climate change and its impacts on Chitral

Climate change – impacts on Chitral

Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

Chitral is located as a sandwich between Central Asia and South Asia. It is neither included in Central Asia nor a part of the south for its geological composition and geographical conditions.

It has inherited volatile weather conditions because of the presence of the conglomeration of the high peaks which have made it an ideal destination for adventure tourists. Its weather conditions and daily weather report is mostly unpredictable. It gets snowfall in winters from the clouds rising from Caspian and Mediterranean seas and that western spell continues up to May. In summer it does not receive rain from the clouds rising from the Bay of Bengal known as Monsoon rains.

In the South Asian section south of Chitral this spell brings heavy rains and sometimes it turns into heavy floods and cause damages to crops all over the sub-continent. This geographical phenomenon brings it closer to Central Asia than south Asia.

Due to its elevation it bears crops that have similarity with the land produce of Central Asia including Afghanistan. The seeds of various crops and vegetables have much difference from the ones grown in the south. The alpine pastures and the rugged mountains have a spectacular sight. Parts of lower Chitral have pine forests but not very dense. The rest of the upper Chitral including Lotkuh valley is barren with low bushes and scanty fodder sources for flocks and wild life. The habitat of the wild life has gone from bad to worse due to the extra flocks brought by the herders. There the presence of Gujoor nomads and the overgrazing on the hills has shown flush floods in a number of side valleys and streams.

This destroys the poor communication infrastructure of the two districts of Chitral. The landslides and debris of the floods empty themselves into the main river which then rises abruptly and cuts the banks and overflows into the nearby settlements. The high temperature this summer melted larger amount of the glaciers and the rivers flooded and caused erosion with uprooted trees flown down the channels into the open parts of the channels.

The Terich river has got a heavy amount of glacier stock from Terich Mer and its sister peaks that sent down enormous volume of water down the valley and thus the river broke its banks and took many inconceivable diversions. Destroyed link roads and within weeks the bush lands on both sides of the river were turned into horrible dunes of sand and rockery. The sources of the mini hydel power houses were destroyed and power supply of 5 power houses broke down.

The watermills stood idle due to discontinuation of the water from the river. A number of GLOFs also increased the volume of the river. The main jeep road narrowly escaped a cut – off. The NDMA / PDMA Authorities are requested to visit the affected valleys and arrange for restoration of road facility wherever needed. More careful study has to be carried out by Geologists with sincere intentions, not as an official  routine. The temperature has also reduced the volume of many streams  such as Chumoorkon gol,  Broz Gol,  Bieni gol of Mroi, the poor volume of Gaht gol in Mulkho, etc. as all these are fed by springs and those sources have depleted and the smaller amount cannot reach the settlements and the corn fields in the fringe of the settlements.

The glaciers in the high Hindu Kush section shrank and retreated for kilometers. New Flora and Fauna have begun to sprout and appear in the higher pastures where they were never seen. The weather scientists should approach the native old men of the valleys of Chitral to get their age long native knowledge about climate change and the native knowledge must be recorded for better planning.

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