Wednesday, 18th October 2017

Rising temperature: ‘Mountainous regions warming up more rapidly’

Glacier

ISLAMABAD: Glaciers across the world are seriously threatened by climate change and global warming, warned international experts in a recently-released report.

The team of scientists came together as part of the Mountain Research Initiative, a global effort funded by Swiss National Foundation. Scientists from Pakistan, China, US, Canada, UK, Ecuador, Italy, Austria and Kazakhstan took part in the study of mountains and glaciers, which was also published in Nature Climate Change Journal recently.

After finding evidence that places at higher elevations could be warming up much faster than previously thought, experts have called for urgent and rigorous monitoring of temperature patterns. The report has further cautioned that the behaviour could accelerate many environmental changes such as melting glaciers and vegetation change.

The study further reveals that mountainous regions are warming up more rapidly than surrounding regions, primarily because of the Tibetan Plateau where temperatures have risen steadily over the past years and the rate of change is speeding up. It also found out variations in general climate warming at elevations. For instance over the past 20 years, temperatures in areas above 4,000 meters have increased nearly 75 per cent faster than that in areas below 2,000 meters.

Records of weather patterns at high altitudes are extremely sparse. The density of weather stations at height of more than 4,500 meters is roughly one tenth of that in areas below that elevation as found by the researchers.

Around 5,000 glaciers are located in Pakistan. Long term data which is crucial for detecting patterns does not exist for areas above 5,000 meters across the world, thus leaving out K2 (8,611m) and several other mountain peaks in the country. The longest observations above these elevations are of 10 years on the summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Experts are of the view that rising temperature at glaciers could cause enormous floods thus negatively affecting agricultural production, food security and national economy. This would ultimately increase poverty and insecurity in the region.

“Pakistan is one of those countries which are most vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change.  The mountains in the country are also warming up rapidly compared to areas in the rest of the country. The social and economic consequences of this could be serious. We could see our glaciers disappeared much sooner than previously thought leading to dramatic change in hydrologic regime of River Indus,” Global Change Impact Study Centre Senior Scientific Officer Dr Ziaur Rehman Hashmi toldThe Express Tribune.

The study suggests improved observation techniques such as satellite-based remote sensing and climate model simulations to get a true picture of rising temperatures in mountainous regions. It also emphasised for efforts to find, collate and evaluate observational data from across the world.  --  The Express Tribune

GILGIT: 'Tree massacre plan' likely to get official nod

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                               Forests plantation likely to be cleared for construction of a complex. Photo by Mon Shireen

 

BY OUR CORRESPONDENT

GILGIT: At least 5000 trees – mostly over 50 years old - are likely to be chopped down in Gilgit city as government plans to allocate a major chunk of woodland for construction of a complex.

“The paper work is complete and awaiting approval by the higher authorities,” said an insider privy to the development said on Monday. ”According to the proposal 50 kanals of land is being allocated to Chief Court for construction of its building there.”

The forest plantation, as the land known locally, is situated in Jutial area adjacent to Supreme Appellate Court complex.

“The authorities seem to be in a hurry to remove the forest cover as they have planned to get its groundbreaking by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who is scheduled to visit Gilgit on Tuesday,” said the insider about the land allocated to G-B forests department back in 1957 to expand the green patch in the city.

Over the years, the green patch was expanded upto 250 kanals, adding to the beauty of the city. However the latest development has threatened the existence of at least 5000 trees grown up in five decades by spending millions.

The land belongs to G-B forest department and is notified, any attempt to use it for any purpose other than plantation will not only be illegal but also a great injustice with forests department, said a lawyer.

The forests plantation has precious trees like Queta alpine and Chir alpine of at least 50 years of age.

According to experts, the mass murder of trees will be yet another blow to the conservation efforts in G-B  where the continuous illegal felling of trees such as pine, kail and deodar, has eroded forest cover more than 50 per cent in the last 20 years — down from 640,000 hectares to just 295,000 hectares.

“It is time the civil society in G-B and especially Islamabad raised voice to stop this insanity and mass murder of trees,” an activist told Outpost on Monday.

The farmer's son who filmed a snow leopard

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BY M ILYAS KHAN

ISLAMABAD: Villagers in mountainous northern Pakistan still remember the day a farmer's son let a snow leopard kill a dozen of his sheep, just because he wanted to catch the elusive animal on camera.

Imtiaz Ahmad waited five hours outside his family's livestock pen on a freezing March night in 2012, and was able to get about 15 seconds of video of the snow leopard entering the pen, and then leaving.

Next morning, the family found 10 sheep neatly slaughtered. One of them was half-eaten. Two were still standing, but their throats were slit. They died shortly afterwards.

The total loss - worth about $1,000 (£650) - was a financial disaster for the family and Ahmad had to face the ire of both his relatives and neighbours for not trying to prevent it.

So why did he do it?

"A videographer's first instinct is that you don't interfere with nature. You capture it as it is," Ahmad says.

Anyone else in his place would have found a way to kill the snow leopard, as often happens, he says.

Ahmad's adolescent years in Nazimabad village in the glacial Sost region were marked by the rise of Islamist militancy in the wider Afghanistan-Pakistan region that led to a decline in tourism.

