The second phase of the Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) Risk Reduction project has been initiated by the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The five-year programme will look to increase early warning sensory mechanisms for impending floods and the setup of automated weather systems in a bid to minimise the damage caused by potential floods.

With over a combined 3000 lakes in both GB and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as a result of melting glaciers, with 36 identified as posing a risk of flood, the rapid change in climate will hit the northern regions of Pakistan very severely unless preventive measures are taken as soon as possible.

This agreement then, could not have come any sooner; glacial melting as a result of climate change can stand to change the topography of the northern region of Pakistan; not to mention the threat that it poses to the lives and livelihoods of the estimated 7.1 million inhabitants of the region.

There have been reports over the past month of red tape at the federal level in the Climate Change Ministry delaying this agreement. With projects submitted by the KP government lying unapproved in the federal ministry, the first quarter of the year has already passed us by and the hiring of staff for this project is likely to up another; with snows expected at the end of the year, some experts fear that this delay may end up costing a year in the commencement of this project which is catastrophic judging by the rapid degradation of many glaciers in the northern areas.

However, coming to grips with reality entails moving on from mistakes and making the most of the time left. With lives at stake, both the federal and provincial governments cannot afford to sit on this project any longer. Given that the centre and the KP provincial government are both under the control of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the blame for any future delays can be laid squarely at the feet of the ruling party. Both levels of government should be reminded by party leaders of what is at stake; the potential destruction of entire villages with the lived of residents endangered. This is something that must be avoided in an issue which stands to threaten the biodiversity and way of life the population of the area.