ISLAMABAD-Federal Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, Senator Sherry Rehman on Thursday said the coffee table book ‘Fading Vistas’ underscoring the beauty of Northern Pakistan reminded that what was at stakes in the highly glaciated region of the country due to climate change.
The Minister expressed her views while launching the coffee table book launched under the GLOF-II project with the title “Fading Vistas -- Beauty of Northern Pakistan” which was followed by a photograph exhibition showcasing the natural beauty and unprecedented scenic ecosystems existing in the mountainous region of the country.
The GLOF-II is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, United Nations Development Programme-Pakistan (UNDP) supported by the Green Climate Fund.
In her keynote address, Senator Rehman appreciated the book and also lauded UNDP partnership in Pakistan. She said the mountains of the country were stunning and had emerged like a poster child at the content of every tourism company, social media magnets showcasing natural beauty and nature.
Pakistan had the largest glaciers outside the polar region and the experience of watching Indus River passing by the mountains in the north was a humbling feeling.
“Many cities are holding direct flights to northern areas bringing plethora of tourists depsite knowing the fact that it might not accommodate such huge number of masses,” the Minister said.
She added that these mountains were facing real risk as these glaciers were melting faster than average. Senator Rehman in a calculated estimate said that the glacial melt was probably beyond 300% which she said on the basis of the past glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) event.
The Minister noted that there was no data available on the pace of melting glaciers. However, she said the melting of glaciers varied from glacier to glacier as some of it were more resilient due to rocks on it, hence causing slow melt.
She underlined that littering at snowy peaks was reaching at a critical level event at the highest peaks that were hard to access.
Moreover, many of these glaciers were eroding due to indiscriminate trekking as it was a big business now to take people to climb glaciers, she said, adding, “But tourism must be Eco-tourism if these glaciers are to live. Human activity and development cannot be left unchecked.”
Pakistan, she said had made a compelling case before the world that it was the least emitter of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
The GLOF events were unmanageable and disastrous as they wash away large infrastructure like toothpicks, she said.
The G20 ministers were unable to decide on cutting fuel emissions that hampered the world to make convincing efforts to limit climate change, she regretted.
UNDP-Pakistan Resident Representative Samuel Rizk in his opening remarks welcomed the Minister. He said the photography was an amazing contrast of striking beauty and devastation in the northern areas.
Rizk said there was a lot of progress made on the project and it was the matter of rethinking the flood devastation.
The UNDP-Pakistan Resident Representative said at the end resilience was coping, recovering and sustaining.
“If we want to such initiatives to produce results, prevention and protection is important as is response and recovery,” he added.
The GLOF-II project, he said was not possible without strong political commitment of the government at the federal and local level.
Additional Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change and in charge GLOF II project, Syed Mujtaba Hussain briefed the participants on the project concept and its execution in different phases that was initiated at a pilot phase at two sites namely Bagrot and Bindu Goal valleys whereas the GCF provided $37 million to further scale up the project.
He said the coffee table book presented the beauty of the northern areas and it demanded us to be more responsible to take care of the natural resources that guarantee the survival of habitats and ecosystems.
Pakistan, he said was experiencing the worst form of retaliation by nature from floods, erratic weather patterns to droughts and heatwaves.
The GLOF-II interventions would help provide early warning information to communities to take preemptive measures during GLOF incidents whereas the construction of flood protection walls and water protection infrastructure would ensure disaster resilience, he added.