Pakistan is still ages behind developed countries for glacial and terrain monitoring

The Government of Pakistan has revealed that it has no well-established dedicated system or authority to monitor glaciers.

A senior official of the Ministry of Environment said that the government depends on international data to monitor climate change and consequently glacier changes in the territory of the country.

“There is no well-established dedicated government-owned system/ authority to monitor glaciers and other cryosphere changes in the complex terrain of Pakistan on regular basis”, he confirmed.

He said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 6th Assessment Report also indicates that over the last few decades, the global temperature rise has caused the widespread melting of glaciers, in general.

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“There is a high degree of uncertainty about the state and fate of Pakistan’s glaciers mainly due to data scarcity in this region especially at an elevation above 5,000 meters above mean sea level”, he said.

A number of studies have tried to estimate the glacier changes by using the available information on snowfall in the Hindu Kush and Himalayas regions, changes in glacier mass balance, input of temperature changes, downstream flows, and downstream precipitation.

Based on a comprehensive review of the published literature, there are contrasting research findings pertaining to the response of Pakistani glaciers, the official further told.

He said that glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountain ranges Himalayan-Karakoram-Hindukush (HKH) are melting rapidly due to rising temperatures, adding that 3,044 glacial lakes have developed in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Out of these, 33 glacial lakes have been assessed to be prone to hazardous glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF).

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The GLOFs are sudden events that can release millions of cubic meters of water and debris, resulting in loss of lives, property, and livelihoods in remote and impoverished mountain communities. Over 7.1 million people in GB and KP are vulnerable.

The official further said that the government has initiated 10 major actions for avoiding the negative impact of environmental changes in the country.

He explained that the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Project, Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, Recharge Pakistan, National Electric Vehicle Policy, Clean Green Pakistan Movement, Protected Areas initiative, Green Economic Stimulus, ARE Policy, GLOF Project and Climate Smart Agriculture projects were launched recently.

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