By Syed Samad Shah
Gilgit Baltistan is a disaster-prone region located in the extreme north of Pakistan. The region has faced several natural disasters in the recent past. GB is seismically active and is placed in Zone-II of the seismic zones of Pakistan. Therefore, it is considered to be very vulnerable to natural disasters, particularly floods and earthquakes. Several causalities have been recorded during the last few years due to unexpected natural disasters in the region, in addition to massive financial loss.
Goal number 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) greatly emphasizes the need to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The abrupt changes in climate give rise to environment-related problems such as Floods and Landslides. Meanwhile, the unplanned and haphazard growth of cities further worsens the situation. In 2010, the whole of Pakistan experienced unexpected rainfall which in turn created a remarkable loss to lives as well as to the economy of the region. The northern areas particularly GB was among the regions which got affected the most. Also, in 2017, the Badswat in the Ishkomen valley was hit by a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) which created a recognizable financial, social, and environmental crisis in the region. Likewise, many other such events have already taken place which has greatly affected the province, in general, and the people vulnerable to disasters, in particular.
The natural disasters are very common when we move to the Northern parts of Pakistan. One cannot stop a disaster but the disaster risk can be reduced if the following strategies are incorporated:
A proper Landuse Planning is required in GB. It is a very common practice in the province to construct anywhere without consulting the concerned authorities. One should know the fact that where to build what. As it is said that “The essential question of planning is not where to build but where not to build.”
The Master Plan of Gilgit is in its final stages, there is a dire need to implement the planning bylaws especially the building codes for future developments.
The general public should also ensure their full support and cooperation with the organizations working in mitigating natural disasters.
The rate of deforestation is increasing in the region which doubles the disaster risk. There is a need to promote the importance of afforestation in mitigating the environmental hazards.
The early warning system should be installed in the areas where the disaster risk is greater.
By incorporating the above-mentioned strategies as a part of decision making, the objective of effective risk reduction of disasters could be achieved in Gilgit Baltistan before it gets too late.
Syed Samad Shah is a graduate Urban Planner from the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore. He is currently working as an Assistant Manager Planning with a private firm in Islamabad, Pakistan.