The Angry Mountain Calling; A Story from Nagar Valley

The Angry Mountain Calling; A Story from Nagar Valley

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Raja Tariq Abbas

A place of exception and natural beauty;  that hosts the peaks like Dastagil Sar (7,888M), Rakaposhi (7,788M), Diran (7,266M), Golden Peak (7,027M); where tourists setRaja Tariq Abbas
their destination to places like Minapin, Hoper and Ghulmat;  where snow-leopard and Ibex lives in Bar and Chalt valleys in great harmony with nature; where hidden gems and mineral are explored on sky touching mountains of Summayar and Asqurdas; where horticultural wealth is embedded in its rich soil and cultivation is extremely fertile in places like Hoper; where breath taking panoramic views of Rush Lake, snowcapped mountains of Hispar, and   longest glacier ranges of Biafo makes people poet…! Indeed natural beauty and magnificence lay under the hills and pasture, a fine example of natural scheme which comprises an area of almost 5,000 km², really one of the big wonders and pride but also a matter of affection for those who love to see the mountains, considering with all these characters the world name it ‘Nagar valley’ that locates in one of the great mountain range of Karakorum in Pakistan.

 The Karakorum mountain range literally known as ‘black gravels’ is well famous for its high altitude glaciers above 3500M which are source of water for thousands of people towards downstream (Indus Basin). One of the incredible facial appearances of these glaciers are advancing or melting with lower rate as compare to other glaciers of the world because of the dynamics processes of climate and its local topography. This un-comparable or unmatched characteristic of this frozen water is known as ‘Karakorum Anomaly’. These glaciers have certain time for snow accumulation in the winter and ablation in the summer; while on the other hand, sporadic avalanches during the season of spring.

The mountains surrounding the Nagar valley characterized by the extreme steepness; their higher parts and the entire slope of those are heavy coated with ice and snow. Such a reflection about this valley can be obtained from a book of narrative of exploration and mountaineering namely “The Call of The Snowy Hispar” by William Hunter Workman and, Fanny Bullock Workman in 1907: About Chalt the authors say as:

 “A short distance beyond Chalt the peerless massif of Rakaposhi, 25,550 feet, called by the Hunza Nagar people Domani, first comes into view. Not  a dozen miles away it bursts upon the eye, filling  a long gap between lesser mountains, a glorious 18,000 feet of steep, broken snow-slopes, culminating in pointed icy summits”.

The authors narrate the topography of Hispar as:

“From here to Hispar the whole region is wild and savage to the last degree. The valleys are   narrow, and enclosed by vast walls of verdureless glacial débris, scarred and gullied by weather and water-action, above which rise shaggy, serrated, torn and riven peaks, their upper portions towering far into the domain of eternal snow.” 

The authors in this narrative further refer to a sketch of ‘Geography and Geology of the Himalaya Mountains,’ of Colonel Burrard who has truly said about the valley:

“Few summits are strictly peaks, the majority being rather combs or knobs rising out of prolonged ridges.”

The snow  settle into hanging ice-falls on their ridges and spice with great, stratified cornices, from time to time breaking away frequently give rise to snow avalanches which may cause highly prone and vulnerable to livelihood, agriculture fields and human settlement which can  sweep the whole mountain-flanks down resulting various environmental problems in these areas. For example the water channels connected to beds of rivers may hit that reasons scarcity to unknown period unless the huge debris of snow avalanche melts fully. Also the time of giving raise of avalanche, piercing sound arises which compelled a wild creature mostly birds to shift its habitat. Beside all these hindrances one can never  feel a sense of security from this ever threatening foe, often it brings  calamity to human life as In 1984 three women belong to Skandarabad village in same Rakaposhi area lost their lives from this attack whose bodies were discovered later on.

Enclosing the mount Skandarabad, the two streams at high pasture in Nilt namely ‘Payoone’ and ‘Lixchee’ toward north face are situated which fall downhill in main stream which shapes a vast  grazing  area called ‘Shal-e-Har’ the two words of brushahki language means the stream of snow avalanche joins with Nilt village in the end. Again Interestingly this time during the early winters in the month of October a small avalanche was occurred through the volatile slopes of ‘Payoone’ stream passing all the way downhill by making its own way to deposition zone (Shal-e-Har) where the tongue of this snow debris can be observed almost closed to the Karakorum Highway (KKH) road.

nagar 1

“Let me explain to you the reason of calling ‘Payoone’ and ‘Lixchee’ to these streams, the two words of isolated dying language of Shina speakers” said 80 year old legend polo player Ex-Captain NLI polo team Raja Ahmad Khan of Nilt Nagar.

