Pakistan's glaciers melting faster than rest of the world

Published: July 6, 2015


KARACHI: Pakistan’s 5,000 glaciers are retreating faster than any other part of the world, according to a new Pakistan Economic Survey 2014-15.

Pakistan is listed among countries highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change due to its diverse topographic and demographic settings.

The country is vulnerable to a host of natural hazards particularly of hydro-meteorological nature, the frequency and intensity of which has increased due to climate change. The survey notes the recurring extreme events, including flash floods, cyclones, heat waves, droughts, glacial lake outburst floods and intrusion of saline seawater into the Indus River Delta Region, that Pakistan has faced in the recent years carried significant climate change footprints.

According to the survey, Pakistan suffered economic losses of more than US$15 billion during floods of 2010 to 2012.

The unprecedented floods of 2010 were described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a slow moving Tsunami. More than 20 million people were affected and roughly 300,000 were displaced.

Climate change is severely impacting the development aspirations of almost all developing countries.

Read: Climate change: How to cope with the heatwave in the future

The sustainable development prospects of Pakistan are undermined by climate change in multiple ways which is already entrenched with numerous economic, security and social challenges. While Ministry of Climate Change is working to avert these challenges for Pakistan, climate change is serving not only as a threat but also a threat multiplier. Above all, it is seriously undermining the gains achieved in this regard.

Further, it is inflicting huge losses to human life and property and is also causing additional stress on the sustainability and access to natural resources both for the present and future generations.

The actions to address climate change should ensure the sustainable development and sustained economic growth of the developing countries and the universal elimination of poverty, hunger and disease. In Pakistan alone, additional $6 to $14 billion are required annually to adapt to the climate change adverse impacts. Pakistan’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are low compared to international standards. In 2008, Pakistan’s total GHG emissions were 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

As such, the most important targets for mitigation efforts focused on reduction of GHG emissions are the energy and agriculture sectors. In the energy sector, integration climate change and energy policy objectives are particularly important. The buildings and transport infrastructure put in place today should meet the design needs of the future.

In light of this, greater attention must be paid to energy efficiency requirements in building codes and long – term transport planning. Further, the framework for the implementation of the national climate change policy (2012) is developed keeping in view the current and future anticipated climate change threats to Pakistan’s various sectors.

Read: Food security at risk: Climate change hitting poor the hardest, says minister

In view of Pakistan’s high vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change, in particular extreme events, the vulnerabilities of various sectors to climate change have been highlighted and appropriate adaptation actions spelled out. These cover actions to address issues in various sectors such as water, agriculture, forestry, coastal areas, biodiversity, health and other vulnerable ecosystems.

Notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is very small, its role as a responsible member of the global community is very important in combating climate change in sectors such as energy, forestry, transport, industries, urban planning, agriculture and livestock.

Furthermore, appropriate actions relating to disaster preparedness, capacity building, institutional strengthening; and awareness rising in relevant sectors is also a part of this framework for implementation of National Climate Change Policy which has been developed not as an end in itself but rather a catalyst for mainstreaming climate change concerns into decision making that will create condition for integrated climate compatible development processes.

It is therefore, not a stand-alone document but rather an integral and synergistic accomplishment to future planning of the country. Despite being a low GHG emitter, Pakistan is bearing the brunt of climate change related disasters at a high cost to its economy. It therefore, requires concerted efforts to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. Number of measures are in focus to address both mitigation and enhancing various ongoing efforts and initiating new activities such as Adaptation Strategies, Mitigation Strategies, Clean Development Mechanism and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions.

The Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency in coordination with International Union for Conservation of Nature, ICUN and other partners had recently conducted the National Impact Assessment program (NIAP). The programme aimed to contribute to sustainable development in Pakistan through strengthening the environmental impact assessment process introducing Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in national development planning.

