By Syed Mujahid Ali Shah, Sabir Hussain and Raja Tariq Abbas
In the confinements of the worlds highest mountain walls of Himalaya, Karakoram, , Hindukush and Pamir (HKKHP ) ranges in Gilgit Baltistan, which have remained home to the eternal glaciers since glacier age, one gets great internal pleasure and feels a deep sense of spritual attachment to see great bounty of the mother nature while travelling through the mountain pockets in the region.
The fairy tales attached to this part of Pakistan ,describing the white glaciers ,adorned by the magnificent aromatic flora of the alpine meadows at the fringe as the home to the above austral creatures one simply fells in love when has a journey through the valleys falling between magnificent mountain ranges and come across peaceful societies with loving people.
Among many fairy tales and real stories of love and altruism related to the both humans and spirits in these mountains, the sayings are further followed by a legend that ; A human settlement that is irrigated by a female glacier water would be seen with the smart men, where as a place getting water from a male glacier , would have the handsome women in the village. The above myths never confined the mountain dwellers to the aesthetic and the imaginative expressions but persuaded them to make a material benefit as well.
The primitive man here displayed his exceptional physical capabilities to dig a water channel across the hard rock faces of theHimalaya , Karakoram Hindukush and Pamir mountains with the old tools and the implements ( an ibex horn and an big iron nail) to divert the water from the nearest glaciers for his lively hood.
During the course of the evolution over the time man in these mountains looked for the further possibility for the creation of his, self-ice generation mechanism through ice grafting. Guided by his insight and a possible portion of intuition, the pre-emptive man began to test to graft the male glacier with the female glaciers identified through his own tools and methods. The process has been traditionally termed as “glacier marriage”.
In the wake of climate change recently,the ratio of glacier grafting in Gilgit Baltistan has been increased.Many villages arrange glacier merriage with the help of NGOs . They celeberate it as happily as a human marriage.
In a Glacier marriage elders of the mountain vilage who would have lost their glacier, identify a male and female glacier lying at higher altitudes of two different villages in the vicinity. They determine the glacier as male or female by more than one standard.Among them in some areas the glacial outbursts are considered determinant for a glacier to be a male or a female.The more a glacier bursts out is considered a female glacier while a glacier withno or minimum burst outs are considered as male glaciers.For example the Pissan glacier and Ghulmat glacier lying in the lap of Rakaposhi Peak are considered female.Because they have an anual or bianual burst out records while Minapin glacier in the lap of Diran Peak is considered as male glacier as it has a low record of burst out.In Baltistan region the standards are different.A male or female glacier is determined with the ratio of male and female population in a village it irrigates .For example if a village has high ratio of men,the glacier of village is considerd as male while the village with high female population is supposed to have a female glacier.
After the determination of male and female glaciers the village elders have to cut a piece of the both. They are transported to the nival zone of the village of grafting.It follows traditional rules of not stopping the process means no reat in the way from the parental glaciar to the inlaws, the young man passed on the glacier from man to man and from the backside until they arrived the place selected to make a deposit. In some villages it is believed that only an old lady is allowed to carry the glacier pieces all the way up to the place of breeding. After they reach the spot, a mountain pocket above the valley, the both bride and bride groom( male and female glacier chunks), mixed with some gold pieces, hay stock, and the coal pieces are covered with the soil in such a way that the male chunk of glacier should reast over the female.
The people wait for a remarkable time frame to find the results when it began to gain the mass and expanding it’s volume by catching the humidity and the snow from the surrounding and an off spring glacier starts to thrive. And it is miraculous to see gushing a white stream
out of this grafting flowing on the same legends of water falls left by the last glaciers.
“The results of glacier marrieg are remarkable for the reason we can furnish that there a research application, although dominated by mythological tools and learning by doing methods, amazingly befitted and matched the laws of physical science” says Sajjad Hussain at Gilgit Research Centre who leads glaciation study project in the area.
