Experts believe that military activity across the Siachen area caused the glacier to ‘surge’, which led to the recent tragedy in the Giari sector.
“It was neither a cloudburst nor an avalanche, but a ‘glacier surge’ that took the lives of our soldiers,” said Arshad Abbasi, an authority on glaciers and a consultant with the Sustainable Development and Policy Institute (SDPI).
Glacier surges are caused either by a rise in temperature or tectonic movements, during which glaciers advance substantially, he said.
Having checked the record of tremors occurring in the last month and not finding any evidence, Abbasi insists that a rise in temperature caused the ice at the base of the glacier to melt, reducing the frictional resistance keeping it from sliding downwards.
The rise in temperature is directly proportionate to the excessive military presence in the area, he said.
The latest images of the glacier show “visible cracks in its midst and the number of glacial lakes formed beneath it,” he added. Abbasi also rejected the impression that global warming was causing the Siachen glacier to melt.
The adjoining Baltoro Glacier is not only stable, but has also gained mass compared to its volume in 1904, he said.
He cited a NASA report titled ‘Advancing Glaciers and Positive Mass Anomaly in the Karakoram Himalaya’ which states that more than 65% of glaciers in the Karakoram are growing.
“Therefore, it is a myth that Siachen is melting because of global warming; it is a case of direct human interference,” Abbasi said.
He said it is time that the global community works with Pakistani and Indian leaders to save Himalayan glaciers by solving the long-standing Siachen dispute.
Meanwhile, adviser to the federal government on climate Qamar Zaman Chaudhry said heavy military presence of India and Pakistan has definitely had an impact on the glacier surge in Siachen.
He agreed that the area needs to be declared an independent glacier park by withdrawing forces from both sides.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.