Reducing Glacier Lake Outburst Flood Risks in Northern Pakistan

Project Overview

The Himalayan Karakorum Hindukush (HKH) Mountain region contains the second largest glacier in the world and acts as the main source for river systems in the area. However, it is also prone to climate-related hazards such as floods, avalanches and landslides, which occur annually and can cause significant human and material losses. Rapid glacial melt due to climate change is causing increased water flow into glacier lakes, threatening the prospect of Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). Water flows into the V-shaped canyons during GLOFs, unleashing a torrent that can destroy livelihoods, eco-systems and infrastructure in its path.

This project, known as 'GLOF I', seeks to create an institution that addresses GLOF risks affecting communities and livelihoods in Pakistan. It will also provide communities in northern Pakistan with the knowledge they need to respond to GLOF risks. The primary goal is to create institutions that can teach people about the affects of climate change, and how to manage the associated risks.

For updates on UNDP Early Warning Systems and Climate Resilient Development projects, click here.

Project Details

Levels of Intervention

Community

Source of Funds

The Adaptation Fund

Key Implementers

National Governments

Funding Amounts

$3,906,000

Project Partners

Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan
Adaptation Fund
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Introduction

The Himalayan Karakorum Hindukush (HKH) Mountain region contains the second largest glacier in the world and acts as the main source for river systems in the area. However, it is also prone to climate-related hazards such as floods, avalanches and landslides, which occur annually and can cause significant human and material losses. Rapid glacial melt due to climate change is causing increased water flow into glacier lakes, threatening the prospect of Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). Water flows into the V-shaped canyons during GLOFs, unleashing a torrent that can destroy livelihoods, eco-systems and infrastructure in its path.

This project, known as 'GLOF I', seeks to create an institution that addresses GLOF risks affecting communities and livelihoods in Pakistan. It will also provide communities in northern Pakistan with the knowledge they need to respond to GLOF risks. The primary goal is to create institutions that can teach people about the affects of climate change, and how to manage the associated risks.

For updates on UNDP Early Warning Systems and Climate Resilient Development projects, click here.

Project Details

A major part of the snow and ice mass of the Hindu-Kush Himalaya (HKH) region in Pakistan is concentrated in the watersheds of the Indus basin. As a result of rapidly changing climatic conditions, the glaciers in Pakistan are receding at a rate of almost 40 – 60 meters per decade. The melting ice from these glaciers is increasing the volume of water in the glacial lakes. According to the IPCC’S fourth assessment report, eleven of the last twelve years (1995 – 2006) rank among the 12 warmest years of in the history of global surface record since 1850. This rapid change in the world’s temperatures is related with a faster rate of glacier melt.

Various studies suggest that the warming trend in the HKH region has been greater than the global average. The most severe threat of this effect is related to the rapid melting of glaciers. As these glaciers retreat, glacial lakes start to form and rapidly fill up behind natural moraine or ice dams at the bottom or on top of these glaciers. The ice or sediment bodies that contain the lakes can breach suddenly, leading to a discharge of huge volumes of water and debris. These are termed Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) and have the potential to release millions of cubic meters of water and debris, with peak flows as high as 15,000 cubic meters per second.

During a GLOF, the V-shaped canyons of a normally small mountain stream can suddenly develop into an extremely turbulent and fast-moving torrent, some 50 meters deep. On a floodplain, inundation becomes somewhat slower, spreading as much as 10 kilometers wide. Both scenarios present horrific threats to lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and economic assets for the exposed population. Mountain communities living in the proximity of glacier lakes and glacier fed rivers are particularly at risk, as they live in remote and marginalized areas and depend heavily on fragile eco-systems for their livelihoods.

To address these increased risks posed by climate change, this project will develop the human and technical capacity of public institutions to understand and address immediate GLOF risks for vulnerable communities in Northern Pakistan. In addition, it will enable vulnerable local communities in northern areas of Pakistan to better understand and respond to GLOF risks and thereby adapt to growing climate change pressures.

