Gilgit - Baltistan

Regioal GLOFs RISK reduction in the Himalayas initiatives update for May, 2008

by: Amber Masud  

The Regional GLOF Risk Reduction Project, funded by DIPECHO and UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Preventionand Recovery (BCPR), aims to address the risks posed by GLOFs in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region comprising India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan through strengthening non-structural and community-based approaches. 
 Update for Pakistan  
  • The Project Support Officer (Pakistan) visited the Northern Areas to interact with the local government officials, communities and technical/academic institutions in the region to gather information about the past GLOF/flash flood events; the risk mitigation and preparedness measures adopted etc. and to assess community awareness and preparedness for meeting future challenges from similar events. Various stakeholders were apprised of the Project and its components including the Northern Areas DM Authority, Home Department of Northern Areas, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Water Resources Research Institute of National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), Karakoram University and WWF Pakistan etc.
  • A Query on the GLOF Project has been posted on Knowledge Network for Climate Change (KNCC) and has also been posted on for wider dissemination.
  • In addition, Project information is being uploaded on UNDP Pakistan website.
  • The national-level stakeholder consultation meeting is proposed to be held in July in Gilgit, Northern Areas. 

Detailed report: monthly_update-may_08 

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  1. Thanks Amber Masud for providing such informative updates on GLOFs and other natural risks in Northern Area.

    Do you have any information that MNA, Marvi Memon, who last visited Ghulkin-Gojal the GLOF affected area, In her speech on the floor of National Assembly she suggested melting glaciers in northern area, as PTV reported, Do we know in what context she was speaking, do she want to minimize the risk of GLOF by melting the glaciers or what? Do such proposals were in knowledge of environmental agencies working in northern area.

    Can you please elaborate its technicality and feasibility and Risks? How it will be possible.

  2. Dear Taj, I have come across the news and reports on the MNAs visit and very impressive suggestions. Well sir Ms. Marvi is a politician and you can very well imagine what politicians actually target. As for melting of glaciers is concerned, that would be disastrous. Don’t you think anthropogenic activities have already cost our planet alot? Melting of glaciers has a very negative impact on all of those who depend on them and in a country like we depend on glacial melt water for irrigation. It affects the communities that live along rivers which are fed by glaciers. If we melt the glaciers, there won’t be any glacial melt water available to feed the rivers and they will become dry up leading to drought. Melting of glaciers means no permanent feed to rivers and dams, leading to shut down of hydro power stations, drying up of irrigation canals, global rise in sea level, inundating the low lying areas. DDT was a pesticide widely used and was banned worldwide many years ago. Most of this harmful chemical got airborne and settled in the cooler climates and were embedded and trapped into layers of glaciers. With glaciers melting at the rate they are today, these chemicals are being introduced into the water melting from glaciers, contaminating streams and rivers as they flow. This will have a negative effect on the health of all those who depend on this water for drinking and agriculture. Many glaciers worldwide have already vanished. The melting glaciers only help increase global temperatures. Ice reflects most of heat from the sun back into space, but when the land below gets exposed it absorbs most of the heat. Thus there are a million things that we can associate with these particular land forming agents. However it is important for all of us to realize that we should not try to change nature because in the end we will end up making our own lives difficult.
    The ideal solution would be to have community based structural and non-structural mitigation measures explored and adapted for disaster management in threatened remote communities.
    Would you ever think of draining or drying all the rivers just because they cause floods, or try blowing up the mountains to avert land slides and other mountain disasters? Think my friend and then decide.
    All the best

  3. Amber, its really drastic and catastrophic measure, we will expect the stakeholders should come up and strongly admonish such bureaucratic moves who time and again suggest such measures to cope with glacier related emergencies, few years back such moves was also on card for melting glacier in shimshal valley.

  4. very valuable information regarding the glaciers, as i am 33 years and observing the glacier advancment for last 20 yaers in the recent GLOFs glacier and as its snout was very far from the four channels taken out from the snout and now it crossed and washed out all of them and also due to ice from from the snout damaged the pipeline which was the only source of water for the Hussaini village and moving toward KKH and Hunza river at distance of 245m, so whats the reason of this advancement of this glacier as the other are either constant or reteating, accoding to global warming glaciers are melting and retreating and sea level are rising, so here the process going agianst? it would be not possible if we melt some part at the end (snout) of glacier through which the community get water to the channels, As you mentioned its agained the nature if we melt all glaciers but my point is to melt only at the end wher it dmaged the channels, but may its agian dangrous to human health.

    a very close view of the glacier snout, photo taken from the at altitude (top of the mountain) last year in Aug 2007

  5. Dear Amber,

    I am very thankful for your contribution through and Pamir Times on the recent disaster by the GLOF at Ghulkin Gojal Hunza. I have read and analyzed your reports and observations and realized that you are deeply motivated, sincere and committed in your personal and professional life.

