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Climate change and the aftermath in Gilgit-Baltistan: Why is it important for GB to stay below 1.5°C

Today the world is focusing more on traditional security issues with great zeal. Almost every country is spending a huge amount of their budget on their defense and security, but the common enemy of mankind, regardless of their religion, race and nationality, is climate change. Climate change is one of the Non-Traditional Security Issues — prominent and eminent in nature and the most neglected issue since the industrialization of the world.

Pakistan, being one of the developing countries where problem abounds, is also facing the same issues. The northern part of Pakistan known as Gilgit- Baltistan is the home to the most beautiful snow caped mountains. It has the longest glaciers in the world, is home to warm and cold springs, and known for its beautiful landscape, besides one of the most favorite tourist spots in the world.

Gilgit Baltistan observes all seasons of the year. But recently it has been observed that the weather is changing and it is becoming warmer every year. Summers are becoming longer and warmer than before; heavy snowfall has been recorded in April 2017 in a village Gulmit Hunza that is quite unusual; increase in heavy rainfalls than before have often been resulting in flooding. Glaciers are melting fast, triggering GLOFs in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is another major concern for the people living in the area.

Heavy snowfall recorded in Gulmit Gojal Hunza in April 2017

I have interviewed several people from Gilgit especially from Gojal Hunza who are aged person and they have been experiencing the environment since their childhood moreover they have been the eye witnesses of climate change in the area. One of them is Mr. Ahamad a local resident and a farmer from Gojal. He has been supporting his whole family by vending cherries, apricots and potatoes from his small farming land in Gojal a thesil of Hunza Disrtict.

Question: Since you have been a permanent resident of Gojal and you have been witnessing so many changes from your childhood till now what is the first thing you are afraid of as in climate change?

“I have been living in this beautiful land from last 70 years and I have seen so many changes from my childhood till now. One of the serious issues that really terrify me is glacier melting. From last 8 years it has become very serious issue in this area, it has destroyed our economic and disrupted our social life and mobility.’’

Question: How and when did glacier melting affect your life would you like to elaborate?

“I still remember the day; I had a small but very productive farming land where I had been growing potato and some fruits and from that I supported my family, my children where in schools and colleges this was my only earning my farming land was near the KKH Karakorum Highway Road and quite near to Ghulkin Glacier this land was owned by my grandfather and the glacier never disturbed our life till the disaster happed in the summers 2009. The glacier water used to flow on its original route and that day it took a shape of a flood and the water took multiple ways in the form of flood it not only destroyed the whole crops and vegetables but it also disconnected the main KKH road it was the most tensed situation in my life because there was nothing left for me to feed my children and to pay their school and college fee. After the flood was gone I tried to restore that place for farming but it was immensely destroyed and after few years again the same thing happened in the summers and that area now belong to the glacier because every year, especially in the summers water coming from the glacier finds its ways through it.”

Question: what are the major changes that you have been seeing from last 50 years till now and how would you compare the climate of 50 years back with 2017?

“It is totally different now we did not use to have such harsh summers, which we are observing from last few years. We do not need to go too much far in the history if we go back in late 1990’s, it was totally different. Now I feel like that I am in some city of Pakistan. Even in the summers we used to feel the cold breeze of glaciers, we never used fans in our houses; but now I have seen people installing fans in their houses and shops. Every year there is an increase in the temperature that results in flood, heavy rain falls and shrinking of the glaciers.”

In 19th of April 2017 what happened in Gulmit village was shocking to everyone and moreover not even a single media noticed it. There are several water channels used for irrigation that bears a certain amount of water , what happened a few days ago was due to glacier lake outburst the water channels couldn’t handle the water level and due to the over flowing of water it destroyed the main link road of village Gulmit and several farming lands. This is the first case in the history of the Gulmit Gojal that a water channel took a shape of flood and made such destruction.


Image of Gulmit Link Road after the glacier lake out burst

It has become necessary to strive to stay below 1.5°C, if we want avoid the devastating effects of global warming in Gilgit-Baltistan. Otherwise all the affects that have been just started will be doubled every year and it will be very difficult to control. The only solution is to stay below 1.5°C and to achieve this goal the government of Gilgit Baltistan needs to take some steps to control it by looking to this issue seriously.

Note: Some names have been changed by the author to protect the identity of certain individuals.

About The Author

Ibrar Karim is a graduate of the National Defence University, Islamabad. He holds a master’s degree in Strategic Studies. His has a passion to write about the environment, information security, and transnational crimes. At present, he is doing a research on non-traditional security issues. He can be reached atibrarkarim6@gmail.com
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