World urged to help save Gilgit Baltistan environment

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Saturday, July 5—July 11, 2008
By Our Correspondent
MUMBAI: Gilgit Baltistan United Movement Chairman Engineer Manzoor Hussain Parwana has urged the environmentalists across the world to write letters to their parliamentarians informing them about the real situation in Gilgit Baltistan, expressing concern over the region’s environment under Pakistan’s colonial rule and its detrimental effects on the situation of their respectively countries.
In his paper read at the international conference on ‘Responsibility to the Future: Business, Peace and Sustainability’ organised here by the Strategic Foresight Group and co-hosted by the United National Global Compact from June 26 to 28, Parwana urged the participants to establish Gilgit Baltistan Supports Group in their communities to work for avoiding the game to hunt endanger species in Gilgit Baltistan.
He asked them to organize workshops, conferences, video and slideshows and seminars on environment of Gilgit Baltistan, and impress upon their governments to provide scholarships for environmental research on Gilgit Baltistan and other environmental projects. He asked them to tell their friends about the situation in Gilgit Baltistan.
“You can translate this pamphlet into other languages and distribute to educate others on the situation in Gilgit Baltistan,” he said. “If you are too busy, let your financial contributions work for Gilgit Baltistan.”
Following is text of his speech at the conference:
“I would like to draw the kind attention of the world community and the participants of this historical conference towards such area which is a factual truth geographically at global level. This area is situation beneath the great Karakoram, Himalayas and Hindukash, which is called as Balawaristan, Dardistan, Brooshaal and Balor by the historians, where in the last centuries its known as Gilgit Baltistan.
“Gilgit Baltistan is situated at the very heart of Asia. It is one of the most environmentally strategic and imperative region in the world. Covering a total area of 28000 square miles situated in the midst of four nuclear powers. This significant region between China, Pakistan, Central Asian Republics and India is also known as cockpit of Asia.
“Furthermore, this land is the focus of attention of tourists and adventurers, world over. In addition to this the said country is extensively rich in mineral wealth and immense natural resources.
“According to the analysts, ‘The Third World War will be over fresh water’. Then it to be understood that Third World War will be fought in this area, which is largest resource of fresh water after North and South Pole. Gilgit Baltistan is facing accelerating threats from a rapid rise in roads, settlements, overgrazing and deforestation. The highland glaciers are shrinking by an amount equivalent to all the water in the giant Indus River each year. The region’s water supplies, fed by glaciers and the monsoons and vital for around half the world’s population, may be harmed alongside the area’s abundant and rich wildlife.
“Mountain areas are especially important and particularly vulnerable. These are the water towers of the world and often home to unique wildlife species upon which local people depend for food, medicines and other important materials. They have often been saved from uncontrolled development by their remoteness.
“The experts say glaciers are vanishing annually and that, by 2050, as many as 64 percent glaciers will have disappeared. An estimated 140 million Pakistanis live in the country arid west and depend on water from glaciers for their survival.
“The glaciers of the Himalayas are receding faster than any other glaciers in the world. After the two polar caps, the Himalayan glaciers are third in line as fastest melting bodies of ice. The fauna and flora will change as climates rise.
“Retreat of glacier will directly impact water resources and affect agriculture energy, tourism and other sectors. Most of the glaciers in the Gilgit Baltistan region are retreating with an average rate of more than 12 meter per year. As glacier retreats the glaciers lake forms. With increase of water level in the lake a sudden release of a huge amount of water takes place, which rush down along the stream in the form of dangerous flood waves called Glaciers Lake Outburst Flood. Such phenomenon was witnessed in Passu, Gulkin of Gojal, Gilgit in the month of June 2008. Glaciers melt in the Gilgit Baltistan region is projected to increase flooding and rock avalanches from destabilized slopes and to affect water resources within next three or four decades .This will be followed by decreased river flows as the glaciers recede.
“Local indigenous people often see their vital resources exploited, while they benefit little from the development. Further down river, impoverished people are also those that are the most severely exposed to the risk of floods and seasonal drought, as they often has to settle in flood-risk areas.
“Environmental condition before Pakistan control — Prior to the Pakistan’s control, Gilgit Baltistan was ecologically stable and conservation of the environment was an essential component of Gilgit Baltistan daily lives. Gilgit Baltistan lived in harmony with nature, both living and non-living elements of the earth. This belief is further strengthened by the principle of self-contentment, that the environment should be used to fulfil one’s need and not greed.
“Gilgit Baltistan had the most successful system of environmental protection of any inhabited region in the modern world. Formal protection of wildlife and environment through parks and reserves were unnecessary as Gilgit Baltistan taught the people about the interdependence of all living and non-living elements of the earth.