Based on the experience of NIAP, it is expected that interventions at the policy level through introduction of SEA, capacity building, development of tools, procedures and mechanisms and improved understanding of impact assessment processes, principles of sustainable development could be introduced into country policies and programmes.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • devindersingh
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:33PM

    May RAW behind this.hahhahahaRecommend

  • Ashraf
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:46PM

    Maybe Allah is angry because so many terrorists live here. Recommend

  • Hassan Jawad
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:55PM

    We shouldn’t take it lightly; the current floods are just the warning signs and we should dealt this issue with proper planning, execution and strict monitoring of all sources of pollution in our Country. Recommend

  • Kazmis
    Jul 6, 2015 - 2:26PM

    Our threatening attitude toward other religion and nations may provoke use of H.A.R.P and beam of microwaves toward our glaciers to teach us a lesson, otherwise how is it possible to melt the highest glaciers of the world fast…Recommend

  • Ali S
    Jul 6, 2015 - 4:07PM


    You need to see a psychiatrist ASAPRecommend

  • Kazim Muneer
    Jul 6, 2015 - 5:43PM

    Friends from Eastern Side of Pakistan should not take the matter with laughter as they may be the next in the “line of the wrath”; all of their northern part is full of glaciers and melting snow. Perhaps there are too many self-styled righteous scoundrels living in this region. So, be prepared to receive the fruits from the plants that you have sown in this region full of hate and self-destruction.Recommend

  • Khan
    Jul 6, 2015 - 8:50PM

    Lets not just blame it on global warming. The major culprit in this whole Glacier loss irony is Timber Mafia. This Mafia has devastated the thick jungles of northern areas, destroyed the ecosystem completely.

    These mafias have backing of puppetarians. It is upto Pakistanis to giveup their obsession of wooden furniture or lining their home interior with wood planks for decoration.Recommend

  • H Chaudhry
    Jul 6, 2015 - 8:54PM

    Short term policies of consumer financing that depleted natural gas quickly as number of cars increased ten fold during musharraf era is one of a major factors. The environmental pollution, emissions from these cars and other greenhouse gases are taking its toll on nature now. Very quickly, Pakistan and other countries in region needs to take actions to avoid a disaster. Mass/Public transportation, high taxes on auto use and using the proceeds towards environmental clean ups, absolute banning of Tire burning in protests, absolute banning of tree cutting and encouraging PTI/Imrans billion Tree initiative can be quick wins. On this issue PTI with their focus on trees and natural resources and PMLN focus on sustainable mass transportation must come to table.Recommend

  • Shabeh ul Hasson
    Jul 6, 2015 - 9:23PM

    This is simply not true. Please give any reference to a scientific study saying that. I could not find any scientific study stating that 5000 glaciers are retreating at faster rate than rest of the world. My own research paper is in direct contrast to what have been said in this report about the glacier retreat.Recommend

  • Sandip
    Jul 6, 2015 - 9:27PM

    First of all the glaciers are not Pakistan’s since that territory has been forcibly occupied by Pakistan since 1947-48. Secondly, last we heard from Pakistani commentators, it was India that was behind the 2010 floods, the 2015 Karachi heat wave etc. As such there isn’t much that Pakistan can do except request India to spare Pakistan such natural calamities.Recommend

  • devindersingh
    Jul 6, 2015 - 9:54PM

    First I saw sensible talk by one of my muslims brother.Recommend

  • hunzai
    Jul 7, 2015 - 2:27AM

    @Shabeh ul Hasson and other: For those who are skeptical about the article, I tell you the the truth. Every year I stand on the top of my roof in my hometown Hunza and I look at the mighty mountains “Rakaposhi” melting down more and more year by year. About 15 years ago you could not see the stone-rocky peaks but now they are clearly visible and there is no snow caps, anymore . We should not just reject serious issues just because we don’t want to accept reality or we have no knowledge an issue. Recommend