“Payoone means enormous, rich or wealthy. By the time of giving raise of such avalanches the people run towards the snow debris with purpose of collecting the wood.  Since the primitive ages it is common deem in Nilt village that snow avalanche from Payoone stream brings along the trees so people feel happy to receive it. Whosoever win the race to see it he collects the woods according to his capacity by come first win first rule, it has been like a kind of gift to people. No nasty fight has been seemed ever to obtain the woods by people thus harsh winter passes by happily. On the other hand the Lixchee’s stream no gift was recorded to be received from avalanche as there is no enough forest available on the top, that’s why people call it Lixchee means poor so it is considered as unfortunate stream!!!” Further He added.

 “Somehow the recent snow avalanche occurred from the ‘Payoone stream’. It could be worst than ever, if the timing of recent recorded seismic shocks on 26th Oct 2015 (7.5 in magnitude) felts in whole country would have caused to give raise this avalanche. This catastrophe (snow avalanche) took place earlier lucky and entire Nilt village remained safe from any disaster. Neither it crossed the Karakorum highway nor hit any human settlement as we have experience of seeing it before, like in 2013 it destrroyed fields and many animals were swept to death.” With Miserable expression on face 80 years old legend polo players Raja Ahmad ended up his talk by saying.

Snow Avalunche-1 (2)

“The only moment of surprise is why it occurred so early…? March and April are the months when most avalanches tend to happen! Even the snow precipitation is yet on the way and winter season is ahead. For the reason of suitable answer my opinion would be the continuous rain falling over 3 days I think… but scientific knowledge can give respond to this. Our understating is limited to know the causes no doubt weather is warmer we feel now a days.”

White Book an understanding about when and where do these avalanches most likely to occur provided by RECCO (Avalanche Rescue System) tells:

“The risk of an avalanche increases during major snowstorms and periods of thaw. More than three-quarters of avalanches release during or just after large snowstorms. There is no rule of thumb on how much new snow will cause conditions to become dangerous, but the greater the snowfall, the greater the stress,  the greater the danger.  While most avalanches occur during a storm, many avalanche accidents occur shortly after a storm when the weather is nice but the snow remains unstable. The faster the snow falls the faster the danger increases. For example, 30 cm of snow falling in six hours is far more dangerous than 30 cm falling in 24 hours.

“The building blocks of an avalanche are made of snow, but wind is the builder.” This is especially true at higher elevations. Here, the wind can transport tremendous quantities of snow onto steep leeward slopes. The wind can strip snow off windward slopes and deposit it onto leeward slopes at a much faster rate than snow falling from the clouds. When winds cause blowing snow the avalanches danger can quickly increase on leeward slopes.”

“Snow stability can be significantly affected by changes in snow temperature that create strong or weak layers of snow”.  It further adds.

These environmental changes threaten the Eco-system and local people live at the same time. It is not surprising that such changes should result from the operation of the mighty natural forces always at work in great mountainous regions, where snow, wind are frequently washing out and tearing down with rapidly unknown at lower levels.

 It seems perhaps the only solution to cope with such threatening and devastating situations in future is to reduce the weakness of social systems and enhance the resilience related to Bio-sphere. In Socio-sphere we can bring improvements in infrastructure related to human dimensions where political awareness and scheming of new constructions comes to fulfill the needs of human.

At the same time enhancing the resilience related to Bio-sphere, where Eco-systems, biodiversity fall. If we succeed in resource conservation specially the forest and other natural resources which have Eco-system services, climate change can be mitigated one way or another that could lead Eco friendly environment.

 The newly formed district Nagar is rich in natural resources, biodiversity which has almost 613 km² area of Rakaposhi. Every year thousands of tourists pay visit to this area for the activity of recreational and having a pilgrimage of these gigantic and snow-capped mountains. With the passage of time the natural diversity of this God gifted area is threatened by anthropogenic activities. If the stakeholders of this area contribute their efforts to make a model village, where government act as umbrella no doubt We Can Hear the Call of the Ecosystems and become Precedent for Others!

 The contributor is a graduate of Krakoram International University (KIU) in the discipline of Environmental Science. He is also an entrepreneur in tourism sector and runs Diran Hotel in Nagar and also works as Program Manger, Remote Village Development Program (RVDP) at Shining Light Community Development  Organization (www.shininglightngo.com). He can be reached at raajatariq@hotmai.com, 

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