Now a days Glacier marriege has become a successful adoptaion imechanism in Gilgit Baltistan to mitigate climate change effects on the glacier gardens in the nival zones of mountanious areas here .As International Panel on Climavhe Change (IPCC) has already warned that due to the climate change , the HKKH glaciers are the fastest melting glaciers in the world.Many glaciers in the area like the glaciers of village Hindi/Nasirabad in Hunza and of Babusar in Chilas have been disappeared a half century ago.
Among such traditional initiatives of glacier marriages a famous example has been in the the region of Babusar valley in the district of Diamer where the glacier was dried out andthe villagers brought male and female glaciers were transported from two different glaciers from Bagrot valley some 10 Km east of Gilgit and carried them to a distance of 230 Km to breeding place at a hight of 14000 ft in Babusar all the way the transportation was non stop.
Glacier marriages in the hights villages in Gilgit Baltistan have resulted both success and failure .In Babusar people have been still hopefull of getting water from the newly bred glacier pair in the nival zome of the village but at Hindi/Nasirabad in Hunza the experiment has been failed despite various attempts.The village elders of Hindi transported glacier chunks from two male and female glaciers of Nagar, The male glacier was taken from Minapin and female glacier from Pissan across the Hunza River .They were planted in the southern hights of the village at Chikus Peak in the Kanjut mountant range .But every marriege led to infertility.
Since the Hindi glacier been is basically extended on the northern face of Chikus Peak which is opposite to the village.Only a tip of the glacier tongue was able to pour the water on the southern face and it used to make a water stream in summer down to the village where a 1000 hector of land was irrigated. A project was launched in 1990s by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme with the idea to reach to the northern face by digging the rocky mountain peak of Chikus by using detonators but the project was not successful.
Then Mr. Sardar Khan of Hindi Nasirabad based in Karachi has started a new project namely Glacier Baby Test Tube ( GBTT ) which tries to regrow the lost Hindi Glacier without a marriage of male and female glaciers.
“Now we are able to make first test tube for a baby glacier ”said Sardar Khan who has previously worked with AKRSP on various water related projects.
He claims that the village of Hindi can now get its lost glacier back. He says that although the project is based on local wisdom but has been widely discussed with environmental scientists, glaciologists and hydrologists who have equally belive that it is feasible.
Sardar Khan says “In such a Glacial Baby Test Tube in the previous glacier zone at Chikus Peak although we will never follow the mothod of putting male and the female water in the refrigerator to find the ice. rather through the process of reducing the level of energy in the water with the help of refrigerator function we find the ice cubes desirably”.
He adds that it is possible to retain the avalanche coming in the spring season in the alpine zone of Hindi below Chikus Peak which lyes in the Y shape course, a salient feature of the land relief below the cold dessert, that allows the down ward flow of the snow gathered .
He says that by creating an obstacle with the help of a Gebbian to partially stop but mostly diverting the flow to the suitable place or the man built reservoir, a fair portion of the snow sheet can be retained to be covered by the local communities with hay stock and timber wood powder, as the snow bank ,that would continued to melt slowly to irrigate the fertile mountain slopes in the sub alpine zone and above the village irrigation net work.
He further adds that what the gebbian would need is an iron net to be filled by the stones, fastened and positioned in the flow course of the avalanche like a big axe to have cut it like the wood and divert the flow towards the both sides and to create snow banks.
Sardar Khan hopes that if results are rewarding, it would give a new orientation to the above channel irrigation in the mountainous regions with snow fall and fertile loamy soil on its slopes.
He concludes that Glacier Baby Test Tube in Hindi can gives a snow bank or a snow dam as its offspring which can re- irrigate the drought hit area of the village where the lost gardens, crop fields and grasslands can be rewetted.It can be a great example for the other patches in the foothills of high mountains which have lost their glacier with the course of climate change in the recent times.
Syed Mujahid Ali Shah is am ecologist researcher and teacher based in Nagar
Sabir Hussain is an M.Phil scolar at DEpartment of Media Sciences KIU Gilgit
Raja Tariq Abbas is a development professional and environmental scientist based in Gilgit