Pakistan – Deadly Floods Hit Gilgit-Baltistan

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in Pakistan reports that parts of Ghizer district in the state of Gilgit-Baltistan in the north of the country were flooded after debris flow blocked part of the Immit River, a tributary of the Ishkoman.

The blockage formed a temporary lake around 1 km in length, 100 metres wide and 5 to 6 metres deep in vicinity of Badswat village in Ghizer district. Pressure from the water in the artificial lake eventually removed the blockage, flooding areas downstream on 17 July, 2018.

NDMA said that 12 houses have been damaged and residents evacuated. Drinking water supply, electricity supply and roads in the area have also been damaged and three villages have been cut off.

NDMA also reports that 2 people died and 1 was injured in flash flooding in nearby Diamer district on 18 July 2018.

The deaths in Diamer mean that as many as 42 people have now died as a result of monsoon and severe weather in Pakistan since 20 June. Parts of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have all been affected by flooding and heavy rain since mid June, 2018.

Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) Preparedness

Earlier this month the Government of Pakistan and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a new US$37 million project today that will benefit more than 30 million people with scaled-up early warning systems, training on glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) preparedness and response, and the creation of new protective infrastructure.

Passu Glacier, close to Passu and Gulkin Village upper Hunza in Gilgit-Baltistan RegionPhoto: Junaidrao, under Creative Commons

Led by Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change, with support from UNDP and US$37 million in grant funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the five-year project targets the most vulnerable rural communities in the high-altitude regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“When glacial lakes burst, they can release millions of cubic meters of water and debris, taking lives, destroying property and infrastructure, and wreaking severe damage to livelihoods in some of the most remote and poor areas of the country,” said Additional Secretary at the Ministry of Climate Change, Mr. Shakeel Malik.

“This project will save lives, protect against damage, and support climate-resilient livelihoods, helping Pakistan reach its goals to end poverty and hunger by 2030, ensure peaceful economic and social development, and support our work to leave no one behind in our race to reach the bold goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Malik.

Over 3,000 lakes have been created as a result of melting glaciers in the Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions of Pakistan. Around 33 are considered hazardous, putting some 7.1 million people at risk from glacial lake outburst floods.

In 2010 the Booni Gol Glacier, located near Chitral, generated an outburst flood that killed 1,980 people, injured an additional 2,946 more, and destroyed some 1.6 million homes. In addition, thousands of acres of agricultural lands were damaged as a result of this new-found risk that may threaten to undermine Pakistan’s efforts for peaceful and sustainable development.

The project will build scaled-up early warning systems, flood protection structures, expanded water-efficient irrigation schemes, and investments in small-scale infrastructure to benefit almost 700,000 people directly. Another 29.2 million people will indirectly benefit from the project’s investment in institutional capacity-building and improved climate policies and action plans.

“Until now investment in disaster management in Pakistan has largely focused on response. By flipping the script to talk about prevention, mitigation and preparedness, the new project will reduce the financial stress following a disaster and promote climate-resilient sustainable development into the future,” said Naoko Takasu, Deputy Country Director, UNDP Pakistan.