Climate change adversely affects fresh water resources

The major sources of Pakistan’s fresh water and power generation, the mighty Indus River and other tributary rivers originated from Himalayas and Karakorum Mountain ranges are being adversely affected by rapid climate changes in the region.

Scientists and experts believe that climate change is taking place due to increasing emission of greenhouse gases, which is also one of the main reasons for global warming. It had also a direct impact on global atmospheric conditions. The changes also affect the physical conditions of heavenly glaciers, which exist on high mountains to formulate proper glacial eco-system. The other major areas which are being affected by climate changes included human health, water related infrastructure and hydropower generation.

Talking to APP, Member Punjab, Indus River System Authority (IRSA), Rao Irshad Khan said that due to increase in global warming, water vapours are generated in abundance which disturb the hydrogen-cycle of water system. The situation ultimately resulted into irregular rain patterns causing extreme weather condition and flooding in the country. He said that due to increase in temperatures, western winds and local monsoon patterns have become harmonically strong which has shifted the patterns of monsoon from Chenab River to some 100 miles away to the Indus basin region.

Rao Irshad said, “Our Northern Areas are home to 5,218 glaciers and 2,420 glacial lakes, out of which, more than 50 glaciers have potentially been categorised as dangerous”. He said that the glaciers are receding at an average 40 to 60 metres per 10 years, which has created complications for the communities residing at the up sea level, who are under the threat of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). Recently, a week ago, the glacier `Azghor’ has outburst in Chitral district’s Golain region, following a huge flood inundated many villages, he added.

 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Country Manager, Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said that temperatures in most of the mountainous areas surpass 40 degree Celsius in summer season, which is alarming. This phenomenon is caused by greenhouse gases, which are multiplying in various parts of the country at a fast pace, he added.

Cheema said that the hydrologic-cycle is being disturbed by the rise in temperatures, which has had a substantial impact on the water resources availability, changes in water quality and change in the precipitation pattern. High temperatures are disturbing the summer-winter precipitation cycle, which has a direct impact on the forest and vegetation cover, which is associated with balancing of the water-cycle, he added.

The IUCN country manager said that according to a research report, an overwhelming majority, around 85 per cent of farmers, was facing freshwater impacts, caused by climatic conditions such as a change in rainfall, monsoon onset and temperatures. He said this trend suggests rural areas in Pakistan have been particularly hard hit by climate change.

Sources in the Ministry of Climate Change said that anthropogenic activity and a climate change pattern has influenced the country`s capacity for energy generation, which has led Pakistan from water-stressed to a water-scarce nation.

Keeping in view the developments in the water sector, around 142 MAF water was available in 2015-16 for agricultural use, which now has been reduced by climate change impacts, he added. He said that in spite of all the strenuous efforts, water availability is either stagnant or dwindling.

According to the Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) research reports, freshwater resources are among the sectors that are most vulnerable and have the potential to be strongly impacted by the changing climate issues.

The GCISC sources told APP that the incumbent government is facilitating the collaboration of various local and international scientists and experts who are being engaged in research activities of water resources implications.

Environment Protection Department Director Nasim-ur-Rehman said that the day by day increasing hot climate, changing patterns of snowmelt, rise in sea level and precipitation is causing an existing social and economic pressure on natural resources. For example, poor communities residing along the delta and riversides are facing severe conditions to make their livelihoods, he added.

Nasim said that global warming and climate change issues were causing a fast glacial melting in Pakistan which could cause 60 per cent shortage of water — affecting both the energy and agriculture sectors of the country.

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