GILGIT: (PR) There are more than 7000 glaciers in Pakistan, 3044 glacial lakes and 33 potentially hazardous lakes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB). Due to rising temperatures, these glaciers are melting at a higher pace and they can cause a disaster downstream in the form of Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF). These sudden GLOF events can release millions of cubic meters of water and debris, which can cause damages to livelihoods, property and infrastructure. There are 7.1 million people in GB and KP that are vulnerable to such GLOF events.
‘Scaling-up of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods Risk Reduction in Northern Pakistan (GLOF-II) Project’ is a continuation of the four year ‘Reducing Risks and Vulnerabilities from GLOF in Northern Pakistan (GLOF I) Project’ that helped communities to prepare and to mitigate disasters through early warning systems, enhanced infrastructure and community based disaster risk management. Led by Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC), in collaboration with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), GLOF-II aims to empower communities to identify and manage risks associated with GLOFs and related impacts of climate change.
There has been a widespread debate on the selection of valleys in GB, as some local habitants feel lack of ownership by the stakeholders and slight neglect for not adding their valleys to the project area. The most vulnerable valleys in the 10 districts of GB were selected based on a scientific criteria developed by the Pakistan Meteorological Department and UNDP’s technical team. Keeping in view the vast area covered by the province, executing interventions in all valleys of GB under the umbrella of one project is not possible as providing due assistance requires immense resources.
The selection process is a cumbersome and lengthy task involving extensive data collection, technical and on-ground assessments and analysis using scientific knowledge by experienced professionals. The selection of valleys for the respective GLOF-II project was done through extensive on-ground assessments.
Firstly, a collective list of valleys was outlined by responsible departments, based on previous research studies, community engagements and recommendation as well as suggestions from district administration officials. These valleys were then endorsed by DDMA/GBDMA as they are the first responders in the event of a disaster. Pakistan Meteorological Department undertook a desk assessment through satellite imagery of the targeted glaciers to formulate a vulnerability index to assess the valleys for further selection, to be included under the project mandate. At the provincial level all such actions are endorsed by the Provincial Project Steering Committee comprising of Secretaries of the respective line departments and representatives of UNDP. The final phase of the selection process included feasibility assessments of the valleys conducted by ground-truthing teams who visit each site to assess its vulnerability to the adjacent glacier and associated risks. There is an established GIS based assessment criteria of the selected valleys, based on which these valleys are given weightage for selection. This criterion is listed below:
- Size of the Lake, (Weight 10%)
- Adjoining Area Slopes (Weight 10%)
- Distance from Glacier (Weight 10%)
- Glacier Situation (Hanging, Crevasses) (Weight 10%)
- Steepness of the Lake (Weight 10%)
- Location of the Lake, Supra, Side Moraine, End Moraine, Englacial, Erosion (Weight 10%)
- Stability of Lake (Damming Material and width of damming wall at outflow) (Weight 10%)
- Distance to Settlement (Weight 10%)
- Settlement Area Size (Weight 10%)
As pe the rigorous selection criteria outlined above, the following 16 valleys were chosen for the project, endorsed by the Project Steering Committee at Federal and provincial level:
|Valley Name||District Name|
Under this project early warning systems comprising of automated weather systems, rain gauges, water discharge gauges and level measuring gauges for lakes and rivers will be installed in the targeted valleys to understand the weather patterns and to foresee flood onsets. River discharge gauges/ sensors will be installed to collect river flood data to understand and predict flood peaks. Moreover, a centralized integrated data center will be established for improved surveillance and availability of data from the catchment areas.
Technological support is also provided through this project to the concerned Hazard Watch Groups in the form of equipment including communication, surveillance, relief and rescue items. There are also capacity building activities of the line departments to integrate GLOF risks in the provincial Action Plan along with rehashing of National Climate.
The locals remain fearful of the frequent onsets of unforeseen disasters and lack of resources and capacities to deal with the consequences. GLOF-II is trying to strengthen the capacities of these communities with available resources, however much more efforts are needed to be put in by local government to become self-sufficient to deal with impending climate change impacts.