  • Jammer
    Jul 7, 2015 - 3:08AM

    Why indians are so much intrusted in our natural clamity issue ?
    One thing to say them first solve your increasing number of rape cases in india. Then not to try to put your nose in someone else matter. Or else the next thing which india media is show that the reson of increasing rapes in india is Pakistan . Lol

    Jul 7, 2015 - 3:20AM

    may be MQM involved ….get a confessional statement from MQM worker under rangers custody.or through JITRecommend

  • raw is war
    Jul 7, 2015 - 6:30AM

    @Shabeh ul Hasson:

    Does your paper prove that Pakistan is the richest country in the world?Recommend

  • Shabeh Ul Hasson
    Jul 7, 2015 - 8:25AM

    I have been working on assessmentment of climate change impacts on Indus basin glaciers and water availability issues for last 7 years. I find reports of glacier retreats at faster rate in such a serious document completely ridiculous and baseless claim. Luckily or unluckily global warming have a counter effect on glacier melt in karakoram since monsoon starts having frequent incursions to karakoram and western Himalaya, bringing cloud systems to the region and considerably reducing energy budget in monsoon months of july-sep, a period exactly coniciding with the glacier melt timings. As a result, less melting occurs due to temperatures drop, which together with increased precipitation trends observed therein keeps our glaciers either in a stable form or let them experience a positive mass balance. Many international experts confirm such findings from a variety of data sources available from station observations to satellite imageries to the surveyed human perceptions in the region. There is a famous term afloat “KARAKORAM ANOMALY” suggesting expansion of some glaicer rather than a retreat – a worth exploring phenomenon.Recommend

  • Hassan
    Jul 7, 2015 - 9:07AM

    @Shabeh ul Hasson:
    exactly, and honestly i too have concerns regarding their calculations in this regard, as Pakistan economic survey hardly qualifies to define economic survey in its true sense how come they have conducted a purely scientific and highly technical research of this level, i am a research analyst too but hardly satisfies with their economic reviews as we really don’t have any other source to get a detailed outlook of the economy, but this purely scientific information is way too difficult to digest especially when it is coming from Pakistan Economic Survey.Recommend

  • Hassan
    Jul 7, 2015 - 9:14AM

    First of ll, the glaciers are in Pakistan, secondly, we don’t blame India for everything, its India who started bashing Pakistan within seconds after Mumbai attack even when the fight was going on and the best part is without any proof, check out ur news channel, Pakistan has developed a drone to spy Indian territory, Pakistan has sent a pigeon to spy Indian territory, For God sake, we never blame India for any attack on Army Public school or any other place in Pakistan, and this is exactly what Salman khan said that Benazir was assassinated, Musharraf was attacked, Marriott attack, but Pakistan never blame India, so uncle please open up ur mind and stop being a media slave. Indian media is too much drama…Recommend

  • Winter is Coming
    Jul 7, 2015 - 10:36AM

    We Pakistanis have a habit of trivializing everything but this is some pretty serious news. The climate is shifting and it is surely not shifting for good. The abrupt weather conditions, droughts and floods. Pakistan is among the top 7 countries that are going to endure the shocking effects of global warming. It is time to wake up and develop strategies to mitigate the risk. Build dams, use public transport, improve consumption habits, control population, improve water management and many other things. Recommend

  • Parvez
    Jul 7, 2015 - 2:25PM

    Yeah ! …….another one for our record books……We have the words faster melting glaciers.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Jul 7, 2015 - 2:40PM

    Pakistan’s problem becomes further complicated by the fact that it has 3 of the worlds longest glaciers ( in non-polar regions ) while Tajikastan, India, Chile and Kyrgyzstan each have one. Recommend

  • Ajaz Ahmed
    Jul 13, 2015 - 1:48PM

    Because we have useless policies on Climate change and with zero government interest on these issues, the glaciers in Hindukush region Chitral are melting faster than the surrounding areas, the phenomenon of GLOFs has increased in the recent time, and human intervention through grazing, fuel wood collection and farming around glaciers has also increased. Recommend

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