During the winter months of December and January, the absence of snowfall in Gilgit-Baltistan raises concerns in various aspects. The natural process of snowfall in the mountains during these cold months replenishes water reservoirs, known as glaciers, ensuring a steady supply of water for agriculture and meeting human needs during the warmer months. A deficiency or absence of snowfall in winters adversely affects water availability, leading to negative impacts on agricultural crops.
Similarly, irregularities in winter can result in excessive rainfall during the spring season, further affecting agricultural productivity. This year, the early arrival of spring due to the lack of winter snowfall in Gilgit-Baltistan has already signalled potential dangers. The observation of premature blooming and greenery poses a serious threat, indicating the impact of climate change.
Climate change refers to the increase in temperatures across the globe, causing changes in environmental conditions such as prolonged droughts, erratic rainfall, and more. In the case of Gilgit-Baltistan, the region after the Arctic and Antarctic holds the world’s second-largest glacial reserves, covering an area of 6,169 square kilometres. These glaciers feed the largest river in Pakistan, the Indus, vital for irrigating the country’s agricultural plains.
The alarming rate of glacial melting worldwide, attributed to the rising temperatures, poses significant risks for Gilgit-Baltistan. If the current pace continues, experts predict the inevitable disappearance of glaciers in the coming years. The consequences of glacial melt extend beyond potential floods; they impact wildlife, ecosystems, and agricultural production, affecting the overall environmental balance.
Rather than hosting lavish conferences in luxury hotels, promoting local community collaboration for wildlife conservation should be prioritised. Empowering local communities with ownership rights over glaciers, grazing lands, and other natural resources can ensure sustainable environmental conservation.
In conclusion, the urgency of addressing climate change in Gilgit-Baltistan requires a concerted effort to balance development and conservation. Effective policies, community involvement, and responsible tourism practices can safeguard this ecologically crucial region for future generations.
Written by: Asif Ali Yabgo