Though the climate change phenomenon have been affecting our surroundings, weather patterns, natural habitats, rivers beds, marine life and mountains for long but they have started becoming evident only during the last decade i.e., since 2010 when our country was devastated by destructive floods.
Since then we are a regular witness to such devastations in various forms i.e. the 2013 heat wave in mega city Karachi which killed over two thousands, the melting of glaciers at strange pace, drying up of our river beds, cloud-bursts and decreasing water resources and increasing temperature level and weather patterns across the country. So we are not new to the terrifying consequences of climate change effects. The devastations caused by cloud- bursts in recent years in Karachi and then in the capital city Islamabad, where also scores of persons lost lives due to rain devastations, are a known fact.
And the latest in the series is burst of Shisper Lake Glacier in Hunza valley which is talk of the town. With this latest incident, the climate change issues which had seemingly taken a back seat, have come to the fore again in the post pandemic scenario. And our people have started experiencing its adverse effects in one way or the other. One is at loss for words when seeing the rampaging floodwaters playing havoc with the Hunza’s Hasanabad Bridge, situated on scenic Krakoram Highway and sweeping it away, due to which it has been closed for transports and traffic diverted to alternate routes in the scenic valley. Not only that bridge has been destroyed, it also badly damaged the civic infrastructures mainly the irrigation system and drinking water supply infrastructure besides disrupting power supply to the surrounding localities of the area due to damaging of various power houses by the unprecedented water flow.
Now this overflow of water resulting in massive floods in this particular area of the country is standing juxtaposed to the fact that our rivers are dried up right now with main rivers like Jhelum and Kabul having a very meagre amount of water which is not even enough for Kharif crops despite the fact that we have entered the month May during which there used to be a good flow of water in our rivers due to substantial amount of rains in the month of March and our dams too had sufficient reservoirs of waters. On the one hand, the lake in Hunza burst due to a huge rise in water level by a whopping forty per cent and that too within three weeks while on the other hand, the Mangla, Warsak and Turbela Dams reservoirs are at record low due to not enough water in the rivers which mostly emanates from the glaciers on the mountains in northern areas. The Shisper Lake outburst cannot be termed as a common occurring. In fact, it is a manifestation of natural devastations.
That’s why the Integrated International Crisis Group for Mountain Development has classified it as terrifying and dangerous situation as it can sweep away the surrounding houses and can also take toll on lives of the people residing in the area around it. The irony is that we have an exclusive Environment Ministry whose work is to prepare strategies to tackle and thwart the dangers of climate change effects but the ground reality is that we are totally ill-prepared to meet an emergent situation.
The Disaster management organization has also failed to cater to the needs of masses affected by natural calamities across the country. Earlier this year we saw the terrifying incident in Murree, when the nation was devastated by scenes of picnickers lying lifeless in vehicles which stuck in mammoth snow-fall on the roads with the Disaster authorities unable to rescue them and the Army was to be called for emergency operation to help the picnickers out. The irony is that it’s only after the damage has been done that our authorities wake up to the situation and start crying over spilt milk. Same was the case in this recent incident as we saw the Chief Minister of Glilgit Baltistan calling emergency meeting to determine the losses and devastations caused by the lake outbursts. And now the rehabilitation process is taking places but going by the past experiences, it will take months rather years to be completed. It is on the record that whatever is damaged in our country is rectified and rehabilitated in years.
When one points fingers at the authorities concerned, they say we have no Aladin’s lamp to rectify things in days but what they fail to understand is why they react so late and as to why they not focus on preemptive strategies, which can help mitigate the effects of such climate change phenomenon. It usually incurs huge losses and needs unprecedented funds to rehabilitate the affected people and restore the damaged supply lines of water, power and transport.
For instance, the National Highway Authority (NHA) is right now busy in installing a steel bridge for a while to let the residents connected with other parts of the country, but the fact is that such an operation needs huge funds while our economy is in dwindles and the government may find such operations difficult to carry out. What is needed is that the Climate Ministry which is now headed by PPP leader Sherry Rehman and her team, should come up with comprehensive plans to focus on preventive strategies.
As a matter of fact, our main water resources have roots in mountainous regions and our water resources mostly depend on glaciers melting which mostly exist in Gilgit-Baltistan, so we should awaken to this fact if we want to overcome the dilemma of water scarcity besides thwarting the devastations by glaciers melting which starts melting every year after the month of March in our country.