GILGIT: Heavy snowfall blanketed much of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) on Wednesday and Thursday, ending a prolonged dry spell which had threatened to intensify the looming water crisis in the country.
The mountainous state of G-B is home to glaciers which provide much of Pakistan’s water supply. The Biafo, Baltoro, and Batura glaciers – three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions – are found here.
In Gilgit and Diamer valleys, snow whitened the mountains, while in other high-altitude areas including Astore, Ghizer, Hunza and Gojal valleys, snow gathered on the ground, disrupting daily life.
“Freezing cold aside, this is a huge relief for all of us,” said Nadeem Khan, a resident of Gilgit, as the mountains received snowfall and rain for a second consecutive day.
According to the meteorological department, the sky will remain overcast during the next few days, causing the mercury to drop further. “The dry weather had caused various diseases besides other complications to health,” he said, adding that children across the country, including G-B, were the worst affected.
According to scientists, if the northern parts of the country receive reduced snow and rain in the winter, the country would face water shortages in the summer, which would directly affect crop production further downstream.
“The glaciers are reservoirs of water and their replenishment is necessary to keep the system going,” said Maisoor Nafees, an
assistant professor at Karakoram International University (KIU).
“Refilling is only possible if there is enough snowfall in the winter,” Nafees told The Express Tribune.
He said a good winter was a prerequisite for a bumper crop of wheat and cotton – the two most popular crops in the country – followed by rice and sugarcane.
Besides glaciers, G-B is home to more than 20 peaks of over 20,000 feet (6,100 m), including K-2 – the world’s second highest peak, which also turns white in the winter.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2017.