Siachin and Commitment to Environment
By Imtiaz Gul
Weekly Pulse, Islamabad December 14, 2007
Unusual melting of snow in the northern mountains is already triggering climate changes -- floods, irregular snow and rains etc. Policy makers in India and Pakistan need to move swiftly and jointly to protect their precious ecological heritage. They owe it to posterity. And it demands that both countries rise above national egos and work for an ecologically better and safer future.
Federal Minister for Environment Syed Wajid Hussain Bukhari told a group of environmental activists on December 9 that Pakistan is facing negative consequences of climate change and global warming is set to reverse decades of social and economic progress across the country. “The threat of global warming is urgent, its time for people to rise above politics, if they want Islamic Republic of Pakistan to progress,” Bukhari said.
Bukhari, also underscored the lack of water management as one of the biggest challenges and mentioned the steady decrease in per capita water availability, financial inefficiency of agriculture, increasing need for clean drinking water as some of the pressing issues resulting from lack of water management policies.
These “pearls of wisdom” came across as yet another sermon to the nation, whose politicians and bureaucrats excel in talk but lack the will and vision for proactive policies.
The minister also cautioned that Pakistan would be one of the biggest victims and that is why the Environment Ministry would soon launch a mega forestry project worth 12 billion rupees, besides 48 ongoing projects on climate change, sanitation and air pollution to achieve a target of six per cent forestation area by 2015.
It all sounds nice and ambitious on the part of a caretaker minister because the bitter reality of Pakistan today, is that even full time ministers failed in injecting real life into environmental protection drive.
Bukhari repeated warnings about the global warning also on December 10 -- International Mountain Day while speaking at a seminar titled “Climate Change in Mountain Areas.”
A significant omission from the minister’s speech was the impact of the global warning on Siachin Glacier. Probably because its taboo for civilians, to dilate on a strategic issue as Siachin, which reportedly has been shrinking and suffering due to Indian and Pakistani military activity.
Dr Ganjoo along with Prof M N Koul and a few other experts had visited the Siachin base camp in August 2007 for field observations. He hopes that the project titled ‘Snow Assessment in Glacial Studies in Siachen and Nubra valley’ would demystify many claims being put forth from different quarters about the alarming retreating rate (melting) of Siachen glacier.
Regardless of the politics that surrounds this glacier, the Indian move to observe it scientifically and determine the impact of global warming or of the military activity deserves credit and warrants appreciation. It amounts to walking the talk, rather than just surmising and sermonise on the effect. Perhaps scientist can eventually persuade their governments to climb down from Siachin’s heights and leave alone the snow mass that is so critical to the ecology of the region. Unusual melting of snow in the northern mountains is already triggering climate changes -- floods, irregular snow and rains etc. Policy makers in India and Pakistan need to move swiftly and jointly to protect their precious ecological heritage. They owe it to posterity. And it demands that both countries rise above national egos and work for an ecologically better and safer future