PESHAWAR, June 1: Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral will get separate weather warning stations along with threat detection centres to attend to the risks associated with two potentially hazardous glacial lakes, say official sources.

According to these sources, the two technical facilities will be set up in Bagrot valley in Gilgit-Baltistan and Drongagh in Chitral, where, according to an international study, melting glaciers have developed hazardous lakes and thus, threatening local communities.

Northern parts of Pakistan, according to the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development study conducted in 2007, have 2,420 glacial lakes of which 52 have potential to cause glacier lake outburst floods, according to an official document.

An official of the Met Office said the warning stations had been made part of a recently launched $76 million ‘Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs)’ project, which was aimed at improving living conditions for local communities through environmental management.

Apart from setting up weather warning stations at the two places, the project, according to the documents, aims at formulating policy recommendations and institutional strengthening to prevent GLOFs in northern Pakistan.

The 52 lakes classified as ‘potentially hazardous’ under the ICIMOD study covers 126 square kilometres in Swat, Chitral, Gilgit, Hunza, Shigar, Shyok, Indus, Shingo, Astor and Jhelum areas, posing threats to human life and local economies. “Records show that on average, GLOF events occur in the Himalayas every three to 10 years, with varying degrees of socioeconomic impact,” according to the project document.

The country, the document says, lost 5,832 human lives and suffered property damages of over Rs380 million due to natural disasters caused by outburst floods in the northern areas of the country from 1950 to 1999.

The project management, according to the official, will alleviate glacial lakes at Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral by applying community-based GLOF risk mitigation measures; including controlled breaching of the moraine dams, pumping or siphoning the lakes’ water, constructing outlet control structure, or tunneling through the moraine barrier or under an ice dam.

The Bagrot valley glacial lake, according to the document, has put at risk the area’s 1,100 households with an estimated population of 10,000 people.

Similarly, the lake in Drongagh, Chitral, has been posing risk to 3,500 people in an area at a distance of around 40 kilometres from Chitral municipality.

“Mountain communities living in proximity of glacier lakes and glacier-fed rivers are particularly at risk as they live in remote and marginalised areas and depend heavily on fragile ecosystems for their livelihood,” the project document said, referring to the people of Bagrot valley and Drongagh at risk of flashfloods.

As per the document, there are capacity deficits in the country’s existing early warning systems due to the limited information on the expected distribution and the impacts of GLOFs.

“Current disaster management policies and risk reduction and preparedness plans in Pakistan address recurrent natural hazards (e.g. flooding, landslides and seismic events) in the country, but are not yet geared to deal with the new dimension of GLOF threats,” according to the document.

The project, according to its planning documents, will work to provide better access of disaster management planners and policy makers to knowledge, information and research on GLOF risks by engaging global and regional research networks and centers working on GLOF.

It further says the project will also put in place risk and hazard maps for mountainous areas with the highest GLOF risk.

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