Meltdown in the Himalayas – The politics of climate change | DW Documentary

Meltdown in the Himalayas – The politics of climate change | DW Documentary
The World Health Organization puts the number of deaths from climate change at 250,000 by 2050.
A combination of bad policies and political apathy is speeding up climate change. Have we reached the tipping point? Can it be reversed? Pakistan takes a bold bid to mitigate worsening climate change.

The word Himalaya means House of Snow, and is the second largest icecap outside the polar regions. But it is melting at the fastest rate in human history. One-third of the Himalayan glaciers are projected to disappear by the end of this century due to climate change, threatening the supply of water to nearly 2 billion people across South Asia. We discover how water became a major flash point between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, due to the Siachen glacier conflict, and go undercover to observe the proliferation of water thieves in Karachi. We also examine the impact of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s billion tree tsunami, Pakistan’s bold bid to mitigate worsening climate change.
Along the way, we meet people and activists trying to find ways to tackle the biggest issue of the 21st century.

The himalayan glaciers in pakistan are
melting away faster than ever
by the turn of the century one third of
their ice sheet could have disappeared
the accumulated water will burst through
like a tsunami
the ongoing battle for water in kashmir
potentially a major flashpoint between
india and pakistan is affecting the
water needs of more than 2 billion
people in south asia
meanwhile an increasing number of heat
waves in mega cities are driving up
water consumption and coping with
dwindling supplies has become a real
struggle
in here
inside
illegal theft area
and the government is a part of this of
course
i don’t think many pakistanis know how
bad it is
can a giant tree planting action help to
save the melting glaciers
so we want to restore a million hectares
in pakistan
[Music]
with nearly 20 million inhabitants in
its metropolitan area karachi is
pakistan’s largest city and the
country’s economic center
but in july 2015 the busy port city in
the south was almost brought to a
standstill as an extreme heat wave
wreaked havoc in its neighborhoods with
temperatures reaching 45 degrees celsius
more than a thousand people died of
dehydration and heat stroke in karachi
alone
hospitals were poorly equipped to handle
the surge of heat stroke victims
the morgue at abbasi shahid hospital
quickly overfilled leading to bodies
being buried in mass graves
the nightmare from 2015 still haunts
karachi’s locals
[Music]
in 2019 the subcontinent again
experienced an extreme heat wave
this time with average daily
temperatures reaching 50 degrees celsius
the provincial government was forced to
declare a state of emergency
[Music]
but this time around the heat stroke
ward at abbasi shahid hospital saw no
deaths among its patients
the previous heat wave came suddenly
people were not mentally
that was the most important element and
the reason why the number of patients
was so high and why too many people lost
their lives
since we have had several heat waves in
karachi
but because there was greater awareness
about how to combat heat stroke there
weren’t as many deaths as reported in
2015.
[Music]
today the karachi administration is
better equipped to deal with the problem
on particularly hot days mobile units
with water sprinklers provide much
needed cooling and play a vital role in
averting fatalities despite heats
reaching 50 degrees
this seems to be the new normal an
international climate report places
pakistan among the 10 countries most
affected by the climate crisis
in big cities like karachi a lack of
trees paved roads and tall buildings
increase the heat further
[Music]
in addition the population is growing
immensely in unplanned and densely
populated neighborhoods
karachi
is a spectacular example of population
explosion
to the small
coastal city which became the capital
city and it is now the largest city so
population you have more people you need
more
water you have more shops and factories
you need more
also mismanagement
karachi did not manage to protect its
water courses
with rising temperatures the population
of karachi is consuming more and more
water
the city would need several billion
litres every day to cover the needs of
its residents
but the local authorities can only
provide about half of what is needed
[Music]
so what does the karachi water board
think about this problem
basically
it’s a is
problem
karachi’s daily water need is nearly 5
billion liters
the distribution process is affected by
evaporation but also by leakage and
theft
this reduces our output to only 1.8
billion liters a day
so we’re left with only one third of the
available amount
but the karachi water and sewage board
is doing all it can to maintain the
supply
because water is scarce and difficult to
access the black market flourishes
according to the city’s authorities 35
of water is lost before reaching the
consumers
where does it go
maybe karachi’s water thieves can
provide some answers to that question
one of them has been persuaded to lead
us to the scene of an ongoing criminal
operation
the water thief takes us to a crowded
slum and we film the encounter with a
hidden camera
while filming the kingpin arrives and
