Communities work together to reduce the risk of flash floods in Northern Pakistan
Bindo Gol is a remote valley located 65 kilometers northwest of Chitral town in Northern Pakistan. For the past ten years, climate change induced disasters have taken momentum in the valley, particularly the floods caused by glacial lakes. These glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) occur when the ice walls containing the reservoir fail, sending entire lakes down to inhabited areas below. During such emergencies, there is severe loss of lives and physical assets.
- The mitigation of GLOF was included in the National Climate Change Policy launched in 2013
- More than 1,000 people, including 50 percent women, in vulnerable communities were sensitised and made aware of GLOF related hazards, preparedness and adaptation
- A total of 200 people, including 80 women, participated in disaster risk management strategies and gained knowledge of techniques for mitigating risks and losses during future glacial lake outburst floods and other climate change related disasters
- 10 safe havens and 10 access routes were identified at Bagrot and Bindo gol valleys to minimise life and material losses from climate change related disasters in northern areas of Pakistan
During the month of July in 2010, a massive glacial flood resulted in unprecedented devastation to human lives, houses, transport networks, irrigation channels and cultivated land. At that time, the communities were not organized to pool resources and undertake collective measures. Nor did the locals understand the risks associated with GLOF to motivate them to take preparedness measures.
'We were struck by a heavy flood resulting from the outburst of Bindo Gol Glacier back in 2010. We waited for three years for someone to help us. But to our dismay no one came to our rescue. We tried to help our communities but lacked the required skills and resources,' says Ibrahim Khan, Chairman, Disaster Risk Management Committee, Bindo Gol valley.
In partnership with the Government of Pakistan and the Adaptation Fund, UNDP is supporting efforts to reduce the risk of flash floods from glacial lake outbursts in high risk areas of Gilgit and Chitral districts. To overcome the dangers posed by this, UNDP is integrating disaster risk reduction strategies with climate change adaptation in high risk areas.
In early 2012, the project initiated a series of activities with local communities to reduce risks from GLOF and other natural disasters. The first ever community based Disaster Risk Management Committee (DRMC) was established in Chitral at Bindo Gol Valley. To strengthen the committee, relevant trainings and tools, such as early warning and rescue equipment, were also provided. The project also provided technical and financial support to ensure that the committee works efficiently. A community based disaster risk management fund was also established and supported through community contribution.
The mitigation of this risk was also included in the National Climate Change Policy launched in 2013. Efficient monitoring of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) risks was made possible by creating site maps, installing observatories and automated weather stations in the pilot sites. These were effective in reducing risks from GLOF as the Meteorological Department issued early warnings and alerted communities to potential dangers. Community based disaster risk management training equipped people with techniques to protect themselves during future flash floods and other climate change related disasters.
Community disaster risk management trainings has resulted in greater familiarity with the strategies and techniques of reducing losses during future flash floods and other climate change related disasters. Communities, in close coordination with the community based disaster risk management committees, actively participated in hazard watch groups to report emerging GLOF threats.
The project facilitated and supported large scale community sensitization campaigns including consultative meetings with community elders, discussions with locals, awareness and outreach activities and media orientation programmes to mobilize local communities for disaster risk reduction initiatives.
“Although we use to help our neighbors in times of disasters but such activities were unorganized and not effective. With the establishment of a communal setup for disaster risk management in the form of the committee, now we are better placed to help each other in very organized and systematic way,” says Ms. Bi Bi Zubaira of Pongodur village in Bindo Gol Valley.
Bindo Gol is vulnerable to a number of natural disasters including GLOF, landslides and avalanches. Non-governmental organizations and other institutions are not well established within the valley to respond effectively to such disasters. Through the GLOF Project, UNDP has not only helped to organize and train local communities to make them resilient towards disaster mitigation, but also initiated measures to build community understanding of climate change induced natural hazards. These efforts are contributing towards making the community in Bindo Gol more disaster resilient and self-sufficient.