Islamabad: Glaciers in Pakistan are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is very high. According to joint report of Pakistan Meteorological Department and Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, rapid melting of these glaciers has resulted in formation of 3044 glacial lakes and out of these, 36 Glacial Lakes have been classified as potentially dangerous and can trigger a GLOF event.
To discuss the issues associated with rapid melting of glaciers and resulting disasters, two day international conference was held in Islamabad from October 14-15, 2015.
The Conference on “Learning and Way Forward” concluded on Thursday in Islamabad to find sustainable approaches to reduce disaster risks and vulnerabilities from Climate Change Induced disasters like GLOF. Ministry of Climate Change’s Pakistan GLOF Project being implemented in collaboration with UNDP-Pakistan and Adaptation Fund hosted the conference.
Mr. Arif Ahmed Khan, Secretary Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan chaired the inaugural session. He highlighted the need to recognize the climate change-induced disasters like GLOF and make concrete efforts to reduce risks and vulnerabilities from these. If not addressed timely and efficiently; GLOFs in Pakistan are anticipated to become “Mountain Tsunami in the Making”. Climate Change is a multi-dimensional challenge and strong partnership and multi-lateral cooperation is required to deal with it. Ministry of Climate Change is implementing National Climate Change policy and implementation of the Pakistan GLOF project is part of such efforts. The main objectives of the project are: to develop the human and technical capacity of public institutions to understand and address immediate GLOF risks for vulnerable communities in Northern Pakistan and, to enable vulnerable local communities in Northern Areas of Pakistan to better understand and respond to GLOF risks and thereby adapt to growing climate change pressures. The project has demonstrated community based GLOF risk management interventions in Bagrot valley in Gilgit-Baltistan; Bindogol and Golain valleys in Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Policy initiatives, institutional strengthening, knowledge and information sharing and application of lessons learnt are the other outcomes of the project. He hoped that this conference will result in creation of new collaboration initiatives in near future.
While presenting her remarks, Ms. Tracy Vienings, Deputy Country Director (Program), UNDP informed that the Himalayas, Karakoram & Hindukush has the largest deposits of the glaciers out of the polar region and is considered as the Water Tower of the World. Glacier melt water contribute almost 70% to the fresh water requirement of Pakistan. She hoped that the International GLOF Conference will provide all our local, national and international partners, policy makers and researchers an opportunity to share knowledge, experiences and lessons on climate change adaptation and GLOF Risk Reduction issues, and as a result new partnerships in Pakistan will be emerged. Mr. Ghulam Rasul, Director General, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), Islamabad presented a session on Climate related Disasters and Preparedness in Northern Pakistan.
Besides, renowned international speakers and scholars from across the globe (Nepal, Bhutan, Switzerland, USA, Afghanistan, Netherlands, China, Germany, Thailand, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy including Pakistan) presented lesson learnt and experiences from their respective countries. The community leaders from project sites of Gilgit and Chitral also shared their experiences and achievements in GLOF risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
Haji. Maghfirat Shah, newly elected District Nazim, Chitral also participated in the conference. He briefed the participants of the conference and the international community about the impacts of recent disasters in Chitral. He appreciated the efforts of Pakistan GLOF Project and its achievements within short timeframe and resources. He stressed on the need of initiating a Multi-Sectoral Integrated Project for the rehabilitation of flood affected people and infrastructure in district Chitral. He further said, that we are running short of time as the winters are approach fast. Further delay in rehabilitation of the affected people will result in more human calamities.
Ms. Shaista Malik, MNA and Member of Standing Committee on Climate, Mr. Aftab Ahmad Maneka, Joint Secretary (Development), Ministry of Climate Change while concluding the conference stressed on the need to undertake collective measures to reduce climate change induced disasters. They were of the view that Pakistan contribution to Green House Gases is nominal as compared to the overall global emission, yet Pakistan is listed among the top ten most vulnerable countries to climate change and its impacts. In the face of rapidly changing climate Pakistan is threatened by serious challenges in the shape of climate-induced disasters like GLOF, flash floods etc. Low technical skills and lack of needed resources to combat climate change and associated disasters are further adding to the miseries of Pakistan. In the meantime, GLOF has emerged a potential threat to the lives of vulnerable communities, economy and infrastructure. GLOF and other extreme weather events have increased significantly over the past decades and are likely to further increase both in intensity and frequency in the coming years, they said. To address the prevailing situation there is a need to broaden national, regional and international collaboration, they said.