Gilgit Baltistan – Poured with rain

By Samina Ali Shah Hussainabadi

A major portion of the 1300 km long road, the Karakoram Highway, got badly damaged at dozens of places as mud and boulders slithered down from hillocks due to consecutive torrential downpours, resulting in dozens of deaths of humans, and livestock, turning homes into graveyards. Doom and gloom still looms large as locals desperately keep searching for any sign of life of their near and dear ones in the darkest hours of their lives. It has been over a week no tangible effort seems in place to clear through this sole lifeline of GB. Somehow and somewhere local people are busy clearing roads on self-help basis; really good sign of pro-activeness and volunteering. To this death streak phenomenon,besides global warming, seismological and vibratory effects cannot be ignored as truck-loads plying along the road are common sight, so long the ‘8th wonder of the world’ serpents through the gorgeous topography of Karakorum Range.

It is quite clearly noticeable that summer season started before its usual time in northern areas, an increasing sign of the unpredictability of weather due to global warming. It is setting the stage for more extreme precipitation something like fogs in warm bathroom entailing rapid loosening of snow cover, torrential rainstorms and blizzards. Wet places tend to get wetter and dry places dryer, snowpack’s are shrinking and glaciers are melting rapidly heightening the risk of flood, economic and social disruptions for communities unprepared to cope. The area is getting shorter winters with few colder records. Global warming due to unabated carbon emission will tend to intensify these extreme heavier events – longer warm summers and shorter drier winters.

The intensification of the hydrological cycle is not uncommon to this mountainous areas as we have been seeing heavy rain in lower plains too. Though the impact is worst to such area that is bounded by large glaciers- flooding, soil erosion, landslides, and damage to structures and crops has become common phenomenon along the KKH. Such frequent heavy precipitation is disturbing atmospheric stability rendering death and destruction in thar Baluchistan due to drought and heavy rainfall with increased soil moisture in higher latitudes.A recent study showed that man-made climate change substantially increased the odds of damaging floods.

Albeit the increased level and intensity of precipitation cannot be directly linked to increased greenhouse gases but impact of anthropocentric warming climate, though slow cannot be discounted altogether. Relatively we can assume the recurrence of increasing flooding and stream flow attributable to this phenomenon which are expected to become more common over time.Statistics on weather suggests a consistent increase of .5 degree Celsius in weather temperature. The magnitude of the human influence relative to natural variability is much larger for temperature compared to precipitation and atmospheric circulation.Scientist on climatology tell us of the planet’s average temperature increment by 40% can result in heaviest downpours. A very grave signal for the inhabitants who have hamlets and settlements pegged on steep sloppy and slippery inclines.

It is likely; but difficult to predict precisely that in warmer climes heavy rainfall will increase. Rainfall-one of the most critical factors determining the overall impact of climate change will lead to longer dry spells and a higher risk of floods.New satellites and more detailed models on climate system observations are improving hence the reliability of predictions is likely to improve significantly. Effects of atmospheric processes of mountains and coastlines now can be observed down to scales of about 50-100km. Even localized features can be captured as close to 1km, thus raising the possibility of much more confidence in their predictions of changes in extreme rainfall.

Given the changing weather pattern the housing and settlements needs an urgent review by the government and private sector housing authorities in its entirety in whole of GB. It might be feasibly safe to have a centralized colony for the entire village folks rather being scattered in the woods. Exempli gratia (e.g.),one small village adjacent to my ancestral village called Qadeemabad is prone to be vanished come another heavier downpour. Numerous such small villages along the bank of river are facing grave vulnerability sooner or later to be debris over.The emerging threat due to climatic change brings not only lives and livelihood of people at stake but the very existence of flora and fauna are in dire jeopardy in the face of such destructing rain and retreating melting glaciers.

Given the antipathy of industrialized countries on effective implementations of Kyoto protocols and other accords on green house gas emission, third world countries with help of non state actors should at least realign the housing planning in areas where its inhabitants are on the verge of annihilation, come such natural and man-made disasters.  The Chief Minister G-B, in the recently concluded international conference on “Mountains and Climate Change” rightly voiced his concern that “Gilgit-Baltistan being a mountainous region has been facing challenges related to climate change, allocating 200 million for FY-2015-16 for strengthening capacities of the Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority (GBDMA) to deal effectively with disasters and climatic hazards is not enough”.International and national organizations need to augment efforts of NGOs like FOCUS in mitigating and controlling aftermath of such natural climatic hazards and disasters.

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  1. The writer has very beautiful narrated the issue of weather challenge and impact of global warming on mountainous communities and on desert areas as well-recent drought has devoured more than 300 infants’ lives in thar desert. These extremities of such weather pattern have adverse impact on both developed and under developing countries but the latter are in resource less condition to cope with such adversarial circumstances. The sooner CO2 emission is controlled the slower will be rampage of rainfall. Only Public-Private partnership in third world countries can manage the magnanimity of such vast scale damage. Disaster management authorities can make use of recent developments in models and mapping as the authoress has referred to in taking some preemptive measures.
    The authoress’ assertions on rehabilitation of housing to safe places and in planned way is good idea, but home and hearth is close to the tenants hearts for ages, who cannot be dislocated so easily. However very good write up covering all aspects.

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