Mountains at risk
At issue is the Khurdopin glacier in Shimshal valley, which has surged and blocked the Shimshal river, causing a lake to form. About a dozen other sites in the Hunza valley are at risk from large-scale landslides or glacier surges, which could have serious consequences downstream for the inhabitants, besides disturbing the ice mass of the region. In the Shimshal valley, too, half a dozen other sites have developed similarly dangerous spots where surging could occur any day. Such surging can create conditions leading to Glacial Lake Outburst Flood events, where a large body of water nestled inside glacial ice suddenly breaks out and cascades down a mountain side, just like a burst dam. Two years ago, multiple simultaneous Glof events hit Chitral valley following a sudden downpour, and devastated the entire district. Apart from the hazards that such events pose to the inhabitants of the region, there is also a significant threat to those living in the plains, especially in view of the fact that an increasing number of dangerous surging events and formation of glacial lakes is being recorded year after year. There is little that can be done to arrest the trend, but mapping out the hazardous spots and building emergency plans for the region is becoming a growing priority.
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2017