Gilgit-Baltistan has been experiencing catastrophic flash floods, a rise in temperature, sudden shifts in weather patterns, and irregular patterns of snowfall and rainfall. Traditionally, Gilgit-Baltistan witnessed its snowfall from December to January. However, this year, the usually snow-capped mountains were left barren, sparking concern for locals, particularly those living downstream of the Indus River. Gilgit-Baltistan is a major water catchment for the Indus River Basin (IRB), on which most of Pakistan depends for hydroelectricity and irrigation.

Gilgit-Baltistan is a politically sensitive location because of its special territorial status, and it is administered directly by the government of Pakistan. Pakistan’s reliance on Gilgit-Baltistan for its 70% agriculture and 40% hydropower also raises concerns for Pakistan. It could spark potential risks for Pakistan’s already crumbling agriculture sector and power shortage. Flash floods are sudden and intense floods characterised by the rapid rise of lake water levels and dam or levee failure, and often capture people unprepared. High mountains in the north of Pakistan host more than 3,044 glacier lakes, out of which 33 glacier lakes are vulnerable in the hearts of the Himalayas, Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush.

High mountains in the north of Pakistan host more than 3,044 glacier lakes, out of which 33 glacier lakes are vulnerable in the hearts of the Himalayas, Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush.

Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy 2021 states that flooding and increasingly erratic weather behaviour are the few basic symptoms of climate change. Gilgit-Baltistan has grievances over its political identity, growing insecurity in the environment on pivotal roads like Karakoram highways, and a share of Gilgit-Baltistan in the national economy and political fora. The climate change discourse and potential risk are now at the top of the list of grievances which is a matter of life and death for Gilgit-Baltistan because of the region’s topography, Gilgit-Baltistan is a land of towering peaks, glaciers, valleys, and rivers, which is prone to natural calamities.

Climate change governance and education in Gilgit-Baltistan have never been known subjects at policy or community levels. An abruptly changing climate challenges governance models and structures. All countries, especially developed countries, have been threatening the environment and the overall well-being of humans in the age of emerging technological warfare and revolutions. The irresponsible technological and economic model has polluted our environment and harmed human food, water, and health security. According to a UNDP report, about 7 million people in Gilgit-Baltistan and KPK are threatened.

Glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF) has become a frequent event that occurs across the length and breadth of Gilgit-Baltistan. Flash floods in Burge Nullah are yet another sequence in the series of flash floods due to Climate change. The event captures unprepared communities that are already undergoing poverty, lack of administrative and governmental support, and lack of awareness. Flash floods in Burge Nullah have taught us yet another lesson about the detrimental effect of flash floods on vital human infrastructures including homes, schools, health units, and agricultural lands.

According to a UNDP report, about 7 million people in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) are threatened by the adverse effects of climate change, including increased frequency of glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs), flash floods, and other natural disasters.

The dilemma is that the agriculture sector which employs about 90%, is under severe threats posed by climate change. The zero-look attitude over climate change governance of the government of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan as a whole is undermining the serious repercussions of climate change that the people of GB are witnessing. Despite of overarching objectives of the Gilgit-Baltistan Adaptation Action Plan 2023 to reduce the vulnerability of people, livelihoods, physical assets, and natural systems to the adverse effects of climate change, strengthen institutional and technical capacities for effective climate change adaptation, the response of government has not been witnessed and exercise on grounds.

The catastrophic flash flood in Burge Nullah portrayed the government’s unpreparedness to respond quickly and mitigate climate change and, at the same time, marked the fact that people were unassisted and deserted. The frequent glacial melting has led to flash floods and river erosions, In the Skardu district the events have drastically affected crop productivity reporting 30% reductions in crop yielding (UNPO). The government’s continuously zero-look policy and attitudes toward climate change adaptations and mitigations are costing greater losses of human lives, livelihoods, and the economy in GB.

Skardu Burge Nullah is close to Skardu City, which has all government machinery and departments, but the government response still came under huge criticism and stirred public patience. The big loss to public assets and belongings, including homes, mosques, crops, and livestock following flash floods, triggers vulnerabilities of Indigenous in case of climate emergency. The flash floods in Burge Nullah are not the beginning but mark a series of calamities destroying infrastructures, In this regard the failure to install modern engineering tools like Early warning systems in such more disaster-prone areas in GB is yet another failure of government and authorities.

The average temperature in Gilgit-Baltistan has increased by 0.44°C per decade from 1980 to 2006, exacerbating the melting of glaciers (UNPO). This underscores the urgent need for effective climate change governance and robust adaptation strategies, which have so far been glaringly absent.

The average temperature in Climate impact on Gilgit-Baltistan has increased by 0.44°C per decade from 1980 to 2006, exacerbating the melting of glaciers​(UNPO) report shows. This is a scorching challenge and test for administrative capabilities and climate change governance on how to adopt strategies and execute those strategies to save people’s lives and belongings in the high mountains of the north of Pakistan. The calamities like flash floods, land sliding, rock sliding and mud flows in downward streams in valleys of GB cause complete disruptions of public and transport mobility across GB and GB’s connectivity to other areas of Pakistan by land cuts off following unprecedented floods, land sliding and mud flows or earthquakes damaging roads.

The flash floods in other districts of GB are threatening local lives and the economy, and the authorities must take necessary and on-ground actions to ensure well beings of the public and their belongings. Another latest flash flood at Tata Pani, the most treacherous portion of Karakoram highway signals the uncontrolled climate change catastrophe.

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