GILGIT-Baltistan (GB) is home to spectacular landscapes, thousands of glaciers, three mighty mountain ranges, a number of lakes and innumerable wild species. Approximately half of the area of GB consists of mountains, glaciers and lakes. There are no industries and coal power plants in the region. GB’s share in the emission of greenhouse gases is almost zero, but it is badly affected by the climate change phenomenon.

Various studies indicate that temperature in Pakistan has increased up to 0.76 degree Celsius during the last five decades, while it has risen up to 1.5°C in the mountainous areas during the same time period. According to a report by the Global Circulation Models, average temperature in Pakistan will increase from 2.5°C to 2.8°C by 2050, and it will rise more in the hilly areas.

Due to the rise in temperature, glaciers are melting rapidly, leading to floods and causing heavy loss to people, land, orchards and infrastructure. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) have estimated that Pakistan has to face $3.8 billion loss yearly due to climate change.

Deforestation is also a contributing factor in terms of climate change. Thousands of trees are chopped every year by the locals and particularly by the timber mafia. This wood is transported to other parts of the country for sale, and the mafia earns huge amounts.

Deforestation is not only playing a role in global warming, but is also causing soil erosion. It has also increased incidents of land-sliding and avalanche. The Karakoram Highway (KKH), which connects GB to the rest of the country, remains closed due to land-sliding. This blockage not only causes difficulties to travellers, but also creates a shortage of essential goods in the region. The government should take concrete steps to mitigate the effects of climate change. The local authorities should conduct awareness drives in the region to educate the masses about the same.

Asim Iqbal
Rawalpindi

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2021

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