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    Afforestation, reduction of greenhouse gas emission vital to reduce melting of glaciers

    Afforestation, reduction of greenhouse gas emission vital to reduce melting of glaciers

    PESHAWAR (APP): Notwithstanding to the rising temperature caused by climate change, the glaciers mostly located in Hindukush and Himalaya region in northern areas are melting fast and the experts feared of losing about 80per cent of the precious source by an end of this century if deforestation and greenhouse gas emission continued with an existing scale in the region.

    “Glaciers are very important source of providing water to millions of people for drinking, irrigation and agriculture requirement, and its melting could be significantly reduced through whopping plantations and reduction of greenhouse gas emission besides improving economic conditions of local communities,” said Niaz Ali Khan, former Chief Conservator of Forests KP while talking to APP on Monday.

    “The glaciers of Himalaya and Hindukash ranges—an important source of providing fresh water to millions of people in the subcontinent including Pakistan–are melting fast due to climate change-induced weather patterns. Afforestration is the cheapest way to control its fast melting imperative to address the country’s water woes,” said Niaz Ali.

    He said climate change-induced weather patterns, rising temperature, poverty and high rate of deforestation especially in Gilgit Balistan and Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s community and private lands have put glaciers under heightened danger there. Time has come to work for addressal of these key issues before losing a precious source forever,” he said.

    Niaz Ali while citing a report of Kathmandu based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development said that up to 80% of glaciers’ volume could be lost by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions and climate change effects are not sharply reduced in the region.

    “With constant loss of glaciers, flash floods as evident of 2010 and 2022 floods in Pakistan would likely to occur in coming years especially in KP with high chances of curtailment of availability of fresh water for millions of people.”

    He said Pakistan contains more glaciers than any other parts of earth outside of the polar region, adding our irrigation network coming out of River Indus, Swat, Punjkora, Kunhar, Kabul and other rivers had largely depended on these glaciers which continuously re-charge our irrigated system in all provinces including Khyber Pakthunkhwa.

    Niaz Ali said ice and snow in the Hindu Kush Himalayan ranges are an important source of water for these rivers providing fresh water to millions of people from Swat to Karachi and Gawadar to Muzafarabad Azad Kashmir.

    He said Pakistan was a unique country where over 7,253 glaciers were providing fresh water supplies to people for irrigation, drinking, agriculture and industrial purposes.

    Besides 2,253 mighty, medium and small glaciers, including Baltoro (63km), Biafo (67km), Batura (57km) found in Gilgit Baltistan, he said the Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s Upper Chitral district is blessed with around 500 glaciers especially at Trichmir mountains ranges providing freshwater to downward districts of Khyber Pakthunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces through rivers Swat, Panjokra, Kabul and Indus throughout the year.

    “The people living in mountains areas, who had contributed nothing to global warming and greenhouses gas emissions are at high risk of flooding and GOLF lakes due to fast melting of glaciers,” he said, adding that present adaptation efforts in members countries are wholly insufficient, and environmentalists and water experts are extremely concerned that without greater support of international community, these communities will be unable to cope with this monster challenge.

    “Once ice melts in glacier regions, it is very difficult to put it back to its frozen form. Once the ice starts melting due to the rise of temperature, it is very hard to stop. So, with glaciers, especially the big glaciers in the Himalayas, once they start losing mass, that’s going to continue for a really long time before it can stabilize.”

    National Water Policy 2018 has revealed that per capita surface water availability has declined from 5,260 cubic meters per year in 1951 to around 1,000 cubic meters in 2016 and this quantity was likely to further drop to about 860 cubic meters by 2025, marking our transition from a “water stressed” to a “water scarce” country.

    The policy revealed that minimum water requirement to avoid food and health implications of water scarcity is about 1,000 cubic meters per capita per year and the situation underlined the need for rapid development and management of the country’s water resources especially completion of construction of dams of Mohmand and Diamir Bhasha on priority basis to conserve the precious commodities for future  generation.

    “The changing and unpredictable precipitation patterns may cause serious water and environmental consequences, including flash floods, drought, water logging and desertification as we have seen last year’s flooding and increasingly prolonged droughts in the southern parts of the country.

    With glaciers retreat, he said more glacial lakes would form like that of Atabad lake in Gilgit Baltistan besides increasing the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF). “The weather conditions had changed in recent years as very hot weather was being witnessed even in April that was not so decades before in Khyber Pakthunkhwa due to lack of rains and snow falls,” he said.

    Besides construction of new dams, he said there was a need to focus on plantation to increase chances of rains and snow falls to control glaciers melting.

    He said Pakistan’s average annual rainfall was ranging between 400milimeter (mm) to 1000mm while snowfall ranged about 60 inches that could be increased by bringing more areas under forestry cover especially in high alpasture and glaciers zones.

    Niaz said the early start of summer season and subsequent heat waves in May lead to fast melting of glaciers, resulting in increased chances of flooding and waste of fresh water.

    He said Pakistan was badly affected by climate change and global warming as evidenced by 2022 foods that caused over USD 40billion economic losses to the country despite the fact that it had not direct role in greenhouse gasses emissions.

    He said Pakistan’s afforestrations has been globally appreciated and expressed the hope that a major funding share of COP 27 UN fund would be provided to climate change vulnerable Pakistan.

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