GLOF: An Alarming Menace for G-B
KARIM KHAN SAKA
Since G-B Pakistan is home of four greatest mountain ranges of the world, known as the Himalaya, the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush and the Pamirs, it covers a large number of long and short glaciers, snow clad lofty peaks, elevated pastures, narrow valleys, flamboyant rivers and glacial lakes.
For centuries people have been living in the heart of these mountain ranges, having pastoral lands and villages with small agriculture terrains on the river banks therefore natural disaster or glacial lake outburst floods GLOF is not a new phenomena for them. But in fact these sorts of disasters used to happen rarely. Unfortunately the rising global warming, the bizarre climate change, the increase in glacial melt is more often causing these GLOFs in different parts of Gilgit-baltistan.
GLOFs are characteristically caused when huge parts of a glacier detach or when a large landslide or avalanche crashes into a glacial lake, menacing the solidity of the moraines that holds these lakes. The end moraines which consist of unconsolidated composite of sand, clay and gravel are not stable enough to stop the pressure of water. When an avalanche or a landslide hits the glacial lake, flood waves erode the unstable moraines and break the end barrier with enormously destructive force, which causes the outburst floods.
The destructive power of the flood then washes away everything on its way, effacing agriculture fields, houses, animals and sometimes precious lives.
The last GLOF hits Hunza at various places, like Passu and Ghulkin, causing massive destruction. Recently Ishkoman valley in the Ghizer District is triggered by the Kurumber River GLOF, which has destroyed several villages, houses and animals.
The word “Ishkoman” is derived from Persian “Ishq-i-man” my love or “ashk-i-man” my tear, both fits in very well as the amazingly beautiful valley is the gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia via Brughail Chitral. Ishkoman from Immit onward is home of the Wakhi people, living in the villages like Tashna Lut, Bilhanz, Ghar Hill, Ganj Obod, Bort and Bar Swot. Further deep in the valley lies the lush green pastures like: Karambar , Sukhtar Obod and Shueyenji. Kurumbar Lake is one of the largest lakes on a high plateau pass that borders between Ishkoman and Brughail. The grand pasture is grazing zone for both sides, where a large number of yaks, goats, sheep and cows are kept round the year.
The recent GLOF in Ishkoman did not happen overnight. Its potential risk was already highlighted by the local people to the government authorities. Rizwan Karim and many other writers wrote about the formation of the lake on the Kurumbar River but unfortunately not a single linked organization bothered to take stock of it. At least early-warning system for the downstream communities at risk should have been fixed. Even the lake could have been evacuated on time, now while the destruction is made and people have lost their livestock, agriculture fields and houses the authorities are rushing to see and still not a single step is made to help the IDPs. The road and communication is completely cut off. Food and health care facilities are not provided. Disaster effected poor people are living at the mercy of God. The Ishkoman valley is completely neglected at present.
Generally in case of GLOFs in Gilgit-Baltistan, no research study has been made so far. Glaciers have not been explored and threatening lakes have not been counted. There should be a specialized government department to work with experts and measure the future risks for the people who are dwelling in the mountain areas.
It is absurd to see that there are departments which have no functions, people are recruited and the national bank is paying them but the entire department is irrelevant, let’s take an example of “Fisheries Department”. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have never seen the production of fish apart from the natural river fishes that are available only in summers in some parts of GB but still fishing is banned by the above department which has invalid function in the mountains… Isn’t this department a huge burden on the government fund? Similarly the second department that has no function is Animal Husbandry department. Not a single cow or goat is treated in any village or in any pasture but a large number of people are getting salaries and by the end of their services a pension.
I would request the government authorities to remove the useless departments from the area and establish most required organizations that may be helpful for the future of the area.
As the climate has drastically changed, glaciers are melting, natural disasters are occurring, our government needs to establish a sound organization like “Focus” to study and highlight the hazardous risky areas in order to protect people in advance from the GLOFs.
The writer has a Master in Tourism degree from France, and he is an author of books on language and culture published from France.