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The shrinking battlefield

January 10, 2013

SANER counsel has always held that the Pakistan-India dispute over the Siachen glacier, the world’s highest battleground, is resulting in a waste of resources that could be put to much better use. Despite decades having passed, the two countries have been unable to come to a comprehensive agreement on this barren wasteland. Now, however, it seems that the problem may be shrinking — literally. According to a recent study, the Siachen glacier lost 5.9km of its longitudinal length between 1989 and 2009 due to rising temperatures. The study, Climate Data and Modelling Analysis of the Indus Ecoregion, analyses the weather patterns in the region and charts their projected effect. For Siachen, rising temperatures have meant that the glacial ice mass has thinned by 17 per cent. Just as worryingly, the human presence in this region may also be affecting the neighbouring glaciers of Gangotri, Miyar, Milan and Janapa, which feed the Ganges, Chenab and Sutlej rivers — lifelines for millions of people.

It would be pertinent, then, to renew the call for all troops and infrastructure to be removed from the Siachen area. There is too much evidence now for even the most optimistic to deny that this planet is fragile and every country must do what it can to mitigate the effects its population may be having on ecosystems and the environment. That said, Pakistan must also look into the other points of concern the report raises. One of the more worrying is that we have experienced rising minimum and maximum temperatures during both summer and winter, a shift that will affect crop yields and quality. Many countries are trying to ensure that they can adapt as smoothly as possible to changing weather patterns. Pakistan must also do what it can.