    I am glad that you are representing the UNDP and look like conscious for giving update and coordinating with the relevant authorities related to the relevant field. As, many commentators on this website made valuable suggestions to conduct research studies on glaciers in Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) of Pakistan to ensure reliability and validity of findings to the glacier neighboring people and other readers. But more then that, it is humbly requested through your good office to help in motivation and realization of the relevant District Management (DM) and NGOs to work for the rehabilitation of the victims of the GLOF at Ghulkin Gojal.

    Unfortunately, some electronic and print media (GEO TV and Daily K-2) and some commentators have tried to divert the issue on the non issue matters, instead of giving hope and confidence to the people of the affected area. For instance, the Glacier name is not an issue, because simultaneously, it is irrigating four villages, such as, Borit Bala, Borit Paeen, Hussaini and Ghulkin. Thus, the inhabitants of the above villages feel ownership and link the name to their respective village as they did in the past. For example, Borit glacier, Hussaini glacier, Ghulkin glacier.

    As Ghulkin is situated on left side of the glacier and the recent GLOF happened four times there from April to June and made vast destruction of agriculture land, orchards, houses, forest trees and crops of potato and wheat. On the right side of the glacier is Hussaini village and the risk of glacier is always hanging there. While, Borit Paeen and Borit Bala are far from the glacier and safe from any GLOF in future, but have affected from the glacier in drought. This year Borit Paeen people did not able to cultivate their fields because of the moment of the glacier and that also a kind of devastation. The story of Borit Bala is not different with lacking water for irrigation because of the glacier instability. The aim of this narration is to avoid from any conflict on the glacier name rather to indulge with hostility.

    I hope in Geological surveys, magazines, books and maps could be some name for the said glacier, but i don’t want to trap in it. Because after the decline of Hunza state, the whole tehsil Gojal is yet unsettled area and even people doesn’t have any proper documentation of their native homes and lands. So, it is useless to claim ownership on glaciers and alike.

    At the moment people are showing their sympathy and empathy with the affectees of GLOF at Ghulkin. Therefore, as a resident of Ghulkin Goal, it is my humble request to everybody, to please avoid from any misconception or conflict between the neighboring villages, which always have positive relations from many decades and centuries.

    I hope the long tale will give you an overview of the area and will help to realize that the said glacier has both strengths to irrigate and accommodate the four villages and the consequences lies to affect village Ghulkin and Hussaini. In case of GLOF or disasters the people, media, DM and the NGOs should focus to help the people instead of raising issues on the non issue matters.

    The People of Ghulkin affected from the recent GLOF hope that through your esteemed organization, the district management, local bodies and other relevant organizations should play positive role in terms of the rehabilitation and preparedness of the affected community.

    Furthermore, it is suggested that the NALA should to take a prompt step for the formation of a Disaster Management Body in Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) in line with the Natural Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) with the close coordination and collaboration of UN to meet any emergency in future.

    Sharif Khan

  6. Dear PT readers and those who are showing their interest in the resent GLOFs disasters, I am personally thankful to the PT team to always update us the news, and views, I want to mention the series of ignorance’s here either from the govt, our institutions and the effected villages, by which we are facing the risks and disasters now in the form of GLOFs, glacier advancement, erosion, land sliding etc. we are ignoring the suggestions, facts, history and even the resent situation as:

    1. Community participation: everyone is aware of this NGOs famous term, without community participation UNDP, FOCUS, Govt or any others are helpless to do something to reduce the risks of disasters in the region. What I observed in the last four GLOFs in Passu, and Ghulkin, we never try to understand the causes, just we listen the term (GLOF) and after floods and disasters we are giving attention to NGOs and Govt. what are our responsibilities as an indevsual and as well as a community, living in the middle of risks. The four major glaciers in Batura range are located at our daily walking distances and how much we participated and contributed in the last four GLOFs:

    I. Passu GLOF, where the glacier lake formed in Passu Glacier located at side moraine near Ghulkin new channel but is anyone noticed that this would be GLOF or disaster to Passu village?? And to inform the Govt or concern NGOs working on disasters….???

