Pakistan’s most visited tourist attractions including the mighty Karakorum, Hindu Kush and Himalayan mountain ranges provide a bubble of serenity in the troubled land. News of glaciers retreating in the high mountains of Asia has intensified concerns about the impacts of climate change on the hydrological systems of central, southern, and eastern parts of Asia. The massive glaciers of Baltoro and Biafo stretch for over 60 kilometers each in the Karakorum Mountains. In an effort to strengthen early warning systems and reduce the impact of flooding in the country, the Pakistani government has taken initiatives to enhance glacier monitoring.
Last month, the government approved $8.5 million for a four-year project to expand the network of glacier monitoring stations, as scientists seek more accurate data on temperature, humidity, changing rainfall patterns and wind speed while tracking the rate at which glaciers are melting. Scientists observe that more than half of Pakistan’s 5000 glaciers covering 15000 square kilometers are subject to melting and sublimation. Since the last decade, the rate of glacial melt has risen to 23 percent as reported by Pakistan Meteorological Department, raising concerns regarding flood risks in the adjoining areas where villages reside.
Ghulam Rasul, Director-General of the meteorological department, posits the view that the initiative is important to enhance the country’s resilience to climate change and also to release flood warnings. Based on the data provided by weather stations, timely warnings with an interval of 60 to 90 minutes will be provided to communities prone to flood risk, to respond effectively. The proposed plan includes 22 meteorological radar stations across the country and 400 advanced automatic weather stations. The meteorological department plans to study the glacier melt more extensively. With proper management and research, glaciers can be used as a vital water source for more than a billion people residing near mighty rivers such as Indus.
The plan proposes to collaborate with the state-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to disseminate weather forecasts and issue early warnings by SMS and print media when disaster threatens.