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To reduce impact of climate change, water scarcity: Nature-based techniques being adopted in GB

By Kasim Abbasi
December 31, 2021
To reduce impact of climate change, water scarcity: Nature-based techniques being adopted in GB

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Climate Change with the help of locals in Gilgit-Baltistan have adopted indigenous techniques in the form of ice-stupas, glacier grafting and avalanche harvesting as an excellent examples of nature-based solutions, demonstrating the best practices for reducing the climate change impacts and associated risks like water scarcity.

The concept is part of the Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF-ll) risk reduction project in the northern areas of Pakistan started in 2017 by the Ministry of Climate Change funded by the UNDP and the government of Gilgit-Baltistan with the total budget of 6.6 billion rupees.

As part of the GLOF-II project, the University of Baltistan compiled the first case study on glacier grafting and ice stupas. This case study report covers basic information along with most of the ethnographic accounts of the traditional indigenous technology of glacier grafting, farming and rearing. Preliminary scientific aspects were also discussed; however, deeper technical analysis of the process and technology is yet to be recorded and presented.

The Vice Chancellor of University of Gilgit-Baltistan, Prof. Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan told The News that glacier grafting is a long-term sustainable solution to meet water needs, improve local environment and climate at micro level in terms of increased vegetation, biodiversity, beautification of nature, reduced temperature for a longer period of the year and reduced rate of melting natural glaciers in the vicinity.

“Hence, we can say that the grafted glaciers are long-term solutions to the impacts of climate change at micro level and if multiplied, the effect could be seen at the regional level, contributing to the global climate change phenomena,” Dr Naeem said.

He said the ice stupas is an offshoot of the glacier grafting technique that harnesses underground water to create artificial glaciers in the form of conical-shaped ice heaps. To prevent the wastage of huge volume of water in the streams and rivers in winters, these stupas act as water reservoirs to fulfill the drinking and cultivation requirements of the locals, he added.

The third indigenous practice and technology told by Dr Naeem is avalanche harvesting by stopping avalanches well above in the mountain, that can then become good sources of water in early spring. The University of Baltistan has suggested avalanche harvesting as one of the risk reduction and water resource enhancement strategies planned to be experimented during 2022, Dr Naeem said.

Explaining the concept of ice stupas, Dr Naeem said that ice-stupas development is a short-term strategy to meet the need of water, particularly for the early spring irrigation. The officials of the ministry, when contacted by The News, said that amid the climate change crisis, the nature-based solutions, such as ice stupas ensure evidence-based and transformative changes to build the climate resilience of these mountain ecosystems. With funding from the Green Climate Fund and the support of the Ministry of Climate Change and the UNDP, the GLOF-II project aims to promote such indigenous-based practices and help reduce the risks and vulnerabilities from the glacial lake outburst floods in the northern areas of Pakistan, they added.

These activities are currently being performed in Gilgit-Baltistan, which receives an annual rainfall of less than 50 millimeters. Gilgit-Baltistan relies exclusively on water originating from snow and glacial melt and survives on small-scale agriculture and livestock rearing.