“The mountains and forests of Gilgit Baltistan were once home to a vast range of rare and endangered wild animals including the snow leopard, clouded leopard, ibex, Himalayan black bear, brown bear, wild yak, blue sheep, musk deer, golden monkey, Himalayan mouse hare, rare vulture, marmot, pygmy, chough and others.
“Gilgit Baltistan also had rich and untapped mineral resources. It has deposits of about 100 different minerals accounting for a significant share of the entire world’s reserves of gold, lithium, uranium, ruby, emerald, chromites, copper, borax and iron. Gilgit Baltistan has the largest high grade uranium deposit in the world.
“Gilgit Baltistan is the source of many of the Asia’s major rivers, including the Indus, Shoque, Gilgit and Hunza .These rivers flow into India and Pakistan. These rivers and their tributaries are the life-blood of millions of people in the continent of Asia.
“Environmental devastation after the Pakistan controlled — With the treacherously invasion of Pakistan, this nature-friendly attitude of the people of Gilgit Baltistan was trampled upon the name of Islam and Muslim country. The invasion was followed by widespread environmental destruction in Gilgit Baltistan, resulting in deforestation, overgrazing, uncontrolled mining, and extinction of wildlife, soil erosion, landslides and other perils. The government of Pakistan continues to extract various natural resources without any environmental safeguard; as a result, Gilgit Baltistan is facing an environmental crisis, the ramifications of which will be felt far beyond its borders.
“That the more than half population of the South Asia is depends upon the glacier of Karakoram, Himalayas and Hindukush. The rivers flowing in India, Pakistan, China and Nepal, only because of these glaciers and if the preservation had not been for these glaciers then in future the continent of Asia will face the scarcity of water and food. Due to the global warming, deforestation, green house effect and ozone depletion the wildlife, glaciers, environments and minerals of Gilgit and Baltistan are in danger.
“Pakistani government like an ancient kingdom have the power to give permit to anyone to cut the whole forest of Diamar who have the ability to pay as bribe. Pakistani government during late General Zia era blast the whole mountains of Hunza in search of ruby and other precious minerals. The construction of KKH by cutting and destroying a large high number altitude mountains of Karakorum and Himalaya in 1980s which has cause disaster to our lands natural mechanism.
“Now we fear that by constructing huge Dams in Diamar Bhasha, Bunji and Skardu by merging huge area and displacing the indigenous people will further aggravate the ongoing devastation of the nature which will affect beyond our imagination.
“The military build-up on the mountains of Himalaya and Karakorum by China, India and Pakistan with sophisticated weapons and perhaps the chemicals and other harmful items may be weapons of mass destruction and fuel is another factor to aid in the flames of global warming.
“Due to the global warming, the rate of melting and explosion of the glaciers is enhancing. Snowfall is decreasing year by year. Less snowfall and the process of glaciers melting had reached to at its maximum level of danger. Rivers, streams and springs had started to dry-up due to the lack of snowfall and the flow of river became very low. Local population is encountering serious problems of water. The scarcity of water and food becoming global issue. Some other reasons had been observed for the melting of glaciers and environmental pollution in addition to global warming.
“Population transfer — One of the greatest threats to Gilgit Baltistan people, culture and environment is the massive influx of Pakistan civilians and military personnel’s into Gilgit Baltistan, especially the pre-planned settlement of people from the other province of Pakistan. As a result of this population transfer, Gilgit Baltistan have been marginalized in economic, educational, political and social spheres and the rich culture and tradition of Gilgit Baltistan is rapidly disappearing.
“The highest Glacier Siachen which is situated in the mountainous range of Korakoram, which is expanded in area of 75 kilometres, this glacier is an important source of fresh water for Pakistan and India. For the last 60 years the forces of Pakistan and India are fighting with each other at this glacier. The nature beauty of the Siachen glacier is ruining due to the transportation of the Army, their armed equipments, as well as the goods of eating and drinking which is putting negative impacts on it. The clear and crystal water flowing from this glacier is becoming poisonous, In addition to this, the activities of the tourist, who came here for tracking, mountaineering and campaign also causing the bad affect on the glaciers and the rate of melting of the glacier is increasing.
“Deforestation — The deforestation is the second important cause of the melting of glacier, the process of rain had been stopped due to the lack of forests and the life of glacier is lowering due to no snowfall, the mountainous ranges and the forests of Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan had been adopted the features of cantonments. Local population as well as the million of army personnel is utilizing the forests as fuel, due to this reason the deforestation is increasing.
“Wild lives are vanishing with the forest. The expensive race of wild life had been finished or facing danger to their lives. In the winter season the temperature of had been fallen to -25 degree Centigrade in these region. To fight with the cold forests and trees had been cut down. Deforestation is also important cause, as there is no substitute system of fuel is available.
“Construction of mega dams — The construction of dams is one of the Pakistan’s most unsustainable and environmentally catastrophic ‘development project’. If such proposed Basha/Diamer dam, Bonji dam and Katzara (Skardu) dam had been constructed, then these dams will be more dangerous for the glaciers. The series of rains will become strong due to the construction of these dams and rainy water will cause the melting of glaciers, according to assessment the glacier had been finished after melting, after the 50 years of construction of these dams. In result not only Pakistan will become a desert, but most of the countries of Asia will be affected directly and thousand millions of humans and animals with critically will face the global issue of water and food.
“Wildlife decimation — Prior to the Pakistan controlled, there existed a strict ban on the hunting of wild animals in Gilgit Baltistan. The Pakistanis have not enforced such restrictions. Instead, the trophy hunting of endangered species has been actively encouraged. Rare Gilgit Baltistan animals, such as the snow leopard are hunted for their pelt and sold for large sum of money in the international market. Large number of antelope, gazelle, blue sheep and wild yak are being poached by hunters with the blessing of Pakistani forces and its administration. Can you imagine Ibex, Snow leopard and Antelopes, Markopolo Sheeps are being hunted by gunship helicopters in the area. The impact of the Gilgit Baltistan on the global climatic pattern is significant. Experts have observed that there is a correlation between natural vegetation on the Gilgit Baltistan and the stability of the monsoon.
“Mining — Large scale mining operations in Gilgit Baltistan has been started. Extraction of borax, chromium, copper, coal, gold and uranium is being vigorously developed by the Pakistan government as a means of providing raw materials for industrial growth. Today, there are many government and private mining operations in the industrial sector of Ghazar, Hunza and Skardu districts. Lease are preferred mostly to the Pakistani national because whether its military regime or civilian government, they prefer to their own nationals instead of giving license to the local indigenous people of this disputed land. Pakistani national do not consider the future interest of this land because they only focus to grab and loot more and more by bombing and blasting of every inch of this land with the blessing of their own elected member (Minister of KANA Islamabad. Government of Pakistan has not only issued leases to its own national but to the foreigners and particularly the Chinese also. 106 non-local Pakistan’s companies and firm has been issued licenses, so the rate of mineral extraction in Gilgit Baltistan is on ever high, because of the fear of any negative result of J&K issue.
“Increased mining activities further reduces vegetation cover and thus increase the chance for severe landslides, massive soil erosion, loss of wildlife habitat and the pollution of streams and rivers. The use of highly explosive is not only destabilizing the high altitude mountains but also diminishing the rare birds and animals from this region. Which causes heavy toll to the echo-system of the nature.
“The exploration of minerals in the mountain, is also destroying the natural beauty of the mountains. The aim of looting of natural resources has created difficulties in spite of providing facilities to the human being. The global changes in environment and the activities of human being had created a problem of water and food, if the world had not prepared any strategy for the preservation of glaciers, forest and wildlife then the indigenous people of this region will also be vanished very soon like Dinosaurs.
“The environmental issue of Gilgit Baltistan is not an inconsequential regional issue, but has huge global significance to warrant international attention. More than ever before, the urgent need to save the Gilgit Baltistan from ecological devastation. Because, it is not the question of the survival of the mountains and wild life of Gilgit Baltistan, but the humanity is at stake.
“Suggestions — Transformation of the whole of Gilgit Baltistan into a zone of peace; Restoration and protection of Gilgit Baltistan natural resources by protecting forest and wildlife. All the leases and licenses issued by Pakistan to blast and cut the mountains should immediately be banned. The construction of the Diamar Bhasha Dam and Bunji Dams should be abandoned immediately where highly explosive are being used. The construction of huge dams in the vicinity of glaciers, in the areas of China, Pakistan, India and Nepal should be stopped, particularly Pakistan restrain for the construction of Basha/Diamar dam, Bonji dam and Katzara dam, so that the eco-system may be saved from the effects of dams.
“The government of China, India and Pakistan are requested to take back the weapons of Mass destruction and Chemicals from the mountains of Himalaya and Karakorum. Pakistan’s national influx and settlement to systematically change the demography of this region should be Abandon, which threatens the very existence of the indigenous people of Gilgit Baltistan as a result of exotic national are involved in the destruction of the nature and its ecology.
“Effective strategy has to be adopted for the preservation of glaciers and its effect on the global environments and take necessary step for its remedy. The practical steps may be taken for the awareness among the indigenous people in the vicinity of forests and glacier By creating an artificial glacier and flourishing the glacier, step may be taken for the durability of these natural assets.
“Pakistan and India should withdraw their forces from the Siachen glacier and other snow covered peaks and keep away the glaciers from the chemical weapons and human activities, so the flowing water from these glaciers remain clean and safe. Deforestation prohibited and ensured the safety of wildlife and for the fulfilment of the necessity of fuel arrangements may be made for hydro-electric. The use of explosives and chemicals in exploration of minerals should be declared as prohibited.


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