Thematic Area: 
Climate-Related Hazards Addressed: 
Level of Intervention: 
Key Collaborators: 
Primary Beneficiaries: 
Mountain Communities in Bagrot and Drongagh Valleys
Implementing Agencies & Partnering Organizations: 
Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan
Adaptation Fund
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Project Status: 
Under Implementation
Location: 
Rural
Funding Source: 
Financing Amount: 
$3,906,000

News

'Communities work together to reduce the risk of flash floods in Northern Pakistan' - UNDP Pakistan. Highlights from the AF-funded project with the Government of Pakistan, 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, UNDP integrating disaster risk reduction strategies with climate change adaptation in high risk areas. 

Key Results and Outputs

Component 1: Policy recommendations & institutional strengthening

Establish policy framework and guidelines to address GLOF risks (Output 1.1), with accompanying indicators and criteria for GLOF vulnerability applied to maximize risk reduction efforts and investments (Output 1.2).

Component 2: Strengthening Knowledge and Information about GLOF risks

Ensure engagement with research networks on GLOF issues (Output 2.1) to help inform the creation of GLOF risk and hazard maps for mountain valleys (Output 2.2).

Component 3: Demonstration of community-based GLOF risk management

Conduct preparedness actions to prepare vulnerable communities for GLOF events (Output 3.1) and establish a community-based system for GLOF risk monitoring and early warning in priority communities (Output 3.2). In Bagrot and Drongagh valleys, implement targeted risk reduction measures such as check dams, spill-ways, slope stabilization, or controlled drainage (Output 3.3).

Reports and Publications

Multimedia

Documentary from Northern Pakistan: Lurking Mountain Tsunami

The short documentary tells the story of the vulnerable community living under risk of GLOF in Northern Pakistan.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Project monitoring and evaluation (M&E) will be in accordance with established UNDP procedures and will carried out by the Project team, verified by the Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan and the UNDP Country Office in Islamabad. Dedicated support by the technical adaptation teams in the UNDP Regional Center for Asia/Pacific and UNDP New York will be provided on a regular basis. A comprehensive Results Framework of the project will defines execution indicators for project implementation as well as the respective means of verification. A Monitoring and Evaluation system for the project will be established based on these indicators and means of verification. Targeted M&E activities for the proposed project include the following:

A Project Inception Workshop will be conducted within four months of project start up with the full project team, relevant government counterparts, co-financing partners, and UNDP. The Inception Workshop is crucial to building ownership for the project results and to plan the first year annual work plan. A fundamental objective of the Inception Workshop will be to present the modalities of project implementation and execution, document mutual agreement for the proposed executive arrangements amongst stakeholders, and assist the project team to understand and take ownership of the project’s goals and objectives. Another key objective of the Inception Workshop is to introduce the project team which will support the project during its implementation. An Inception Workshop Report will be prepared and shared with participants to formalize various agreements decided during the meeting.

A UNDP risk log will be regularly updated in intervals of no less than every six months in which critical risks to the project have been identified.

Quarterly Progress Reports will be prepared by the Project team and verified by the Project Steering Committee.

Annual Project Reports will be prepared to monitor progress made since project start and in particular for the previous reporting period. These annual reports include, but are not limited to, reporting on the following:

•        Progress made toward project objective and project outcomes - each with indicators, baseline data and end-of-project targets (cumulative);

•        Project outputs delivered per project Outcome (annual);

•        Lessons learned/good practices; • Annual expenditure reports;

•        Reporting on project risk management.

Government authorities, members of Steering Committees and UNDP staff will conduct regular field visits to project sites based on the agreed schedule in the project's Inception Report/Annual Work Plan to assess first hand project progress.

In terms of financial monitoring, the project team will provide UNDP with certified periodic financial statements, and with an annual audit of the financial statements relating to the status of funds according to the established procedures set out in the Programming and Finance manuals. The Audit will be conducted by a legally recognized auditor of the Government, or by a commercial auditor engaged by the Government.

The project will undergo an independent Mid-Term Evaluation (MTE) at the mid-point of project implementation, which will determine progress being made toward the achievement of outcomes and identify course correction if needed. It will focus on the effectiveness, efficiency and timeliness of project implementation; will highlight issues requiring decisions and actions; and will present initial lessons learned about project design, implementation and management. Findings of this review will be incorporated as recommendations for enhanced implementation during the final half of the project’s term.

A summative Terminal Evaluation will be conducted 3 months before project closure.

Contacts

UNDP
Reis Lopez Rello
Regional Technical Advisor