CHITRAL: The climate change is affecting the agricultural and pastoral practices in Chitral, putting pressure on natural resources, especially pastures, for grazing animals and getting their fodder.

Hamid Mir, a conservationist with an international organisation, said the climate change had increased the vulnerability of the communities using livestock for subsistence.

He said like other mountain communities transhumance was the culture and identity of indigenous communities in Hindukush and Himalayan regions where herders followed a vertical herding pattern as part of subsistence coupled with agriculture.

“With the advent of climate change, the atmospheric temperature has increased significantly in the northern belt of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the last one century. Resultantly, winters are shrinking and summers are expanding, which means herders’ stay in pastures goes on for longer periods than in the recent past,” he said.

Mr Mir said due to increase in temperature and changing pattern of precipitation, the composition and availability of fodder in high altitude pastures had also changed considerably, directly affecting the pastoral economy.

Quoting some recent surveys conducted the world over he said the population of non-palatable fodder species in the high pastures was on increase while the population of nutrition-rich palatable species was decreasing, thus shrinking resources in pastures for the livestock to feed on.

He said increasing heat had led to decrease in population of edible species of flora and productivity of indigenous livestock breeds. “Indigenous species are slowly and gradually becoming extinct and being replaced by exotic species, but the latter is facing problems in adapting to the high altitude weather,” he added.

He said availability of water in high pastures was another challenge because of drying up high altitude lakes, rapid melting of glaciers and floods.

Mr Mir said glacial lake outburst flood (Glof) phenomenon had also wreaked havoc in the highlands of Upper and Lower Chitral, as out of more than 550 glaciers 50 had been declared sensitive, which were drifting due to abnormal rise in temperature.

He added the sub-valleys of Golen, Bindu Gol, Reshun, Sonoghur, Booni and a village in Torkhow valley had been hit by Glof over the last two decades. This has forced the herders to shift to the neighbouring highland pastures, which has resulted in the grazing fields’ overexploitation and increasing their vulnerability to flash floods in summer, he added.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2020

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