16:18 GMT +306 December 2019
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    General view of Passu glacier is seen in Pakistan's Gojal Valley

    Hell or High Water: 5,000 Melting Glaciers Pose Threat to Pakistan

    © AFP 2019 / Aamir QURESHI
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    Over 5,000 glaciers in the northern regions of Pakistan are rapidly vanishing off the face of the earth because of rising temperatures. A severe impact is expected, climate change ministry official says.

    Glaciers in Pakistan constitute the biggest mass and collection of ice found anywhere in the whole world outside the North and South Polar regions. Pakistan is home to around 5218 glaciers with a total area of 15,040 km2, and this enormous amount of ice is melting at a much faster rate due to an increase of average temperatures in the mountainous valleys.

    "Presently, glacial melting is a major global warming-induced risk Pakistan is grappling with. Other risks include sea-level rise, floods, higher than average temperatures, a higher frequency of droughts and expanding desertification," Pakistan's Deputy Director and a spokesman at the Ministry of Climate Change Mohammad Saleem Shaikh told APP news agency.

    Flows of glacial streams that feed the 3,500 kilometers-long Indus River increased to above normal and high levels during summer months and it clearly indicates that the country's glaciers are melting rapidly. Moreover, the mountain streams now flow even in winter, never observed until a couple of years ago, the ministry spokesman said.

    "Temperatures in most of the mountainous valleys never used to go beyond 30 degrees Celsius during the summer time but now it surpasses 40 degrees Celsius at times," he added. The temperature rise has been a cause of the rainy season's expansion and reduction of the snowfall period, what makes it difficult to form glacier ice.

    Melting glaciated ice and intense rainfalls trigger flash floods, which results in large-scale damages in the lowland areas. Along with high river flows and landslides, there is another ironic threat caused by glaciers' shrinking — severe water scarcity. According to experts, the country will most likely confront an acute water shortage, because there will no longer be any water reserves in the form of glaciers.

    Fading glaciers pose severe risks not only to lives of the people and infrastructure in the areas, but also to the sustainability of the agriculture sector, which is a mainstay of the Pakistani economy, Mohammad Saleem said. The negative impacts can be lessened by adaptation measures, such as water conservation in domestic and industrial spheres, especially in agriculture, which consumes nearly 96% of total water available in any form. The spokesman also noted that nation-wide public awareness for wise use of the water resources is needed. Wastage of the natural resource should be made a punishable crime.

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    Tags:
    ice, landslide, floods, temperature changes, global warming, glacier, Pakistan
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