Chitral waking up to climate challenge

By Islamuddin
It is heartening to know that Chitralis are waking up to the problem of climate change. When this online newspaper agitated the issue a few years back, there was little realization as to the gravity of the problem.

Proponents were being advised to discuss more urgent and “useful” issues. But we insisted that global warming was an existential issue and must be addressed if human survival on the blue planet was to be ensured. It was suggested that without reducing emissions of carbon, CFCs, methane gases along with reforestation and soil conservation this problem couldn’t be solved any time soon. Governments were advised to strictly enforce relevant laws and punish the climate thieves.

On the eve of 9/11 reports were carried in the media quoting Nostrademus having predicted arrival of new specie on the planet 350 years after this event, when human life cycle on earth would come to an end. Few scientists predicted allergy epidemic as a major threat to human survival. This allergic reaction would come from un-natural food and rampant use of plastics and chemicals. It was in this background that powerful movement emerged with slogans of ‘back to nature’ and say no plastic shopper and instead carry your own beg made from natural products.

Every year thousands of cattle from down country are brought to Garam Chashma valley during summer for grazing purposes. Owing to over-grazing over the years the pasture lands had shed their vegetation turning them into barren lands. Rainfall of a few minutes was enough to cause flash floods causing huge loss to property and rendering major tracts of land unfit for human use.

When the issue was explained to the people they agreed to sell their cattle and allow the eroded soil to settle down before they decided to rear fresh stock. But the mafia did not agree and instead blackmailed the common folk to allow them to rent out this common land to outsiders for “Qalang”and in return the beneficiaries would help the people in their court cases.

In late May this year when these “Qalanchies” were bringing their cattle to Gobor area, a civic spirited individual, Mr.Fayaz and UC Naib Nazim, Khosh Muhammad stopped them on the way to the pastureland and brought in the district administration to discharge their responsibilities under the law. Thus despite connivance of some officials the “Qalangchies” could not succeed and had to go back.

This is a historic success and more such proactive steps are required to conserve our eco-system. It is especially significant in the backdrop of our missing glaciers. Our biggest glaciers on top of Munurgol that feeds many river has already receded by a few miles resulting in drying up of rivulets, streams and springs, thus ringing alarm bells. The melting of the glacier is attributed to emissions from cattle apart from the phenomenon of global warming.

With disappearing glaciers, the only way to keep the water cycle running would be transpiration-a process whereby tree leaves throw up water particles into the air to form clouds and cause rain. Another method is artificial rain through seeding of chemicals. This procedure is very expensive and has perhaps been used only once in South America.

The risk involved is the likelihood of acid rain owing to the existence of poisonous particles in the air, which might damage plants and cause skin cancer in human beings. So the only viable option is massive plantation to regulate water cycle after the glaciers are gone. This way springs and sub-soil water table can be kept running with the help of transpiration. But reforestation cannot succeed without quarantining cattle for the duration of plant growth to the level where cattle, especially goats, cannot reach their leaves for use as fodder.

Plantation should proceed side by side with disaster mitigation measures including silting/widening of watercourses; constructions of protection work and check dams in upland areas. For the purpose of reforestation upland areas may be preferred because transpiration activity in highlands can be more effective as compared to low-laying areas where artificial forests exist but have little impact on the climate.

With a view to stopping cutting of trees for firewood alternate resources may be tapped and these include hydel energy, natural gas and solar power; biogas having been tried and failed there is no need for more experimentation and wastage of resources. Similarly environment friendly plants of local origin and not expensive alien plants causing allergy should be introduced.

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