some glaciers in the north are thinning out at an alarming rate, while others have disappeared altoge-ther. Climate change means that not only does the frequency and intensity of floods increase, retreating glaciers may also result in rivers drying up.
While reversing climate change is not in the control of the state, steps can be taken to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. The installation of weather stations in Gilgit-Baltistan in order to help predict glacial floods and avalanches is a positive step, as solid data is essential for proper planning. Experts say that planned land use and sustainable agriculture can also play a role in lessening the impact of natural disasters. Also, along with contingency plans to evacuate communities before disaster strikes, disaster management bodies — especially at the district and local levels — must be made active. The key to save lives is to plan ahead and learn from previous disasters.