He quit school in 2004 to work as a guide for Western tourists, climbers and hunters who came for trophy hunting of wild goats allowed under government permits.

These jobs took him to base camps of such famous mountains as K-2, the Broad Peak, Rakaposhi, and most of the hunting fields across Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan.

In 2006, realising there was no future in tourism and trophy hunting, he bought a camera and started a studio in Gilgit town where he produced short documentary films on wildlife conservation for non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

"As my video library grew, I increasingly became conscious that I did not have any footage of a snow leopard which, besides being a precious animal, is also a subject of the local ancient folklore," Ahmad says.

His desire was further fuelled by a 2006 BBC documentary that filmed a snow leopard hunting a wild goat in Chitral.

"Over the next five years, I spent most of the money I made from the studio to hunt for snow leopards; I spent months in the high-altitude pastures of wild goats, and followed up on every snow leopard sighting or its pugmarks [paw-prints] brought to my notice," he says.

"But I never got anywhere near the creature, until one day it decided to come to me."

In late February of 2012, Ahmad spotted paw-prints of a snow leopard in the snow behind his house and warned his brother to watch his sheep.

A week later, when he was in Gilgit, his brother called him to say he had seen paw-prints lower down, closer to the pen near their house.

Sensing a breakthrough, Ahmad got on his motorbike and undertook the five-hour ride from Gilgit to his village without telling his brother. He got there at about 23:00.

"As I drove up to my house, I instantly saw the snow leopard, sitting idly near a few trees behind the pen," he says.

"My heart skipped a beat, but the animal did not move. I put the bike on stand but did not switch off the engine or turn off the headlight."

Over the next four hours, Ahmad tried to get as close to the animal as he could without alarming it, hoping to get a clearer camera shot in the light from his bike.

At about 03:00, the snow leopard got up and walked towards the pen with measured steps. It disappeared behind the stone-and-mortar structure, and jumped in from behind.

"I heard the commotion inside," he says.

"For a while I rued I should have stopped it, then I wished I had high-definition equipment I could set up inside the pen, then I decided to wait for it to come out, hoping I might be able to get a better shot than the ones I had."

And that is what happened. An hour later, the snow leopard jumped out from over the wall directly facing the light from the bike.

Ahmad was a bit late in switching on the camera, but still managed a clear shot.

"It's not great footage, but it is probably the only one by someone who did not have an elaborate production detail or a big budget, so I'm proud of it," he says.

"And as many ancient sayings in our Brusheski language put it, a snow leopard is the angel of the mountains. Only to the lucky ones is it revealed. And if it kills your livestock, be certain that your health and wealth will multiply," he says.

"We had 12 sheep in 2012. Today we have twice that number, and also some cows and yaks."   --- Courtesy BBC News 

Regional cooperation framework for conservation in Kangchenjunga Landscape agreed

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KATHMANDU, NEPAL (PR): Participants at the 3rd Regional Strategic Consultative Meeting for the Kangchenjunga Landscape stressed the need for greater collaboration to protect the region’s rich biological and cultural diversity through strengthened partnerships and increased participation of people in the landscape.

About 60 representatives, including high-level government officials from Bhutan, India and Nepal — the three member countries of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), and strategic development partners Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), met for the conclusion of the one-and-a-half year preparatory phase of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KLCDI). The meeting, jointly organized by the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MOFSC) and ICIMOD, was held from 23 to 24 February at the ICIMOD Headquarters.

During the meeting, partners consolidated the activities of the initiative’s preparatory phase and apprised country delegates of the outputs and content of a draft framework for regional cooperation, which takes into account the need for greater collaboration across borders, as well as opportunities for socioeconomic development at the landscape level. “Having taken these key steps, we can now move into the implementation of coordinated activities for the conservation and sustainable development of this important landscape”, said Nakul Chettri, KLCDI Programme Coordinator.

”It is very important for us to generate on-the-ground impacts to support adaptation and resilience among the communities living in the Kangchenjunga landscape”, said David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD. He also encouraged the initiative partners to use the knowledge and data resources ICIMOD has made available, in particular for geospatial and cryosphere analysis.

The three member countries proposed an area of about 25,000 km2, covering parts of eastern Nepal, Sikkim and the northern part of West Bengal in India, and western Bhutan, to be included in the Kangchenjunga landscape, one of the seven transboundary landscapes identified by ICIMOD with its regional partner countries for prioritizing conservation and development programmes in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.

The landscape is one of the richest areas on earth in terms of plant and animal species. There are 19 protected areas in the landscape covering 30% of the total area. More than 4,500 species of flowering plants have been recorded from the region, and there are more than 400 varieties of orchids and 40 varieties of rhododendrons. This region is also home to charismatic wildlife species such as the snow leopard, musk deer, red panda, Asian elephant, one-horned rhinoceros, and Bengal tiger. Many of these wildlife species are endangered and, if proper conservation mechanisms are not put into place, vulnerable to extinction.