    II. Ghulkin GLOF-1-2, no body knows where the glacier lake formed and brustout as a first disaster in Ghulkin area with some losses of animals. Is anyone noticed or informed….??

    III. GLOF-3 created at GHOZH near Ghulkingal (seasonal settlement of Ghulkin) and close to their channel to Borith bala, everyday they ware visiting to the channel for the maintenance, is the local community noticed the lake creating a huge dam or informed the concerns or even informed the villagers near by at risks…???

    IV. GLOF-4: the lake formation started when the glacier start melting in February and according to my information and observation there is a volume of water every year along the side moraine (GUNGRI) located on the daily track route of Ghulkin community to Borith, very close to Past Borith Woz (hamlet of Gulmit community), Is anyone noticed that the lake is creating a huge dam day by day or gave information to the concern authorities or again to the near by villagers at risk…? and just enjoyed to walk along the lake on the way to borith..?? I observed the area on May, 11-14, the lake was about 1000 ft long, 200 ft wide and 80 ft depth, only 4 ft was left to overflow on the Hussaini side to a very old channel which had cut down about 15 ft from the height of the side moraine (GUNGRI) its very clear in the photos taken by Asghar for PTs,

    Before a week the people of Hussaini informed government authorities and FOCUS through their long channel (1 to 5). The CERT team from Gulmit, Passu and Hussaini visited the area and forward their report to Gilgit FOCUS to Mr. Zafar Jang on telephone, he promised that we will support them on emergency basis, and suggest that the community experts to assess the area and start work on to release the water through that old channel which the community suggested in the meeting with CREST team (Shemshar Khan, Karim Ullah, Saifuudin from Gulmit, Ali Aman and two ladies from Passu and so many from Hussaini at Yousuf house in Hussaini on May 12, and where was the Ghulkin CERT team or any representative there or it was not their concern, what they ware thinking that time its only the concern of Hussaini people as so many GLOFs happened in Sisuni Yazyopk or disaster happened in the past in Hussaini area, what they ware thinking the water can not change his direction to any weak point at any side moraine or at the end (snout) and flooded that area either its on Hussaini side or Ghulkin..?? a life we lost very recently at the glacier snout in 2006 and my grandfather also died in this glacier hazards some 40 years ago, are the human lives are not valuable than the animals or properties ?? and the community suffering for last many decades, have anyone noticed or helped ??

    I was there in the meeting and everyone listened Mr. zafar Jang on the mobile speaker and its saved with me too as he promised with the community and than nothing, two days community waited for FOCUS geologist to assess the area, when I contact one of my colleague in the head office in Islamabad he told me we have only one geologist in Pakistan and when he will avail he will visit the area and also mention that he is helpless to do something, he was right that the community around this risks are not interested than no one will help us, And when it happened, FOCUS team from Isalamabd, Gilgit and Ghulkin visited the area after the disaster by helicopter, was that the solution..?? Was that area very large or was not accessible by road that they spent money on the fuel of helicopter instead of that money can be spend to help the effected community…???

    There was only one expert and professional in FOCUS to handle such situations in the emergency times and he really did when he was working in North and that was Mr. Sifat Mohammad from gulmit, but unfortunately by which policy he transferred to Karachi for other disaster management of street crime and mobile snatching in Karachi, where he was needed..??.

    After two days FOCUS geologist and experts, with Gulmit, Hussaini and Passu CERT team visited the area and after assessment they said it required some fund to release the water through the old channel, and after the report and response from the head office they will work on, but again there was no representative from ghulkin . Hussaini Community waited so many days but no response, and what happened than; Mr Zaffr Jang did nothing as he didn’t in Passu too just promised with the Passu community to support them for the embankment of the erosion area of the GLOF, and now the Passu village, is under risk as zulfiqar mentioned waiting for another disaster.

    Community dishearted and started work on 18 May, but how they can cut down it without resources, and the 2nd day one of my elder brother injured there very seriously and the work stopped there, Why not we point out the weaknesses of the concern people in our institutions, why we take sides of them ?? Is there only government organizations we found for criticism..? Is the involvements of retired armies in our institutions not a big diaster..??

