The consequences of climate change are visible around the world, such as at the Haramosh Valley where we interviewed local people.
Climate change and its effects are becoming more visible around the world. In particular, the mountain ecosystems are considered sensitive indicators of global warming, because even small temperature changes can cause large changes in the local climate, affecting the natural environment and the lives and livelihoods of local people. The Himalaya, Karakorum, and Hindukush (HKH) regions are significantly affected by climate change. This, in turn, has an impact on the natural environment and on the lives of local communities. Haramosh valley, situated in the Karakorum region in Pakistan, epitomizes this trend. The average elevation of the Haramosh valley is about 4,500 ft above sea level. The valley has some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Pakistan and is surrounded by high peaks like Haramosh Peak or Peak 52, (7409 m), Bilchar Dubani (6,134 m), Malubiting (7,458 m) and Laila peak (6,986 m). Many glaciers are also found throughout the valley, some of which are Mani, Buska, Khaltoro, Pupharish, Haramosh-Chagolucma, and Iskapal glaciers.
Local People & Awareness
To find out whether the local people in the Haramosh Valley are aware of climate change or not, informal interviews were conducted in the valley with elder members of the community. Upon asking a villager (aged 80 years) regarding the change in the temperature of the valley, the elderly said, “When I was 30 years old, I remember there was more rain in winter and snow falling was also frequent, now winter is shorter and summer has become warmer”.
He added, “The use of woolen clothes and woolen carpeting in households has decreased dramatically.” There are various pastures for summers (in the highlands) and winters in Haramosh Valley (in the lowlands). In summer, the shepherds move to the mountains and spend there almost 6 months.
Again, asking a village elder aged around 70 whether he observed any changes in pastures that used to be 10-15 years ago and today, he affirmed, “Yes, the grass at pastures is dry and less green as compared to past due to lack of rain and it has also become shorter.” He further mentioned that those areas used to be characterized by dense forests and long grass in pastures, whereas nowadays the natural resources have deteriorated. He recalled his childhood memory that his mother did not let him go into the nearby forests of Kutwal valley because the forest and bushes were dense and frightening. Conversely, today there is nothing except a few old Betula Utilis trees. This happened because of the over-population crisis and the poor natural resources management. The respondent argued that also weather in the area shows unusual patterns. The amount of both rainfall and snow has significantly decreased.
Furthermore, the glaciers are also shrinking, some shepherds noticed, due to the decrease in snowfall. For example, a local shepherd said that the Mani glacier, located in Kutwal, has shrunk substantially as compared to how it was 20 years ago. As shown in the figure, the reduction in the glacier caused landslides in the area. As warmth in summer causes the melting of glaciers, this results in an increase in the river tide and led to soil erosion in villages. The community members believe that these devastations are due to climate change.
The impacts of climate change on the livelihoods of people are also noticeable in the Haramosh Valley. The farmers in the village highlighted that the quantity of crops produced now is substantially scarcer than in the past. The people of Haramsoh are dependent upon agriculture for their livelihoods. Therefore, we only asked farmers which type of changes they observed in the areas. Further, upon asking a question to a farmer regarding crops diseases, he said: “Diseases incidents in crops increased: however; a decade ago there were few crop diseases in the area”. The villagers linked the increase in crop diseases to the warmer climate. They also mentioned some of the prevailing diseases in the area. These include a large pest on vegetables, grass, and wheat. As stated, holes are also formed on potato crops.
In the last decade, fruits in the area also caught diseases resulting in the decaying of fruits (apple, apricot, walnut) before they ripen, a villager said. Again, this was associated with the raise in temperatures. The villagers did notice the weather patterns but did not describe them in simple technical language because they lacked theoretical and professional expertise. Based on the discussions that were held with villagers, it is possible to venture that the people of the Haramosh Valley are aware of the nature of climate-induced changes occurring in the area, such as forest degradation, and habitat destruction. Relatedly, the population turned out to be highly resilient, as they are capable of adjusting their lifestyle and natural resource use to the challenges faced.
An ecologically fragile mountainous region like Haramosh, on the other hand, necessitates cooperative efforts from stakeholders in order to use an interdisciplinary landscape-level strategy for successful climate change mitigation and adaptation. Moreover, it is indispensable to assess the vulnerability of local people and raise their awareness of the specific impacts that climate change may have in the area, with the intent to conceive a well-devised plan incorporating community-based knowledge and capacity to implement it for a smooth transition.