Environmental expert: Pakistan yet to raise Siachen glacier issue at global forum
Siachen glacier, the life line of river Indus, is a disputed and un-demarcated region of Kashmir, and a declared environment issue between Pakistan and India, informed sources told Business Recorder. India’s official rhetoric on the melting of Siachen glacier is global warming – a red herring successfully sold by India to the world while Pakistan has yet to raise this issue at a global level.
‘Conflicting Signals of Climatic Change in the Upper Indus Basin’, based on research carried out by the University of Newcastle demonstrates that the differences in climate change between Gilgit-Baltistan-Ladakh and Indian Held Kashmir is mainly attributable to a major military presence there which is the cause of Siachen’s melting. The Siachen glacier is melting rapidly, which is to be expected with the global climate change, but there are also some serious drivers that are increasing the speed of its melting and its potential effects.
The large presence of military forces on the glacier and surrounding areas has led to end of natural environment due to commercial reasons such as hourly helicopter flights (the only mode of transport in the region) and other movements of military troops. These commercial activities increase the heat and traffic on the glacier itself.
India has been indulging in the development projects in these sensitive areas, installing factories which emit carbon dioxide at the rate of 2,070,000 (kt). Moreover, with the construction of Indian airports in Ladakh for logistical support to Indian troops at Siachen, all these war specific developments changed the climate. Leh, the district headquarter of Ladakh is being connected with Army Head Quarter Delhi through Manali-Leh-Highway; a project undertaken by the Indian army. Furthermore, to fight the extreme weather conditions, a kerosene pipeline has also been laid down on main glaciers by the Indian Army. Kerosene is supplied for stoves at every igloo and post for heating and cooking purposes.
While talking to an environmental expert, Dr Pervaiz Amir, he said that China, the United States and India are the countries which are emitting carbon dioxide at large, whereby Pakistan is on 135th number in the list of carbon emission countries. India is affecting Pakistan more directly and drastically because of carbon suit factories. Emphasising the need by the Pakistani government to take up this issue at the international level, said that Pakistan can avail opportunity to discuss Siachen issue at the recently being held Conference on Climate Change in Paris, which is being attended by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
He said in 2010, governments agreed that emissions need to be reduced so that global temperature increases are limited to below 2 degrees Celsius. It’s not just the Siachen but other Glaciers of Karakoram Range are also melting down causing climate change. Deep and big cracks both in longitudinal and transverse directions, and remapping of the glaciers by horizontal expansion of glacial lakes and vertical thinning of glaciers is an alarming sign of climate change.
Out of 15,000 glaciers in Himalaya Korakoram Hindukush region, only few glaciers have been studied with conflicting findings. Dirk Scherler in his study (2011) showed that out of 42 studied glaciers in Karakoram region, 58 percent are advancing or stable and 42 percent are retreating.
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has described 2420 glacial lakes in Pakistan which have now increased to 3044 as recently reported by Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD). Rapidly increasing number of Glacial Lakes is an impending threat to the communities in Northern Areas of Pakistan and keeping in view the gravity of concern, the government in collaboration with UNDP has initiated a project titled “Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF)” to avert GLOF risks in Chitral and Gilgit areas.
The mass of all glaciers has been seen declining since the 1990s. Accelerated melting process of seasonal snow and that of glacier ice from mountain glaciers have been adding to greater volume of water into the sea than normal discharges. Defence Analyst, Khalid Muhammad expressed that the melting of the Saichen Glacier is affecting four other glaciers namely Gangotri, Miyar, Milan and Janapa (not to mention Karokaram Glacier which has emerged from the melting of the Siachen Glacier). It is high time to raise the issue in climate change conference, since the world has reached a landmark agreement to take significant action to reduce carbon pollution, he added. The current climate change in Siachen is not only affecting Pakistan and India but also to other developed and developing countries.