'Melting glaciers contributed to heavy flooding'

Published: August 22, 2010

The pace of melting glaciers in Pakistan is faster than any other country. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The main cause of ongoing floods is fast melting of glaciers in the upper parts of the country, which are dissipating at a faster speed as compared to the rest of the world.

This was stated by Prof M. Iqbal Khan, the only Pakistani glaciologist, who visited Antarctica, while talking to APP on Sunday.

He remarked that the pace of melting glaciers in Pakistan is faster than any other country and only rains could not be held responsible for the floods.

“It is the glaciers which are adding fuel to the fire and due to the melting of glaciers the flood situation is aggravated,” he added.

Giving details of the glaciers in the country, he said there are a total of 202 dominant glaciers which contain huge quantity of water.

He described glaciers as “frozen water resources” which are melting at a fast pace, as the recent decade has experienced exceptional environmental changes throughout the world because of global warming.

He added that there was never a melting process at 18,000 ft but now this level has reached 20,000 ft which is very alarming as it can deplete our frozen water reservoirs rapidly. Khan stated that over 50 per cent of frozen water resources have been lost and warned that there would be severe water scarcity in coming years.

About the recent rain spell in the country, Professor Iqbal said the pattern of rainfall has also changed which added to the situation.

He said earlier, the route of the monsoon rains used to start from the Bay of Bengal and then it routed through Lucknow, Delhi, Shimla, Northern Areas, Chitral, Peshawar and other parts of the country.

He added that the recent rains have changed their route and shifted towards South to Urisa, Maharashtar, Rajputana, southern Punjab, eastern Balochistan and Sindh and as the system was strong it reached the mountainous areas of Pakistan too.

He termed the climate change and global warming as the main reasons for the floods and said there is need to work on Hazard Mapping.

Prof Iqbal Khan informed that he is currently working on his second book “The upcoming natural disasters in Pakistan” in which he will tell about different natural calamities.

He has asked National Disaster Management Authority to focus on his recommendations as he is the only authentic person in the field of glaciers.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Aug 22, 2010 - 6:06PM

    Melting glaciers have a role to play, but are not as significant in floodwater management as the myriad of tangible and feasible engineering and measures that are well within reach. Now that rebuilding is beginning, it is important to avoid recreating and worsening the conditions that contributed to flooding.

    Options include delineating natural buffers around streams and other water bodies, which can then absorb runoff and contaminants. Berms built to serve as rain swales (low-tech dry barrages) prevent water from moving down hills, channeling it instead into the ground where it can be withdrawn (often over long distances), thereby reducing water demand during dry times.

    Roofs and paved surfaces can have their runoff directed to drain into trenches filled with gravel, instead of being allowed to immediately discharge into streams. Roofs can be overlain with LDPE or other liners, followed by a soil mass, which can then support plants that absorb water and prevent runoff. Wetlands should be restored and, in some areas, purposefully constructed for flood prevention and groundwater recharge.

    Farmers and road builders should be able to view examples of good stormwater management practices and should be encouraged to adopt such practices. WAPDA and other government agencies should be strengthened to become more effective at preventing conditions that contribute to floods and droughts. Recommend

  • Aug 23, 2010 - 8:42AM

    @Mitchell: Sure, let us gather money (and sense) for that first.Recommend

  • Ajaz Ahmed
    Aug 23, 2010 - 1:38PM

    global warming, climate chnage and heavy deforestation and distrubance in the alpine ecosystem has contributed alot in the melting of snow in many areas in pakistan espacilly in chitral. the melting of snow is a natural process but due to the above mentioned problems the rate of melting of snow is increasing day by day and causing flash floods. there is an urgent need to work on snow management in these vurnerable areas so that we can control the excess melting of snow.

    Ajaz Ahmad
    Forest department
    ChitralRecommend

  • Aug 24, 2010 - 9:39AM

    Talking specifically about Chitral I can count the occurence of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs)in this order. In 2001 it occured in Yarkhunlasht hitting half of the village, the same year flash floods bypassed the human habitation in Wasum area with no tangible losses, in 2005 it occured in the village of Brep dislocating the affected population, in 2007 major part of the famous Sonoghur village was devastated and in the same year untimely snow fall in the month of April associated with avalanches in the village of Washich and many other villages played havoc to life and property. In 2010 Booni village and areas in Garam Chashma valley (Murdan, Awiretgole, Karimabad) and Chitralgole witnessed a situation almost similar to the one that happened in Sonoghur. The frequency of similar occurences around the northern parts of the glacial belt is on the increase with every passing year.
    If the source of the threat to the country’s plains is admittedly in the mountains then the resources need to be diverted so that a master plan could be undertaken at the source to halt the imminent danger.

    Shah Karez
    ChitralRecommend

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