‘Outbursts’ from Pakistan’s melting glaciers have tripled this year and are worsening floods

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Pakistan is home to more glaciers than anywhere in the world outside the polar regions, but as the climate warms, it becomes more vulnerable to sudden bursts of melting glacial water that has the power to bring widespread destruction to its people.

The country’s chief meteorologist has warned that Pakistan has seen three times as many glacial lake eruptions this year alone — a sudden release of water from a lake fed by glacial melt — that could cause catastrophic flooding.

Sardar Sarfaraz of Pakistan’s Meterological Department said on Thursday there have been 16 such incidents in the northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan in 2022, compared to just five or six in previous years.

“Such incidents occur after glaciers melt due to [a] rise in temperature,” Sarfaraz told Reuters, adding, “Climate change is the fundamental reason for such things.”

Melting glaciers are one of the clearest, most visible signs of the climate crisis and one of its most immediate impacts.

The Passu Glacier in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

It is not yet clear to what extent the current flood crisis in Pakistan could be related to the melting of glaciers. But unless global warming emissions are curtailed, Sarfaraz suggests the country’s glaciers will continue to melt at a high rate.

“Global warming will not stop until we curb greenhouse gases and if global warming does not stop, these effects of climate change will increase,” he said.

According to European Union data, Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s warming gases, but it is the eighth most vulnerable nation to the climate crisis, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

That vulnerability has been apparent for months, with record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in the country’s northern mountains causing flooding that has killed at least 1,191 people, including 399 children, since mid-June.

A local resident stands next to his damaged home in June after an eruption of a glacial lake caused catastrophic flooding in the northern Pakistani village of Hassanabad.

A vehicle drives along a partially collapsed section of Pakistan's Karakoram Highway, damaged after a glacial lake eruption in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

On Thursday, South Pakistan braced for more flooding as a wave of water rushed down the Indus River, exacerbating the devastation in a country with a third already engulfed by the climate change-induced disaster.

The United Nations has asked for $160 million to help with what it called an “unprecedented climate catastrophe.”

“We are on high alert as water coming downstream from the northern floods is expected to enter the province in the coming days,” Sindh provincial government spokesman Murtaza Wahab told Reuters.

Wahab said a flow of about 600,000 cubic feet per second was expected to swell the Indus and test the flood defenses.

Pakistan has had nearly 190% more rain than the 30-year average in the quarter from June to August, totaling 390.7 mm (15.38 in).

Sindh, with a population of 50 million, has been the hardest hit, receiving 466% more rain than the 30-year average.

Some parts of the province look like an inland sea with only occasional patches of trees or causeways breaking through the surface of the murky floodwater.

Hundreds of families have fled the road, the only dry land visible to many of them.

A man searches for salvageable belongings from his flooded house on Thursday in the Shikarpur district of Pakistan's Sindh province.

This aerial image, taken on September 1, 2022, shows flooded residential areas in the town of Dera Allah Yar in Jaffarabad District, Balochistan Province.

Villagers rushed to meet a Reuters news team walking along a road near Dadu town on Thursday, begging for food or other aid.

The floods have wiped out homes, businesses, infrastructure and roads. Standing and stored crops have been destroyed and approximately two million acres (809,371 hectares) of farmland have been flooded.

The government says 33 million people, or 15% of the 220 million population, have been affected.

The National Disaster Management Authority said about 480,030 people have been displaced and are being cared for in camps, but even those not displaced from their homes are at risk.

“More than three million children are in need of humanitarian aid and are at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition as a result of the most severe flooding in Pakistan’s recent history,” the UN Children’s Agency warned.

The World Health Organization said more than 6.4 million people were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Aid has arrived on planes full of food, tents and medicines, mainly from China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Aid groups have asked the government to allow food imports from neighboring India across a largely closed border that has been a frontline of clashes between its nuclear-armed rivals for decades.

The government has not indicated its willingness to open the border to Indian food imports.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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