agrees to explain how the scheme behind
the water theft works
he diverts the stolen water into an
industrial area
where does it come from
we drilled a well here
you’re distributing well water
yes the water is channeled through
underground tunnels to a canal
there we have water storage tanks from
there the water wholesalers distribute
the water to the industrial sector
that’s normal
normally
yes we are also stealing the water from
this neighborhood
the water supplied by the government to
this neighborhood is being stolen and
sold to the industry
exactly the water from the well is mixed
with stolen government water and sold to
the industries
does this neighborhood have water
not as much as it should
because you’re stealing it
yes
when the water is sold to the industry
they make money
simple as that
the water mafia makes a lot of money
do you collect rent for this connection
yes
how
much between 100 and 150 dollars per
month
per month
and the local government’s part of this
of course
how else would we be able to do this we
pay off the police and officials
involved
so who gets a cut waterboard police and
who else
every department including the chairman
of the waterboard
he takes us to the place where he steals
the water which he then resells at
exorbitant prices
while paying kickbacks to government
officials
[Music]
wherever there’s a gap between supply
and demand
these things occur
whether it’s wheat sugar rice or other
commodities
it will only stop when we have enough
water in karachi but i won’t deny that
there are corrupt people in every
department
theft corruption and decay limit access
to water for millions of people
the losses to public funds run into the
millions
the stolen water is diverted from the
poor to the rich who can pay more for
the scarce resource
a 2018 u.n report predicts that by 2050
some 5 billion people will live in
regions at risk of water scarcity
the un projects that water shortages
will displace hundreds of millions of
people as early as 2030
temperatures in south asia are rising
because of an increase in global
greenhouse gas emissions
the heat is melting the himalayas ice
cap
because this area supplies water to
large parts of the subcontinent it’s
also known as south asia’s water tower
the glaciers in northern pakistan’s
disputed kashmir region are part of the
largest ice sheet existing anywhere in
the world outside the two poles but
these glaciers are retreating at
previously unknown speeds
in gulmet a village in northern pakistan
the effects are already showing and
according to a 2019 study 36 percent of
the region’s glaciers could have melted
away by the end of this century
glaciologist sitara pavin researches the
sheets of ice surrounding the himalayas
this was once the area which had plenty
of water from this glacier because the
glacier was much higher and even up to
the level of this moraines you can see
here this moraine it shows that the the
level was much higher so the water was
recharging these
irrigation channels the glaciers are
very sensitive to climate they act
according to the temperature and the
precipitation when it’s hot
it melts a lot
[Music]
since 1988 the snow line in northern
pakistan has receded by 1.1 kilometers
a decline that scientists had expected
to play out over a thousand year period
has taken less than 30 years and if
global emissions remain at current
levels all of south asia’s ice could
disappear
[Music]
these glaciers are also important for
these farmers who are living here who
depend on these agricultural for their
livelihoods because you can see this
that this is very
moistured deficit area
less rainfall in these plain areas where
this glacier the people
practice agriculture so it’s not
possible without the water from these
glaciers
villages like this one nestled far up on
the hillside of the karakoram mountains
are at high risk
lakes that form in the glaciers often
breach the ice causing flash floods that
sweep away everything in their path
[Music]
is a community leader and local guide at
gulkin glacier he tells us that
pollution causes soot to gather on the
white glaciers which then leads to the
speeding up of the melting process
[Music]
there are only a few black glaciers
most are white
and there are just six or seven black
glaciers
one of them
is the gulken
the snow is completely covered with mud
when the glacier moves
it
we see here
that all the ice around it melts
and flows into this hole
which is connected to the river further
down
when boulders block its way
the collected water comes rushing down
like a tidal wave
in june 2019 a glacial lake formed in
the neighboring shispere glacier the
government hastily constructed a
concrete wall to prevent the water from
overflowing the banks but there was no
stopping the surge of water that
eventually came rushing towards the
village
however in 50 years time this region is
expected to face mass water shortages
when its glaciers become too small to
provide the water needed
five major rivers flow through pakistan
the indus jhelum chenab
ravi and satluch all run across the
plains of punjab
[Music]
the rivers are formed by snow melt and
runoff water from the glaciers in the
himalayas and the karakoram
one of these glaciers lies between india
and pakistan in the south eastern
karakoram mountains the siachen
the territory of the glacier is claimed
by both countries
this gigantic icy mass has been disputed
territory since the partition of the two
countries in 1947.