”Nepal is privileged to be part of this transboundary landscape initiative, which will provide a platform for the collaborative efforts needed to address regional issues such as human-wildlife conflicts and the illegal trade of threatened species”, said Sharad Chandra Paudel, Secretary at the MOFSC.

Dr JR Bhatt, Advisor at the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, Government of India highlighted binding factors for people living within the Kangchenjunga landscape: the commonality of their cultures and their respect for nature. ”We need to shift to a more participatory approach and involve communities so that they have more ownership and responsibility for managing their biodiversity resources”, he said. He also emphasized the strength of the landscape approach being applied in this initiative, and the opportunities it would provide in creating important transboundary corridors to connect not only large and charismatic wildlife species, but also many small mammals and plant species.

Reaffirming the commitment of the Royal Government of Bhutan to the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative, Dasho Tenzin Dhendup, Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests said, ”Biodiversity, wildlife, and nature do not recognize political boundaries; therefore, all the countries in the Kangchenjunga landscape need to work together to ensure that we can hand over a well-conserved landscape to our future generations”. Mr Dhendup also highlighted the need to use new and scientific knowledge in conservation and development efforts, but not without forgetting the traditional knowledge of the people in the landscape.

”The regional framework for cooperation prepared during this meeting will be the basis for implementing the subsequent phases of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative. Through this collaboration, we will be able to produce positive outcomes”, said Basanta Shrestha, Director of Strategic Cooperation, ICIMOD.

 “We need to be innovative in order to adapt to a changing environment”, said Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director of Programme Operations at ICIMOD, adding, “Cooperation in transboundary landscapes like Kangchenjunga provides us with an opportunity to work together to find new solutions to emerging challenges”.

During the workshop, the book Kangchenjunga Landscape Nepal from Conservation and Development Perspectives – published by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation in collaboration with the Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology and ICIMOD – was jointly launched by  Mr Sharad Chandra Paudel, Dasho Tenzin Dhendup, and Dr JR Bhatt.

Published in Outpost on February 26, 2015

Golden Eagle back in Nagar after 20 years

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                                                                 Photo: Internet

 BY OUR CORRESPONDENT

GILGIT: Golden Eagle [Aquila chrysaetos], which was last seen over two decades back, has reemerged in Gilgit – Baltistan’s [G-B] Nagar valley, bringing joy and fears simultaneously in the valley.

Climate change leading to food scarcity was believed to be one of the factors causing the disappearance of the world’s largest bird in parts of G-B.

The Golden Eagle is one of the largest, fastest, nimblest raptors found in this mountainous region. Lustrous gold feathers gleam on the back of its head and neck; a powerful beak and talons advertise its hunting prowess.

“It is back in the valley after well over two decades,” Mujahid Ali Shah, a schoolteacher at Nagar valley told Outpost on Monday.

“The disappearance of this native species in the valley was triggered by the overall climate change that also affected this region,” said Shah, who studied landscape ecology at the University of Greifswald.

The emergence of the bird was first reported by shepherd Muhammad after the bird preyed on his lambs this month in Nagar.

According to the shepherd, the giant bird has lifted six of his lambs this month as he took them to mountains for grazing.

“I’ve lost six of my lambs to the giant eagle this month. It just drops with an astonishing speed on to the lambs and lifts them without giving them any time to react,” Muhammad was quoted as saying.

Golden eagles maintain home ranges or territories that may be as large as 200 km2 (77 sq mi). They build large nests in high places (mainly cliffs) to which they may return for several breeding years.

During flight, the bird’s wings stretch up to 2 meters each.

Myths

There are various myths associated with the giant bird in Nagar valley.

"It was some 35 years ago when my two-year old son almost become a prey to the giant bird,” narrates Safia a seventy years old woman who lives in Phakar village in Nagar valley.

She said the boy was playing in an open field in the village when a Golden Eagle started hovering over him. “Realizing the threat I brought him near my house and thought he was safe. But to my surprise the bird was following him. I immediately covered him in my lap and took him into my home."

There are narrations that mothers in the valley used to keep their children indoors during December as it was considered prey season for the bird.

Hopes and fears

The emergence of the bird brings good as well as bad news in the village.

 “The good news is that the return of the bird means the environment is improving as the bird can return only in a health environment,” says Shah.

“But the bad news is that there is a growing fear among the mothers and the farmers with respect to the safety of the kids.”

An assistant professor in Karakoram University Muhammad Zafar says though Golden Eagle is listed in the IUCN endangered species list, its not as such threatened. “Its not threatened but let me say that its return is reflective of the healthy environment that the valley is certainly has,” Zafar told Outpost.

Nest

The nest of the Golden Eagle is at the mountain cliff of Chokobat in the valley.

Chokobat is where a snow leopard raised its two cubs back in the year 2002. The cubs were caught by villagers while their mother was away and handed them over to the government officials.

"The sanctuary of golden eagle and snow leopard-Mount Chokobat is under threat due to the increasing traffic on the Karakoram Highway,” said Shah.

The fixation of a mobile phone tower near the area has increased human access to the mountain.

"The government should develop corridors on the KKH for crossings of wildlife and there should be ban on playing horn near hotspots and sanctuaries like Chokobat Mount cliff,” says Shah.

Environment

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