Chitral and the threat of global warming

By Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

This summer Chitral experienced the worst aspect of global warming in July when GLOF hit the narrow valley of Golen, washing away the channel of the 108 mg hydel powerhouse, three  irrigation pipelines and two water supply schemes within minutes. It was because of the unusual heat that forced out the volume of water in the lakes in the glaciers of the said valley.

This caused havoc and power supply has not been restored, water supply is still far behind and the affected people are clamoring for relief but with low results. The people of the valley suffered greatly and remained besieged for weeks in the absence of the bridges which were the only source of exit from the valley. All the Government functionaries made much hue and cry and spoke of their efforts but conditions have not been brought to normalcy. Much work is yet to be done.

The same type of GLOF condition hit other glacier-fed rivers of Chitral where the lakes inside the glaciers in the floors of the higher valleys burst out and flooded every other day. This situation was seen in the Terich valley where the source of the river lies in the glaciers of the base of Terich Mir and its sister peaks that flooded, rose considerably higher than usual and carried away live and dead wood of the uplands and broke protection walls at many places along the side of the river.

The Udren Darband glacier also did the same feat as well as the Roshgol and Ziwar valley rivers. The sediment and debris which they carried down from the higher basins of the rivers  diverted the old riverbeds and caused damages to cultured forests and poplar trees on both sides of the rivers concerned. To the government functionaries the damaged and broken protection walls, the uprooting of cultured forests and poplar trees count little but for the owners concerned these are valuable and bring cash as source of income and should be treated as damages to assets because the growth of the trees takes  dozens of years and the erection of protection walls needs millions of Rupees either from the govt. funds or from other  sources and individual contributions.

This happened this year and may happen the next year but PDMA stands unconcerned, and takes it sufficient to issue ALERTS on and off … as if it is the only solution that is known to them. Last year this scribe submitted an application for construction of a protection wall to save a certain high school building but in reply they wrote an evasive answer ‘ that compensation is not the duty of PDMA’ whereas in the said application the word ‘compensation’ had not been written in any line of the application and it had repeatedly asked for CONSTRUCTION OF PROTECTION WALL’.

That is an evasive tactic of the offices concerned. I have the copy of the said reply from PDMA and will show to the Prime Minister at some suitable stage. Moreover the damages sustained by the people in scores of villages of Chitral have not been recorded by any agency for relief even at normal scale and as a show of sympathy from the PTI government.  Most of the resources have been routed to a certain district and the rest are at the mercy of circumstances.

The reoccurrence of GLOF has now been a chronic threat for uplands and the people living along the rivers and streams and all such vulnerable settlements must be identified and relief articles should be stored in each valley for quick response before the people die of shortage of food, medicines, shelter, etc. It all falls on the shoulders of the PDMA and local administration. Those who claim to focus  on  GLOF cases are bond to one petty valley and unaware of the gigantic glaciers that lie in the heart of Hindu Kush and stretch for dozens of kilo metres and drain into the valleys such as upper Terich glacier, Darband glacier, Roshgol glacier, Nurughi glacier, Hushko glacier, Kotgaz glacier, Chati boi glacier- all of them are more than 20 km long and have vast accumulation of ice that breaks and release immeasurable  volume of water within minutes, and no one from GLOF has visited those far off valleys but they must per claim.

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