By Saloeem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
ISLAMABAD: Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Muhammad Khalid Khurshid Khan has said the lives and livelihoods of the people as well as public infrastructure in country’s north is exposed to the exacerbating risks of riverine and glacial lake outburst floods.
However, these climate change-caused risks can be tamed with effective policy and enhanced investment for disaster risk reduction and building up climate resilience of the lives, livelihoods and public infrastructures, he suggested while addressing a concluding ceremony of the four-day Disaster Risk Management capacity-building training event held here on Thursday.
The chief minister emphasised that for overcoming the climate change impacts in the northern regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyberpakhtunkhwa areas, there is a widespread and growing need for an improved understanding of climate-related risks, opportunities and the way these threats needed to be responded.
“Without understanding the gravity of the risks from the shifting climate that continue to play havoc with lives and livehoods of the people and public infrastructure including those related to health, education, water, agriculture and energy, any coping measure will fail,” he warned.
Highlighting the climate-vulnerability of the country’s various regions, he stated that the country’s northern regions including Gilgit-Baltistan are home to around 7000 glaciers, which provide water for food and energy production needs of the country, but a significant number of them are melting fast due to surging summer temperatures and declining precipitation in winter months.
As a result, the incidents of riverine floods and glacial lake outburst floods, which make rivers in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral regions burst their banks, have becoming increasingly new normal, the chief minister Khalid Khurshid Khan said.
“The riverine and glacial lake outburst floods resulting from the rapidly melting glaciers as a result of the rising temperatures have emerged to be fundamental cause of internal climate change-induced migration and negative impacts on the peoples’ lives and livelihoods,” he highlighted.
The GB chief minister also called for increased in timely and accurate forecasting of rapidly shifting weather patterns, particularly melting of glaciers, potential outburst of glacial lakes and consequent surging of rivers that ignite floods, strengthening of the public infrastructure for making them disaster-resilient.
HE appreciated the role of the climate change ministry, federal government and United Nations Development Programmed (UNDP) for introducing measures through launch of the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood project –II.
The GLOF-II project aims for protecting vulnerable parts of Gilgit-Baltistan region from spiking risks of the suddenly-occurring glacial lake outburst floods, which when triggered, wipe out lives, livelihoods and public infrastructure, leaving no time for people and official authorities to respond.
Under the project, a total of approximately Rs6 billion is being spent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan regions over a span of five years. The funding would benefit 24 target valleys of KP and GB.
Besides, under the GLOF-II Project, each vulnerable community in the both regions would also receive funds amounting to USD 50,000 in order to respond to any unforeseen climate change.
Meanwhile, the GB chief minister Mr. Khalikd Kurshid Khan lauded the Ministry of Climate Change and UNDP for investing in increasing disaster-resilience of the public infrastructure and protection of the people and their livelihoods from GLOF risks, expanding of the flood forecasting network, timely support for streamlining the communication systems of the Gilgit Baltistan Disaster Management Authority (GBDMA) and the district disaster management authorities (DDMAs).
He noted GB is a backward area with no connection to far-flung villages.
“However, with the support of communication equipment, the district administrations and the DDMAs will be better positioned to respond and coordinate. He requested for further strengthening of GBDMA and DDMAs through the provision of heavy machineries,” the chief minister hoped.
The Chief Minister also acknowledged the initiatives put in place by Pakistan Meteorological Department in support with the climate change ministry and GLOF -II Project team for their immediate attention towards recent Shisper Glacier surge in Hasanabad, Hunza and the completion of the Automated Weather Station installation and added that PMD’s constant monitoring of the situation is praiseworthy
Chief Secretary Gilgit Baltistan, Muhammad Khuram Agha, also spoke at the event, thanking all government representatives for their participation and hoped that the sessions have helped produce productive and insightful discussions and paved way towards ensuring an integrated disaster risk management system for the Northern areas of Pakistan.
Earlier, explaining about various aspects of the capacity-building disaster risk management event, National Project Director GLFO-II and additional secretary climate change ministry Joudat Ayaz said that over 150 government officials and community members from targeted districts and provincial line departments participated in the four-day training session.
The training session aimed to build capacities of participants by improving their skills and knowledge on DRM with specific focus on an introduction to all the components of community resilience with focus on the capacity-building of the participants into pro-active implementation of DRM framework; mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into different sectors and outlining the policy guidelines for vulnerable groups and integrating gender concerns in disaster planning, response and use of assessment tools i.e., hazard, vulnerability, risk and capacity assessment, the additional secretary Joudat Ayez explained.