Jun 03, 2019

Gilgit-Baltistan: Project to Prevent Floods Enters Second Phase After Delay

With glacial melting on the rise due to climate change, the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Northern Pakistan are threatened by the overflow of glacier lakes. The second phase of the Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) Risk Reduction Project in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa intends to step up efforts to prevent this natural catastrophe and improve local communities’ capabilities in case of emergency. This is long overdue after the delays in obtaining approval from the Climate Change Ministry. Gilgit-Baltistan’s governance, including environmental risk protection and infrastructural projects, is almost solely in the hands of the Pakistani central government.


The article below was published by The Dawn:

The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Friday [May 31st] launched a five-year project aimed at averting the risk of glacier lake outburst floods that can cause havoc in northern parts of Pakistan.

The agreement for launching the project under the second phase of the Glacier Lake Outburst Flood Risk Reduction in Northern Pakistan Project (GLOF-II) was signed by the acting UNDP Resident Representative, Ignacio Artaza, and the GB government’s additional chief secretary for development.

The agreement will strengthen coordination between the GB government and the UNDP and facilitate implementation of activities as approved by the project steering committee.

Various studies suggest existence of over 3,044 lakes as a result of melting glaciers in GB and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [KP] of which 36 are considered hazardous, putting some 7.1 million people at risk.

After the signing ceremony, the UNDP official recalled his recent visit to several glaciers in Hunza, and expressed concern over potential impact on the local communities of glacial melting. Mr Artaza stressed the need for a fast-track work on the ground, including procurement and installation of sensors for early warning purposes.

The project will set up early warning systems and automated weather stations to mitigate the impact of GLOFs. It also focuses on building small-scale GLOF risk reduction infrastructure as well as promotion of water efficient and risk-informed farming technologies for local communities. More than half of the project beneficiaries will be women.

The scaling up of GLOF risk reduction in Northern Pakistan (GLOF-II) project is a continuation of the four-year ‘Reducing Risks and Vulnerabilities from GLOF in Northern Pakistan’ (GLOF-I) project which helped vulnerable communities prepare for and mitigate GLOF risks through early warning systems, enhanced infrastructure and community-based disaster risk management.

Led by the climate change ministry, with support from the UNDP and funding support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the project will target the most vulnerable rural communities in high-altitude regions of GB and KP. GB having a large number of the country’s glaciers is more prone to disasters.

GLOF-II will scale up GLOF-I from its original two districts (one each in KP and GB) to cover 10 districts, benefiting 29 million people or 15 per cent of Pakistan’s population.

The project will strengthen and expand institutional and coordination arrangements for implementing adaptation action plans and climate change initiatives in GB and KP at the provincial and local levels.

It will scale up early warning systems and disaster response measures in communities, as well as surveillance and analysis by meteorological and disaster management authorities, and establish multi-channel communication systems to ensure that flood warnings reach vulnerable communities, establish village hazard watch groups, and work with local support organisations to operate and maintain early warning systems.

It is anticipated that the project will strengthen and expand community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM) committees and emergency response cells through equipment and training and support small-scale infrastructure and slope stabilisation.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons