On 7th May 2022, another catastroph Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding (GLOF) was witnessed in Hunza after a lake that was formed over the Shishper glacier erupted. There were no causalities reported but the flood damaged the Karakorum Highway bridge that used to connect Hunza and Gilgit.
According to Dr. Sher Muhammad who is a Remote Sensing Specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, the event was caused by the abrupt rising temperature in Northern Pakistan led by heatwaves. He also claimed that the outburst was premature as it occurred a month ahead of its normal time which is usually June or later months due to the extreme temperature. Shishper Glacier Outburst is not an unexcepted or unusual hazardous event in the history of Northern Pakistan. The region has suffered through numerous similar catastrophes in the past causing thousands of people to lose their homes. Research shows that with growing global warming, more than 3000 new glacial lakes have formed in Gilgit- Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and they can erupt anytime (Hunza, Gilgit disconnected after glacial lake flooding, 2022).
The collapse of the Karakorum Highway Bridge was major collateral damage negatively affecting the economy in the region. Hassan Abad bridge was the only trade route between Pakistan and China. After the bridge was swept away, the trade between the two countries was temporarily shut down as well as tourism which is a major contributor to the region’s economy was interrupted. Although the flood caused minor property damage downstream, families residing near the bridge were moved. Additionally, two power plants in Hassanabad were also destroyed due to the flood thus increasing the power crisis in the region (Siddiqui, 2022).
A few days ago @ClimateChangePK had warned that Pakistan’s vulnerability is high due to high temps. Hassanabad bridge on the KKH collapsed due to GLOF from the melting Shisper glacier which caused erosion under pillars. Am told FWO will have a temporary bridge up in 48 hours. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/Sjl9QIMI0G— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) May 7, 2022
Given the studies conducted on the first Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding (GLOF) in Shishpar Glacier in 2019, it was concluded by the experts that close monitoring of the glacier is key in mitigating the damage from outburst events. Home to 90% of the glaciers of Pakistan, Northern areas carry a high risk of natural hazards such as Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding (GLOF). Thus, the local Non-profit organizations and governmental agencies should give special attention to the region by investing in regular remote sensing and field surveys as well as developing effective risk management policies and programs.
Thenews.com.pk. 2022. Hunza, Gilgit disconnected after glacial lake flooding. [online] Available at: <https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/956134-hunza-gilgit-disconnected-after-glacial-lake-flooding> [Accessed 2 October 2022].
Siddiqui, I., 2022. Shishper Glacier’s outburst sweeps away a bridge in the Hassanabad area of Hunza. [online] DAWN.COM. Available at: <https://www.dawn.com/news/1688466> [Accessed 2 October 2022].