As Pakistan glacier melt surges, efforts to cut flood risk drag
ISLAMABAD: Late final month, residents of the tiny village of Hassanabad, in Pakistan’s mountainous Hunza District, seen floodwaters shortly rising within the stream that runs close to their properties, carrying water from the towering Shishper glacier.
“The flows turned so excessive that they eroded the land and reached 10 ft from my household’s residence. We evacuated,” stated Ghulam Qadir, a resident of the village.
The ensuing flood, carrying enormous boulders from the melting glacier, demolished the cherry, apricot and walnut orchards many households depend upon, and left properties cracked, 16 households in tents and native irrigation and hydropower methods broken.
“The flood water broke all of the retaining partitions that had been constructed final yr so as to defend the village,” Qadir instructed the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “Now there’s a ravine proper subsequent to our homes and we stay in dread of one other flood.”
The space is considered one of 24 valleys in northern Pakistan scheduled to obtain warning methods, between 2018 and 2022, for glacial lake outburst floods utilizing $37 million in funding from the Green Climate Fund.
But work has been delayed because of variations between the companions – the U.N. Development Programme-Pakistan and the federal Ministry of Climate Change – in addition to by a change of presidency and now the coronavirus, stated Ayaz Joudat, nationwide programme director for the venture.
“The delay is partly as a result of outbreak of COVID-19 and partly as a result of UNDP-Pakistan wouldn’t finalise the letter of settlement signed with the Ministry of Climate Change, which might give us oversight over hiring of workers and different issues,” he instructed the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
That delay, nonetheless, was just lately resolved, he stated, and hiring now will start on the finish of June, with an purpose of putting in the primary early warning methods on glaciers by September.
Amanullah Khan, UNDP-Pakistan’s assistant nation director, agreed the delayed venture was now “up and operating”.
With greater than 7,000, Pakistan has extra glaciers than wherever besides the polar areas.
But local weather change is “consuming away Himalayan glaciers at a dramatic price”, a research printed final yr within the journal Science Advances famous.
As glacier ice melts, it might accumulate in massive glacial lakes, that are liable to bursting their by means of banks and creating lethal flash floods downstream, in locations like Hassanabad.
More than 3,000 of these lakes had shaped as of 2018, with 33 of them thought-about hazardous and greater than 7 million folks in danger downstream, in keeping with UNDP.
In an effort to cut back the dangers, pilot funding from the U.N. Adaptation Fund from 2011-2016 paid for 2 lake outburst warning methods, flood safety partitions and group preparedness efforts in Chitral District and within the Gilgit Baltistan area.
The new venture goals to put in related methods in 15 districts in northern Pakistan, and to construct different infrastructure to cut back dangers, together with flood partitions in villages like Hassanabad.
Shehzad Baig, assistant director of the Gilgit Baltistan Disaster Management Authority in Hunza, stated the latest flood in Hassanabad was spurred not by a typical glacial lake outburst however by speedy glacier soften.
That melting is prone to choose up over the summer season months, he stated, noting that “June to September can be harmful”, notably after a winter of heavy snowfall.
Baig, who flew over the Shishper glacier on a helicopter just lately for a glance, stated the ice nonetheless lacked an early warning monitor for outburst floods, although as a primary step Pakistan’s Meteorological Department had put in an automated climate station final June.
“A UNDP-Pakistan workforce got here final yr to review the glacier and there was discuss of an (automated) early warning system that was to be put in however no motion was taken,” he stated.
In late May, the chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority warned that the Gilgit Baltistan area had obtained a 3rd extra snowfall than regular over the winter, which might elevate flood dangers.
Residents of Hassanabad stated the deliberate work on a warning system can’t come quickly sufficient, as summer season warmth raises the risk degree.
“We don’t care about all this bureaucratic crimson tape. We simply need higher protecting partitions for our village and a correct early warning system,” Qadir stated.
“This coming summer season there can be extra flooding and other people will undergo”.