Effect of Climate Change On Gilgit Baltistan of Pakistan

gilgit baltistan, hunza, gojal, passu cones

Introduction

Climate change and its effects can be seen around the world with its influence on water industry, our biodiversity and forests. It also has impacts on our health and socio-economic conditions. A report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that the under developed and poorly developed nations are more on the verge of climate change and are more susceptible to its effects. This can be seen whenever any climatic disaster occurs in such area the poor are more affected due to lack of communication and resources. Human made activities i.e., anthropogenic activities are the major cause for such climate related disasters and the people with low wages are highly affected. The release of the green house gases and consumption of fossil fuels has significantly increased after the industrial revolution. These gases remain in the atmosphere for a long period of time and warm the planet in turn.

For more info please read What is Climate Change Adaptation? – Importance and Methods

Location of Gilgit Baltistan

Gilgit Baltistan is the most north region of Pakistan. This region is self-governing and is home to the highest mountains in Pakistan. This region has several peaks above 7000 meters and over peaks that are above 8000 meters. The center of attraction is Karakoram, Himalaya and Hindu Kush mountain ranges. There are several beautiful lakes, rivers and trekking sites and glaciers. It is a mountain paradise of not only Pakistan but of the entire world as some of the most scenic and highest mountain peaks in the world are present in this region.

Topography of Gilgit Baltistan

The weather in the region is due to its geographical location as it is in the south of the Karakoram region, therefore the weather is very cold and the winters last for about nine months a year. The summer season is hot but short with maximum temperatures of 40 degrees due to this the avalanches and landslides are very common. The valley is inclined by the Hunza, Gilgit and Indus River. The temperature varies from 27 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius and below -17 in winters. Some common glaciers present in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan are Baltoro glacier, Chimmik glacier, godwin-austen glacier, Hainablak, Hispar glacier, Kutiah glacier, Miar glacier, Panmah glacier and Passu glacier. The Gilgit river is a tributary of the Indus river and starts from Shandur Lake and joins the Indus river near villages of Juglot and Bunji. There is less precipitation in Gilgit ranging from 120 to 240 mm per year. The glacial melted snow water is used for agriculture and other purposes. Gilgit has a cold desert like climate also is also home to one of the highest cold deserts in the world – the Katpana desert and Sarfaranga desert.

You might also be interested in: Urgency of Climate Justice for Mountain Communities of Pakistan

Effects of Climate Change on Gilgit Baltistan

  1. Glacier melting and Glacial Retreat

The Himalayan glaciers are being eaten away by the climate change as published by the Journal of Natural Science Advances in 2021. The main danger is that these melting glaciers are collected in lakes and rivers that can outflow and cause flash floods. There are 3000 glacial lakes and 33 out of them are catastrophic in nature. For more information, please read: Climate Change and Himalayan Glacier Hazard.

  1. Floods

Increasing temperatures lead to faster glacier melting, which in turn result in flash flooding and glacial lake outbursts. Heavy rainfall and glacier melting in Ghanche village in the region caused floods in the village. There are more glaciers expected due to the future Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF). The melting glaciers can cause flash floods in Gilgit Baltistan. To know more about Flash floods, read Flash Floods – Causes, Effects, Prevention and Management.

  1. Extreme Weather Events Snow Storms and Heatwaves

The unprecedented snowfall in the region can kill people and destroy roads and bridges. The intensity and frequency of snow storms can increase even in the month of April. This effects the tourism industry, transport industry and causes economic destruction. Heatwaves can similarly also have disastrous consequences for humans and the environment.

  1. Mass Migration Towards Cities    

Due to the negative impacts of climate change in such a vulnerable region, many people are projected to have no choice but to move to other cities resulting in mass migration. Many local people are already moving towards the cities due to lack of job opportunities, which puts more pressure on metropolitan cities which already host a number of people over their capacities. As the tourism season only opens for 4 to 5 months and the winter season is extremely harsh for people living in higher up areas, the locals move towards other villages or other cities.

      5.  Soil erosion

All of these floods and landslides due to climate change lead to soil erosion. All these cut down of trees and loss of vegetation causes loss of fertile soil and subsurface or top soil, which negatively impacts the local agriculture. On average in  2005, 7.54 ± 20.25 ton/ha/year soil erosion was reported in Gilgit-Baltistan, which resulted in increase in 2015 to 9.06 ± 29.69 ton/ha/year. The most affected is the Shigar valley.

      6. Landslides

The Hunza-Nagar region is prone to landslides due to its geo-morphology. Most of the landslides are due to population and human development in these areas. Climate change and its resultant glacial melt and flooding increase the likelihood of landslides.

     7. Seasonal Change and Decreased Crop Yield

Due to global warming trends and increasing temperature there will be less crop yield as compared to before. Other issues such as soil erosion, landslides, flash floods and extreme weather events also negatively impact the crop yield. You may also like to read: Food Security and Climate Change in Pakistan.

      8. Habitat Destruction and Species Extinction

Changing climate, global warming, retreating glaciers, extreme weather events and increased frequency of natural disasters as well as anthropogenic activities result in loss of habitat of species such as blue sheep, marcopolo, ibex, astore markhoor are endangered . The snow leopard that is the beauty of Himalaya is also endangered as they depend on the above species for food and 300-400 are left only.

Conclusion

The government should focus on mitigating the impacts of climate change in Gilgit-Baltistan region, which is one of the most vulnerable regions of the country to Climate Change and its negative impacts. Climate change adaptation strategies need to be adopted and implemented in the region. Work towards legislation, rules and regulations, promotion of ecotourism is also needed.

Have a look Climate Change Impacts Human Health – Pandemics The Future?

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