The original version of this article, by Michael Kugelman, appeared on
Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel.
Last month, an avalanche on the Siachen glacier
in Kashmir killed 124 Pakistani soldiers and 11 civilians. The tragedy has intensified debate
about the logic of stationing Pakistani and Indian troops on such inhospitable terrain. And it has also brought attention to Pakistan’s environmental insecurity.
Siachen is rife with glacial melt; one study concludes the icy peak has retreated nearly two kilometers in less than 20 years. It has also been described as “the world’s highest waste dump.” Much of this waste-generated from soldiers’ food, fuel, and equipment-eventually finds its way to the Indus River Basin, Pakistan’s chief water source.
Siachen, in fact, serves as a microcosm of Pakistan’s environmental troubles. The nation experiences record-breaking temperatures, torrential rains (nearly 60 percent of Pakistan’s annual rainfall comes from monsoons), drought, and glacial melt (Pakistan’s United Nations representative, Hussain Haroon, contends that glacial recession on Pakistani mountains has increased by 23 percent over the past decade). Experts estimate that about a quarter of Pakistan’s land area and half of its population are vulnerable to climate change-related disasters, and several weeks ago Sindh’s environment minister said that millions of people across the province face “acute environmental threats.”
Continue reading on the AfPak Channel.
Sources: Daily Times, Dawn.com, Environment News Service, The Express Tribune, The New York Times, Remote Sensing Technology Center of Japan.
Photo Credit: “Surveying damage in Pakistan,” courtesy of the U.S. Army.