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EDITORIAL: Glacial lake outburst in Gilgit-Baltistan and northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have become more and more frequent during the recent years due to global warming, threatening lives and livelihoods of over 7.1 million people.

In an advisory to the Provincial Disaster Management authorities and home departments in GB and KP issued on Friday, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman while noting that out of the 3,044 glacial lakes, 33 have been assessed to be prone to hazardous outbreak of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), directing them to take timely and effective action to prevent any loss of life and property.

Talking to journalists later in the day, she said this is the first time in decades that Pakistan is experiencing what many call a ‘spring-less year’. In fact, weather patterns have been changing for quite some time, with recurring cycles of droughts, floods and sea storms.

This year, erratic weather patterns seem to be causing hydraulic drought. According to Director of Pakistan Meteorological Department, the snowpack in the upper parts of the country has shrunk by 10,000 square kilometres. If that was not bad enough a persistent cloud cover has slowed the snow melting process. Rainfall has also been a lot less than normal.

As a result, water in both Mangla and Tarbela dams had been at dead level for the last two months, reducing water flow in the rivers to just 88,000 cusecs.

Nature has endowed Pakistan with as many as 7,253 glaciers which feed its river system providing sustenance to its agrarian economy. But climate change is taking its toll, which is to aggravate further as temperatures in this part of the world are likely to increase, due to its geographical location, by six to eight degrees in not-too-distant a future. Pakistan is already one of 10 countries most affected by climate change. That has serious implications for its water and food security, and in turn for the economy as well as human health and ecosystems.

This country lacks the resources to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies to cope with the challenge; it needs technical and financial support. It has been a while, actually seven years, since under the Paris Agreement, developed nations had committed to jointly mobilising $ 100 billion per year by 2020 to address the pressing mitigation and adaption needs of developing countries. So far they have not fully met that commitment. In any case, Pakistan is not known to have benefited from it.

Nonetheless, except for the ‘ten billion tree-plantation campaign’, on its part Pakistan has done little else to combat the risk staring the country and its people in the face. There are things that it could do on its own. For example optimal water conservation can be achieved by storing water from rains and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) rather than letting it to go waste. This does not require a big effort, small storage facilities could do. Because of lack of proper planning things are worsening. It is about time the government heard the alarm bells ringing and took necessary actions to deal with the challenges and risks posed by climate change.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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