    2. UNDP and other organization are going to start an initiative in the region, why not FOCUS with them ?? is it not in his mandate, did we forgot MHI faramin of Golden Jubilee on risks and disasters in mountainous region?? Are the trainings enough for the community without any resource, equipments and tools…? Are these two glaciers only risks to communities, what about the longest glaiers, Batura and other glaciers, Verzhrav, Khorzopin, and Yazghail in Shimshal and so many in Chiporson valley, who will work on..?? Are the environmental changes or global warming applies here only in these two glaciers…?? Where, and when FOCUS and Planning and development Department, PND Gilgit will use the application of Remote Sensing RS and Geographic Information Systems GIS technology..?? and why not they use the AKDN helicopters to take the aerial photographs of the glaciers which are not in our daily access or the longest glaciers, instead of visiting the area after the disasters and just useless consuming of funds..??

    3. Why not the concern NGOs and government authorizes participate in the PT discussion forum and inform us about their contribution and future plans to the region as Ms, Ambar Masud from UNDP is showing his participation, interest and briefing us about their initiatives…??

    4. What are the responsibilities of our so called representatives, some are seasonal birds, some are busy with their own interest and some are just doing promise, and even not visiting their strong supporters and his home town’s affected areas…?? Are the visiting schedules fixed only during the election or when communities invite them to their villages..???

    At last I want to clear everyone, that there is no any criticism on anyone, these are the realities which I observed in the last four GLOF disasters, I do sorry if I used hash words or if I am wrong to point out these issues.

    Ali Rehmat

  7. I am glad that UNDP/NDMA is doing this project but most of all we are very thankful to DIPECHO for piloting this initiative.
    I would like to thank all viewers for their participation in the dialogue and inputs, Ali Mousafer for his detailed observations of the concerned glacier. The truth indeed is that most of the glaciers are declining or retreating and there mass balance is showing a negative trend, where as according to observations Ghulkin seems to be behaving otherwise. Glacial motion usually is very slow and it usually shows movement of a few centimeters every day for ice sheets and slow alpine glaciers. However some glaciers experience rapid movement which is termed as a surge. A surging glacier may travel down valley at a speed of 60 meters / day for several months. A surge most probably takes place as a result of an increased amount of melt water underneath the glacial ice. What happens some times is that the glaciers tend to surge and incase of Ghulkin we have noted that the position of snout has changed showing a surge. Ali if you analyze the sat image data, you would note and I am sure you already have, as you have done a lot of research on the glacier that the contours show steepness or you can observe many curves/folds on the glacier where as if you compare the sat image with similar images of the glaciers in the complex (Gulmit, Passu and Batura) you would know that the situation is not as it is on Ghulkin. Now apparently what is happening is that the steepness of slop or the gradient is as such that from behind the load is putting a lot of pressure on the snout causing it to surge forward under tremendous influence of gravity and due to an increase in melt water. Now we must understand that glacial ice is a major agent of erosion and transportation and what it eventually transports is not only the ice accumulated during a budget year but also fine and coarse material from the bedrock by glacial abrasion and plucking, which is scientifically termed as moraines (lateral, medial and terminal or end). Ghulkin seems to be diverting to its old course and because that exactly is the week point where all the pressure is giving-in to. Now the snout as observed from ground and sat images shows steepness because just below the snout there is a mound of deposited material in the form of terminal moraines. Also note that the sub glacial stream also drains out from that particular point. That area where all the pressure is eventually effecting is exactly the point from where the supra glacial lake or lakes are draining. And as all of us know that steepness of snout some times also is a sign of glacial recession no matter how further the snout has moved from its initial position and a surge doesn’t always mean glacial advance or a positive trend in mass balance.
    About the rise in sea level I would say that it is presently being caused by very rapid melting of the continental ice sheets (Greenland and Antarctica).
    Community’s efforts to use the glacial melt water for irrigation is a very good example of structural mitigation measure and natural resource management and it would definitely compliment livelihoods of the adjacent communities. But more importantly it has to be carefully looked into and devised.
    Another interesting thing that has emerged as a result of the dialogue and comments is the place name aspect and we have come across many different names for one glacier. I would like to add some information here about a branch of cultural-historical geography called Toponomy meaning study of place names. Place names reveal both an area’s past landscape and cultures. This particular type of specification is known as nominal specification. A name which is given to a particular area or landform becomes description of both its cultural and geographical landscape. The different names we see for one particular feature are infact descriptive names or associative names, such as Ghulkin or Hussaini or Passu glaciers. And Passu itself is a descriptive name meaning water way or likewise. So it’s very interesting to carryout a detailed mapping of all the place names and find out their particular type, it has fascinating results in the form of an understanding of cultures.

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