By Ali Rehmat Pamiri
Forest is one of the most precious God gifted natural resource. They have great importance in regulating the functions of the nature. They protect soil from erosion, produce oxygen, store carbon dioxide, and help to control climate. Forests are considered as lungs of the Earth because they eliminate Carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis and release oxygen into atmosphere which is the basic need of survival for human beings and animals. In addition of these basic functions forests are the home of other natural resources such as they provide watersheds, habitat to wildlife and so many other natural products (1).
Forests play immense role in the carbon cycle on our planet. Agricultural plants also absorb carbon and release oxygen but forests store carbon up to 100 times more then these agricultural field crops. When forests are cut down the carbon stores in the plants are released into the atmosphere as CO2 and it’s estimated that every year over 30 million acres of forest are lost due to deforestation, mainly the cutting and burning of forest and more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere. (2)
Due to industrialization, deforestation and many other anthropogenic activities we are facing a huge climatic change which has greatly affected us in terms of floods and many other socio economic changes.
According to studies (Shaukat et. al Environ. Res. Lett. 10 (2015) 014007) in the last four years Pakistan has observed an immensely increased flood risk, which affected thousands of people and infrastructures. Indus River is the major source of water in Pakistan which originates from Himalayas and 60% of its rivers come from glaciers and the change in the climatic conditions affect the river flow dynamics of the whole region.
The glaciers of the Karakoram-Himalaya (sub-regions) are expected to lose a mass of larger then 1200 kgm−2a−1. It is also supposed that 10% of Central Himalaya region, 13% western Himalayan region and 34% Eastern Himalaya region will have melted by 2030-2080. (3)
Gulkin Glacier on the Karakoram Highway feeds Attabad Lake experiences at an average of two to three GLOF (glacial lake outburst flood) events every year and over the past fifteen years Passu Glacier has also been undergoing a rapid retreat of about 20 m and similar heart taking phenomena of GLOF is also experienced in Baltoro Glacier where the low-laying tributaries, Liligo and Silili Glaciers are depleted.
According to a report (Hewitt 1982) in the past 200 years 35 destructive outburst floods have occurred in Karakoram Range including the formation and disappearance of Virjerab Lake as a result of glacial shift. There are more than 887 lakes in Karakoram Range out of which 16 are considered as probable future GLOF sites and 492 are major lakes.(4)
TABLE 2: Summary of the different types of glacial lakes in the Karakoram Range, Pakistan.
Source: Hewitt, K., 1982, ‘Natural dams and outburst floods of the Karakoram Himalaya’, in J.W. Glen (ed.), Hydrological aspects of alpine and high mountain areas – International Association of Hydrological Science Publication 138, Proceedings of the 2nd Exeter Symposium, Exeter, 19–30 July, pp. 259–270
Recent flood events stresses show us the fact that we are facing the threat of climate changes.
We cannot stop extreme floods neither can heavy precipitation; the only thing we need to accept is “We have to learn to live with those events”.
We have to put our efforts to avoid all those anthropogenic activities that led to global warming and other such activities which can cause damage to our valuable things. We have to aware people of potential and actual risks associated with our regions in order to induce precautionary actions and plans.
To overcome all these issues we need interdisciplinary co-operation at local levels and government level for making sectorial policies regarding land use planning, environmental protection, risk management and mitigation planning and rural development measures.
Recent Flood disasters in Chuprson Gojal (pic: Anjum Chuprson)
1: Zarmast,K1., Muhammad,A1.,Syed M.Ali,Ri1., Azfar,H1., Irfan,A1., Muhammad,A2., Sujjad,H1., Shaukat,A1. , Muhammad,E.,Jamal,H1 Assessment of deforestation using Diameter size classes distribution of trees in Ganji Valley Himalayan Range of Pakistan. International Journal of Advanced Research (2015), Volume 3, Issue 6, 76-86
3: Shaukat,A. Dan Li1, Fu,C1., Firdos,K2 Twenty first century climatic and hydrological changes over Upper Indus Basin of Himalayan region of Pakistan Environ. Res. Lett. 10 (2015) 014007
4:Riaz, S., Ali, A. & Baig, M.N., 2014, ‘Increasing risk of glacial lake outburst floods as a consequence of climate change in the Himalayan region’, Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies 6(1), Art. #110, 7 pages. http:// dx.doi.org/10.4102/jamba. v6i1.110
5: decline of conifer forest cover in pakistan: a gis approach sheikh saeed ahmad1*, qurat-ul-ain abbasi1, rukhsana jabeen2 and muhammad tahir shah3 pak. j. bot., 44(2): 511-514, 2012.