ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman has called upon the home departments, provincial disaster management authorities and provincial teams of PMD to take precautionary actions in an effective manner to mitigate against possible GLOF events and flash-floods in the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) due to increases in regional temperature.
She said, “The Ministry of Climate Change has issued an official warning in an advisory note addressed to the concerned organizations, with particular attention drawn towards the possible occurrence of glacial lake outburst floods and flash-floods in the KP and GB regions.
As per observations by the Ministry of Climate Change, there has been a climatic shift in the region which has led to an increase in GLOF events and flash floods. Whilst the NDMA is the competent authority for the matter, it is imperative for all of the stakeholders to take precautionary actions in an effective and timely manner to prevent any possible loss of lives or livelihood of vulnerable communities in the wake of any eventuality. This is the first time in decades that Pakistan is experiencing what many call a “spring-less year” in March 2022.”
She stated, “Due to a rise in temperatures, glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountain ranges (the Hindu Kush, Himalayas and Karakorum) are melting rapidly and a total of 3,044 glacial lakes have developed in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Of these, 33 glacial lakes have been assessed to be prone to hazardous glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF). GLOF are sudden events which can release millions of cubic metres of water and debris, leading to the loss of lives, property and livelihoods amongst remote and impoverished mountain communities.
Over 7.1 million people in GB and KP are vulnerable; in these areas, 26.7% and 22% of the population, respectively, are below the poverty line. Current initiatives are in place to help vulnerable communities prepare for and mitigate GLOF risks through early warning systems, enhanced infrastructure and community-based disaster risk management.
However, any further directives issued must be adhered to.”
She further stated, “South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan are faced with what has been a record-breaking heatwave. It started in early April and continues to leave the people gasping in whatever shade they find. The global weather forecasting organizations have predicted that temperatures in Pakistan and India this year could soar up to 49 to 50 degrees Celsius, which is a direct repercussion of climate stress. It has been predicted that temperatures in Pakistan could rise by 6 to 8 degrees Celsius above-average temperatures.
According to the Meteorological Department’s reports, March has remained the hottest month recorded since 1961. In addition to that, rainfall in this season was 62% less than in the previous years. The heatwave, unfortunately, came at an especially gruelling time during the holy month of Ramzan. Urban residents with tin or asbestos roofs have suffered the most. The outcome of unusually high temperature and insufficient rainfall is harmful to agriculture output and public health.”
She noted, “Frequent and intense droughts, storms, heatwaves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans are impending challenges faced as a result of climate change. These issues now directly harm animals, destroy their habitats, and wreak havoc on people’s lives and livelihoods. Local media has reported that early heatwaves are leading to fires on farms just as the winter wheat crop is ready to be harvested. The increased evaporation from reservoirs is a cause of concern for authorities especially as the country grapples with severe water scarcity. However, adaptation measures are key to boosting the climate resilience of the people, ecosystems and economies. Measures must be taken by the relevant federal and provincial stakeholders to deal with the negative fallouts of possible GLOF events, by building the capacity of individuals and communities to respond appropriately.”