From Attabad to Miacher
Signs of ominous climatic change, with government unprepared
Ominous portents of the impending climatic changes in Pakistan find place in media for a few days but are soon forgotten, overtaken by dramatic events with immediate consequence. It is forgotten that in January 2010 massive landslides resulted in the creation of Attabad Lake amidst extraordinary human suffering. What followed subsequently was sheer disaster, what lies ahead is frightening. The lake flooding displaced 6,000 people from upstream villages, and stranded a further 25,000 who were left with no land transportation routes. It also inundated over 19 km of the Karakoram Highway.
There are reports now of another series of landslides in Miacher valley in Gilgit Baltistan. Since October last year, landmass in the valley is showing signs of a possible disaster, with cracks in the rocks having widened from nine inches to twelve. With the rise of temperatures in the bedding of the mobilised debris, the slopes can be expected to fail. If this happens, the landslide will create a damming wall 400 to 500 metres high and 200 metres wide out of a total of 1,000 to 2,000 million cubic metres of rock debris that will be displaced. When the Attabad lake was being formed, fears were expressed that in case of a sudden breach in the rock debris, it would have catastrophic impact on habitations and water works downstream, particularly the Tarbela Dam.
Being a predominantly agricultural economy, climate change is estimated to decrease crop yields from flooding and changing temperatures. Deterioration of climate is irreversibly harming Pakistan, as the glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding and affect water resources within the next two to three decades.
The world is passing through a century of unusual climatic changes caused by global warming. Pakistan has been ranked the third most vulnerable country to climate changes. The nuclear power is least prepared to cope with the impact. It has helplessly witnessed the catastrophic floods in 2010 that had killed at least 1,600 and left some four million homeless and destroyed more than 1.6 million acres of crops. The floods had surpassed the humanitarian aid scope of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake and the 2010 Haiti quake. Pakistan faces five major risks related to climate change including rise in sea level, glacial retreats, floods, higher average temperature and higher frequency of droughts. Being a predominantly agricultural economy, climate change is estimated to decrease crop yields from flooding and changing temperatures. Deterioration of climate is irreversibly harming Pakistan, as the glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding and affect water resources within the next two to three decades. After Attabad and Miacher there are likely to be other lakes created by water pressure and increased seepage in rocks causing further damage.
There is a need on the part of the government to give heed to the recurring omens to prepare Pakistan to absorb the colossal shocks that lie ahead. No country can deal with the climatic changes taking place alone. It is no time to expand the nuclear arsenal or enter the missile race. The government has to initiate talks with neighbouring countries particularly India to join hands to prepare for the challenge.