Published On: Sat, Oct 10th, 2015

GLOF: Nature falling apart in Bagrot valley

Meraj Alam

GILGIT: While preparing for lunch one August afternoon, residents of Hocha village in Bagrot valley of Gilgit heard a big bang from the mountains above and saw fast flowing water coming towards them. They were hit by a powerful flash flood, which washed away a bridge and several of their houses.

The house of 26-year-old Muhammad Saqi, who is a farmer by profession, was also destroyed.
“The flood was so powerful that within minutes the houses, bridges and other infrastructure got damaged,” Saqi tells The Nature News. “At least four houses including mine and my neighbours’ was damaged. One of my apple orchards and 10 kanal of cultivated land also got affected.”

But Saqi is not alone. Hundreds of families of Bagrot valley are suffering from climate change and global warming.

The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region received heavy rainfall in the month of August. The flash flood which hit the Bagrot valley is technically known as glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF).

“Glacial Lake Outburst Flood or (GLOF) occurs when the ice walls containing the reservoir fail, sending entire lakes down to inhabited areas below,” Regional Project Manager Glof Khalil Ahmad tells The Nature News. “This can happen due to erosion, a building up of water pressure, earthquake or volcanic eruption under the ice, or if a large enough portion of a glacier breaks off and massively displaces the waters in a glacial lake at its base.”

Ahmed says about 5,000 glaciers and 2,500 lakes are located in northern Pakistan.

“UNAD had declared 52 lakes or glaciers more prone to climate change as G-B is one of the regions most vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change,” he said, adding the glaciers are also warming up rapidly in hot and cold season.

The rising temperature near the glaciers also cause floods, thus putting people of at least 36 villages with a population of almost 0.4 million at high risk.

The situation is having a negative impact on agricultural production, food security and the economy of Bagrot and the G-B as a whole, adds the project manager.

“This would ultimately increase poverty and insecurity in the region.”
The recent floods also damaged the 2MW Hydel project, leaving the people of Bgrot without electricity since over a month now.

GLOF had hit Bagrot valley in 1985 as well, washing away a bridge and several houses. As a result, as many as 80 per cent of the residents of Hinarch village of the valley had migrated to other areas.
60-year old Shahid Ali’s house, a resident of Hinarch village was one of the houses that got washed away in flash floods.

“Water and stones coming down in the shape of flood from glacier hit the valley and completely destroyed my house, cultivated land and other infrastructure. My family migrated to Balshar village,” he tells the The Nature News. “My father spent the rest of his life in hardship – bearing the damages done by floods.”

This article has been published in arrangement with NCEJ as part of its training in Gilgit on “Reporting impacts of climate change on communities”

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