Today the world is focusing more on traditional security issues with great zeal. Almost every country is spending a huge amount of their budget on defense and security, but the common enemy of mankind, regardless of their religion, race and nationality, is climate change.
Pakistan, being one of the developing countries where problem abounds, is also facing the same issues. The northern part of Pakistan known as Gilgit- Baltistan is the home to the most beautiful snow-capped mountains. It has the longest glaciers in the world, is home to warm and cold springs, and known for its beautiful landscape, besides one of the most favorite tourist spots in the world.
Gilgit Baltistan experiences all 4 seasons, but recently it has been observed weather has started changing and it has become warmer every year. Summers are becoming longer and warmer than before; heavy snowfall has been recorded in April 2017 in a village Gulmit Hunza that is quite unusual; increase in heavy rainfalls have been resulting in flooding. Glaciers are melting fast, triggering GLOFs in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is another major concern for the people living in the area.
A recently constructed bridge between Shishkat and Gulmit collapsed under the snow. Photo: Faiz Ullah
Heavy snowfall recorded in Gulmit Gojal Hunza in April 2017
I have interviewed several people from Gilgit, especially from Gojal Hunza who are elderly, who has lived in the area since their childhood. They have been the eye witnesses of climate change in the area. One of them is Mr. Ahamad, a local resident and a farmer from Gojal. He has been supporting his whole family by vending cherries, apricots and potatoes from his small farming land in Gojal a thesil of Hunza Disrtict.
Question: Since you have been a permanent resident of Gojal and you have been witnessing so many changes from your childhood, what is the first thing you are afraid of in climate change?
“I have been living in this beautiful land for the last 70 years and I have seen so many changes from my childhood till now. One of the serious issues that really terrify me is the glacier melting. From last 8 years it has become a very serious issue in this are. It has destroyed our economic and disrupted our social life and mobility.’’
A girl farming in the mountains in Hunza. Photo from Pamir Times
Question: How and when did glacier melting affect your life?
“I had a small but very productive farming land where I had been growing potato and some fruits, from which I supported my family. My children where in school. This was my only way of earning. My farming land was near the KKH Karakorum Highway Road and quite near to Ghulkin Glacier. This land was owned by my grandfather and the glacier never disturbed our life until the disaster happened in the summer of 2009.
The glacier water used to flow to its original route but that day it took a shape of a flood. The flood destroyed crops and vegetables but it also disconnected the main KKH road. It was the most tensed situation in my life because there was nothing left for me to feed my children and to pay their school and college fee. After the flood was gone I tried to restore that place for farming but it was immensely destroyed. After a few years the same thing happened again in the summer, and every summer after that.”
Glacier in Gilgit Baltistan has been melting because of heat. The glaciers have flooded nearby communities, destroying farm lands.
Question: What are the major changes that you seen from the last 50?
“It is totally different now. We did not use to have such harsh summers. We do not need to go too much far in the history. If we go back in late 1990’s, it was totally different. Now I feel like that I am in another city of Pakistan. Even in the summers we used to feel the cold breeze of glaciers, we never used fans in our houses; but now I have seen people installing fans in their houses and shops. Every year there is an increase in the temperature that results in flood, heavy rain falls and shrinking of the glaciers.”
In 19th of April 2017 what happened in Gulmit village was shocking to everyone and no media noticed it. There are several water channels used for irrigation that bears a certain amount of water. A glacier lake outburst that happened a few days ago caused the water channels to overflow and destroyed the main road of village Gulmit that links to several farming lands.
It has become necessary to strive to stay below 1.5°C, if we want avoid the devastating effects of global warming in Gilgit-Baltistan. The impacts of global warming have just started and will only increase each year.