Gilgit-Baltistan : Central Asia of Pakistan II (The writer derived from his publication in The Nation dated August 31, 2002)
Syed Shams ud Din
The dams as referred to elsewhere in the above, when it comes to their implementation, have other impacts as well which often get disapproved of.
The main problem stemming from their construction, foremost being the diaspora and land submergence, besides the ecological damages these entail.
But nonetheless, the case of Skardu dam becomes quite unique of its kind as termed by the said former IRSA chief as having seven times more reservoir capacity than the Tarbela which has total capacity of 5.7 maf. What was another stunning feature in the case of the Skardu dam as related to the above IRSA chief was its gigantic hydro-power potential of 15000 megawatts (MW). If this be the case with a single dam in Gilgit-Baltistan, how much more such power could be generated from others across the whole region, one wonders!! What can become inferable then is the fact that water management and conservation strategy to be hammered out must conform to the environment and the fragile mountain ecosystem. This is given the fact that our country squarely depends on the mountain ecosystem for providing drinking as well as irrigation water. This therefore calls for measures to be taken first not to cause the least disturbance to the ecosystem in a futuristic manner. Another factor associated with the construction of dams is assessing the seismological impact.
All these together lead one to the conclusion that in the changed scenario, there is need to build such projects which could serve the purpose of conservation, management and harnessing the water potential not simply to cater to the present but future needs as well. This is given the fact that a report emanating sometimes ago, referring to Jack Ives - a mountain ecologist and advisor to the UN based in Tokyo, Japan as saying that the Himalaya-Karakoram-Hindukush range extending from the border of Myanmar and China, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, was the worst affected by poverty, drought, deforestation and tourism - which indeed, alludes to murkier prognostications in terms of mountain ecosystem.
This is in addition to the reports related to the leading world researchers, glacialogists and mountain ecologists invariably holding that the glacial cover in the mountainous regions, according to them, is shrinking alarmingly obviously because of the warming trends obtaining in parts of the globe due to global warming caused by heat-trapping green-house-gas emissions. What can yet be seen as a blood-curdling prediction is the view that a quarter of the global mountain glacial mass could disappear by 2025 and upto half by 2100 - leaving large patches only in Alaska, Patagonia, and Himalayas, says the Swiss-based World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS).
What can we derive from the fore-going is expeditiously embarking upon environment-friendly policies aimed at harnessing the available resources in an eco-friendly way. Any slightest mistake or faux pas in prioritizing is bound to lead to irreparable situations ahead. Let it be hoped that policies get underway to meet the national imperatives attuned to the needs of the hour.
The presence of the world environmental bodies like the ‘World Conservation Union’ – IUCN - in Gilgit-Baltistan in addition to WWF - portends well insofar as remaining wary over the mountain eco-system and environment-related matters is concerned. These have, since their establishment in this region, been striving in collaboration with the relevant governmental quarters, in the con text of educating the masses. This is in addition to holding seminars and workshops on the impact assessment with reference to environment, specifically in the case of any project implementation. Given this all, future planning and project implementation gets facilitated by the presence of these environmental NGOs.