The Express Tribune reports that according to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2014-15 “Pakistan’s 5,000 glaciers are retreating faster than any other part of the world”. Glacial lake outburst floods were named among the main persistent extreme events that the survey holds responsible for recent spikes in climate change effects being felt by the country. The Survey also noted that this recession of the glaciers “will threaten water inflows into Indus River System (IRS)”. As glacier melt is one of the two major sources for fresh water in a country that is largely dependent on agriculture the causes of this accelerated recession have to be properly assessed and mitigated before food and water security is irrecoverably affected.
This is 3 years after the Legislative Framework in the policy measures suggested by Pakistan’s 2012 National Climate Change Policy called for the protection of the “HKH glaciers, considered the world’s water tower, by declaring them as ‘protected areas’ through agreements among countries sharing the Himalayan region”. Given that trans-national pollution is in responsible for excessive glacier melt this was an important instrument. However the policy did not specifically address internal and national treats including lack of proper solid waste disposal on the glaciers frequented by adventure tourism and ones that serve as supply routes for security forces.
In light of the recent Economic Survey’s findings it can only be hoped that future policies address both national and trans-national threats to the health of our glaciers, water and consequently our people.