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September 7, 2020

Looming glacial flood threat: Villagers in Chitral mulling migrating to safer places

National

September 7, 2020

PESHAWAR: Many villagers in the remote Golain valley in Chitral are considering moving to safer places owing to constant threat of glacial floods in the area.

Wali Rahman, 35, a resident of Bakka village in Golain valley, said that at least four families of his village had decided to sell their ancestral land and shift to a safer place in Chitral or elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to possibility of another glacial flood in near future. Wali Rahman, who is also general secretary of Disaster Risk Management Committee of his area, added that at least three villages Bakka, Azghu and Golain Payan in Golain valley were at risk as these were located in the vicinity of glaciers that could burst anytime. He added that almost all the villagers were thinking to move to safer places but no-one was ready to purchase their land in these villages.

Led by the Climate Change Ministry with the support from the United National Development Programme (UNDP) and Green Climate Fund, the GLOF-2 (Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods) project was launched in the most vulnerable rural communities in high altitude regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. The UNDP Glof-2 Field officer, Iqtidarul Mulk, said the project would strengthen coordination for implementing adaptation action plans and climate changes initiatives in KP and GB at provincial and local level. He said that about half of the population in Chitral district was vulnerable to floods caused by torrential rains or glaciers and many precious human lives, cattle, houses, standing crops and infrastructure were lost to the floods in the remote and mountainous district. There were about 700 glaciers in Malakand division of which 45 were potentially more hazardous and its lakes could cause flashfloods, he added. The main reason for these glacial lakes floods are global warming, climatic change, cutting of trees and forests in the area, he maintained.

He said that the Glof members and activists had been warned about the possibility of glacial floods in Golain valley that happened in July this year. Total population of Chitral now divided into two the Upper and Lower Chitral districts at administrative level, consists of over four lakhs and in case of any floods and land-slide the district remains cut off from the rest of the country. Due to dilapidated roads and poor infrastructure, rescue work and relief activities cannot be undertaken during floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Safeerullah, a resident of Golain valley, said the recent floods had adversely affected the entire valley that had seen destruction since 2010.

“The history of flash floods go back to hundreds of years but now the people in Chitral have been told that most of the devastating floods happen due to glacier lakes,” he said and thanked the Glof project for creating awareness among local community. He said the government and other non-governmental organisations could not reach Golain during a disaster due to unavailability of roads and bridges and the local community launched relief activities on a self-help basis. “During floods and other disasters the local people provide food, shelter and other services to the affected people,” he added.

The Glof-2 has also constituted local committees and empowered them to identify and construct facilities for protection from floods and other calamities in their area. Tajbar Khan Kohistani, former tehsil nazim of Kalkot in Upper Dir and member of Glof committee in Kumrat, said that many of the glaciers in the mountains of Kumrat valley were melting due to global warming and could lead to glacier and flash floods anytime.