At last there is something to cheer about — in the wake of all the gloom and doom surrounding climate change. It turns out that not all the world’s glaciers are melting and the ones that are not facing such risks are actually growing and located in the north of Pakistan. The Karakoram anomaly brings some glad tidings for a water-strapped country like Pakistan and some hope for the rest of the world but there is no need to let down our guard yet because whether glaciers are melting or growing they still pose a threat to human settlements. Research carried out by a team of experts from a UK university uncovered the anomaly after finding a summer vortex of cold air over the Karakoram mountain range.
This is bound to have a profound effect on our understanding of climate change because glaciers in Pakistan’s case remain unaffected by the global increase in average temperatures. However, despite that, there are real fears that a large lake formed last October when a glacier blocked Gilgit-Baltistan’s Shimshal River could experience an outburst of flood in a few months. In the past such flooding has washed away bridges and damaged roads, leaving the surrounding valley inaccessible for some periods of time.
For the moment it would not seem out of the ordinary to be prepared for flooding and take all precautions to deal with the threat. A disaster management plan must be drawn up for people living in Shimshal Valley and also those living downstream along with proper evacuation contingencies. An effective early warning system should also be set up, together with timely sessions to raise awareness and emergency response drills at the community level. More such measures need to be taken and fast.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2018.
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