Brep devastated by floods

Devastation caused by rains, GLOFs

Shadman Zain

Once considered a distant reality, the perils of global warming have started to stretch its tentacles, thereby hugely impacting mountain lives and livelihoods. The phenomenon of GLOF and avalanche which were earlier unknown to the mountain communities are becoming a nightmare.

The increase in temperature in addition to accelerated rate of snow-melting on the mountains has also frequented the unregulated rains and extreme weather conditions. It poses great threat to existing glaciers, the outburst of them recently in different areas of Chitral devastated the lives and properties of the inhabitants.

This phenomenon has been going on for quite a while without us having the consciousness to notice it. However, the realization in this part of the world came lately, but in a hard way. The recent happenings in the country awakened us to the reality. It has caught us unprepared, proper mechanism is required to put in place to make the communities more resilient and save them from such future calamities.

Like other parts of the country, Chitral has also been badly hit by the recent GLOF events and torrential rains. Among the most affected areas of Chitral are villages/areas that come under the jurisdiction of tehsil Mastuj and Torkhow/Mulkhow in Upper Chitral and tehsil Dros and Chitral of Lower Chitral.

As per the initial reports, almost 15 percent of the total population of Pakistan has been affected. It is understandable that, the rural areas of the northern parts of the country came under the grip of GLOF events and torrential rains due to unusual weather patterns driven by the phenomenon of climate change which triggered floods and severe rainfalls that washed away the villages and claimed lives and property.

However, it also needs to be acknowledged that, besides downpours, most of the urban inundation resulted in the flooding in the high lying areas of northern Pakistan, that swamped the rivers bringing about the catastrophe in the low-lying parts of the country. Thus, the threats of floods still loom large; and that, unless and until, this portion of the country is made disaster resilient and safe; the threats to the rural as well as urban flooding in the country remain. 

The current scenario thus entails the instant response from multilateral donors and government agencies to attend to the emergency needs of the affected areas and chalk out a wide-ranging plan for their rehabilitation. Equally important is the formulation of long-term strategy that should include but not be limited to the amalgamation of soft and hard measures to mitigate the underlying factors that lead to such kind of calamities.

To that end, a public private partnership mechanism is required whereby all the stakeholders such as ICIMOD, AKAH and others donor agencies should collaborate to initiate an extensive research study to identify the vulnerable areas; and suggest evidence-based measures and provide accurate data and information aimed at facilitating the formulation of a comprehensive and realistic, disaster risk reduction and preparedness strategy.

It will then be followed by the implementation of the plan forthwith to arrest the possibility of future occurrence of GLOF events. However, the UNDP GLOF project has already been working to that end in Chitral. Yet, the scope of the vulnerable areas/communities goes beyond the capacity of a single organization to cater to the colossal disaster risk mitigation needs. Hence upscaling the project in Chitral and replicating the same in areas, which are prone to such kind of threats, with the inclusion of other partners such as government and other international and national NGOs is the need of time, which may significantly contribute to the DRRP initiatives.

Apart from that, the study may also tap into the indigenous knowledge and methods that have had effectively provided bulwark against environmental degradation and suggest actions to incentivize their revival. For instance, there are anecdotal evidence that testify to the fact that, rotational grazing and other indigenous practices hugely contribute to the conservation of the pastures, flora, and fauna; consequently, slowing down the environmental degradation.

There is a direct correlation between the safety of the northern areas, particularly in terms of GLOF and deluge and subsequent inundation of the urban areas of Pakistan. Thus, an integrated approach driven by the deep desire and commitment on the part of the government of Pakistan and other multi-lateral organizations to address the issue; combined with the required knowledge, expertise, and financial resources may significantly help make the areas more resilient and safer to permanently ward off further country wide devastation.

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