Prof Rahmat Karim Baig

Impacts of global warming on Chitral

Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

Chitral lies between Central Asia and South Asia with its border starting just from the southern tip of Pamir in the north-east to Arandu in the southwest and so the waters from all the glaciers of the border regions of Chitral flow from northeast to southwest.

The borders from Durah Pass at the end of Lotkuh valley to Boroghil and farther east are heavily glaciated and so is the border with Ishkamon –Yasin valleys to Booni Zom group of peaks down to Lowari pass where the glaciated part of Chitral closes.

In this way Chitral area is surrounded by high peaks hence glaciers of various magnitude such as Chiantar glacier (36km) in the east to Darband glacier (32km) in the Udren valley of Terich. The Chitral river gets its water from all these glaciers and only small amount of the glacial water is used for irrigation due to the depth of the valleys while the higher hamlets of all the valleys get water either from streams or springs.

In the last few decades, the phenomena of global warming has shed negative impacts on these glaciers. For example the Lower Terich glacier with its source from the north face of Terich Mer peak was a huge size glacier in 1969 when I first went up that valley and the river flowed under the wide spread glacier and emerged at the upper end of a Birch forest known as Sheghniak at one stage from Shagrom – the last permanent settlement of Terich valley and this glacier has now melted so rapidly that one day journey is now over rocks and sand along the river and no glacier is to be found on the track to the next camping site of this trekking route.

The same is the case with all the other major glaciers, let alone, the smaller ones which have just disappeared and vegetation has appeared as fodder for ibex as goats are not taken that for away in summer.

The rapid melting rate of the colossal glaciers has been giving rise to the volume of the rivers in all the valleys each summer and with the rise in the volume of the rivers the banks on both sides of the rivers are cut by the waters rapidly due to the high speed of the rivers and more debris fall into the rivers and gives further rise to the surface of the rivers and cause floods and GLOFS resulting in the damages of infrastructure such as roads are cut, bridges are collapsing, communication system is disrupted; irrigation channels are badly damaged and crops dry up in the peak months of summer heat.

The destruction of infrastructure needs rebuilding and Funds are not always available like the one at Duma Dumi above Booni or at the lower end of Reshun.

The damages wrought to the beautiful village of Reshun is just because of this erosion and the gravel that is carried down the river bed by the strong torrents of the summer. This aspect of global warming has become a reoccurring headache for the local people as well as the administration.

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