Baltoro glacier
Baltoro glacier in Pakistan. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Islamabad: Two agreements were signed among United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to protect lives and livelihoods from disastrous impacts of the climate change-induced disasters.

PM’s special assistant on climate change Malik Amin Aslam, who witnessed the signing ceremony, said that the government is taking all-out measures to mitigate adverse impacts climate change-caused disasters on mountain communities in Pakistan. Under the agreements, UNDP would extend support to mitigate the impacts of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs).

Melting glaciers risk 7.1 million lives

The melting of glaciers due to rising temperatures in the country’s north has resulted in the formation of over 3,044 lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, putting some 7.1 million people at risk from potential GLOF events, he said. Aslam expressed hope that the new accords “would go a long way to help strengthen the capacity and ability of the institutions and people in these areas to mitigate socio-economic and environmental impacts of natural disasters.”

Sharing the details on the national project director of the GLOF (Phase-II), the additional secretary Climate Change Ministry Joudat Ayaz said that under the pact “UNDP would provide technical, financial support throughout the year 2021 to the governments of GB and KP” to save lives and livelihoods of the mountain communities. Financial resources, preparedness, capacity and disaster-resilient public infrastructures was needed to help protect lives and livelihoods in the mountainous region, he said.

Early warning system

The project will include the installation of scaled-up early warning systems and automated weather stations to mitigate the impact of GLOFs. Risk assessments, GIS mapping of hazard locations and completion of forestry surveys is also part of the accord. “The project scale extends to 18 districts of GB and KP, offering all partners a tremendous opportunity to work towards a more secure and risk averted Pakistan to climate change impacts” the UNDP statement said.

National project manager of GLOF Project-II Misbah Zafar described the agreements as of “unprecedented importance” that build on Pakistan’s ongoing partnership with the UNDP to build the community resilience against climate-induced disasters.

Led by Ministry of Climate Change, with support from UNDP and funding support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the project would benefit the most vulnerable rural communities in Pakistan’s high-altitude regions. The letters of agreement were signed by UNDP representative Knut Ostby, Additional Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan Syed Abrar Hussain and Special Secretary Planning and Development Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Amer Sultan Tareen.