since the conflict cannot be settled
diplomatically both countries have
troops on the glacier pakistan and india
have already spent billions of euros on
this
the highest militarized zone in the
world

at some six thousand seven hundred
meters
the conflict continues downstream where
the waters that flow from india to
pakistan are a source of discord
following the partition india and
pakistan were not able to agree on the
use of water
but in 1960 nehru then indian prime
minister and pakistani president khan
signed the indus water treaty in karachi
the treaty brokered by the world bank
allows both countries to use the water
of the indus river system
the two countries because of historic
problems and animosity and hostility
could not agree on joint management so
it was considered that a second
partition
should take place
pakistan retains the exclusive usage
rights for the three western rivers
indus jalam and chenab while india holds
the rights to the three eastern rivers
ravi beas and satluc
[Music]
the ongoing conflict between the two
nuclear powers over kashmir is yet
another challenge to upholding the water
treaty
since coming to power indian prime
minister modi’s hindu nationalist party
bjp has further escalated the situation
modi wants to build dams that would
block the flow of water into pakistan
once more the indus river has become a
flashpoint with the threat of nuclear
war as a worst case scenario
because of pakistan’s dry climate about
90 per cent of its agriculture relies on
irrigation
you’re going to have pakistanis
receiving less water
so when you receive less water you blame
the supplier
so there is a potential
uh source of conflict and the secretary
general in his report the u.n secretary
general
made a specific reference to india and
pakistan
and said that climate change is likely
to put pressure
on the indus water treaty which has
served
the two countries
well for
almost 60 years
so far india and pakistan have refrained
from settling their dispute over water
allocation through military means
but now the situation in the disputed
region is once again on the verge of
boiling over
most of pakistan’s rivers flow through
the indian-administered part of kashmir
in august of 2019 india took advantage
of that fact by releasing enormous
amounts of water from its dams into
pakistani territory
this resulted in flooding in pakistan’s
punjab province submerging hundreds of
acres of agricultural land
the pakistani government reacted with
anger seeing the discharge of water into
the satluch river which flows from india
into pakistan
as a clear violation of the indus water
treaty
a few years earlier former cricket star
and former prime minister imran khan
made headlines across the world with a
novel idea
in 2014 his party launched the billion
tree tsunami initiative as a
counter-measure to the consequences of
the climate crisis in south asia
pakistan is one of the countries with
the lowest tree cover in the region
the aim was to plant one billion trees
in the first four year period and the
government has promised to plant as many
as 10 billion by 2023
[Music]
the hope is to increase the country’s
forested areas which in turn will help
in retaining rain water and reduce the
rise in temperature
so far pakistan has recovered some 350
000 hectares of forests and greenery
another of pakistan’s short-term goals
is improving its water management
with traditional farming methods a high
proportion of irrigation water is lost
due to poor distribution
[Music]
that has farmers like ashik bangash
taking the initiative
in islamabad he’s been introducing drip
irrigation to pakistan’s traditional
agriculture
to save the time
and
water to save time and water and to give
water to the plants up to the standard
requirements
not less not excessive
that’s the basic philosophy
if you use open field irrigation you are
bound to use excessive water
funny or fertilizers water and
fertilizer are two vital components and
those who are able to understand their
use will be successful
pakistan is among the countries that
will be hardest hit by global warming
making protection of resources a big
priority
especially
government
in the past 10 years the government has
supported farmers
if they have expenses of 65 000
the government covers 80 of it
that includes drip irrigation solar
panels and greenhouses the farmer has to
pay the remaining 20
this way farmers can save a lot of money
and the country can save a lot of water
by 2025 pakistan could become a country
that can no longer meet its water needs
the storage capacity of the reservoirs
is not sufficient for the growing
population and the flow of the rivers
has decreased
better water use is therefore key in
bringing economic social and
environmental benefits to the country
reforms are intended to make water use
more efficient improve delivery and
raise awareness among the population
[Music]
in lahore people are also rising to the
challenge
they want to pressure politicians and
policy makers across the country to do
more
people don’t understand how bad it is
there are just this year there were
floods uh unexpected rains in punjab
that wiped out a substantial portion of
the wheat crop that affected people’s
livelihoods and for a country where a
quarter of the population is at or near
the poverty line a single event like
that one rain is the difference between
getting a square meal a day or not
ahmad rafaela brings the whole family
along to the climate demonstrations
he wants to raise awareness about the
problem among the younger generation
[Music]
pakistan’s youth are worried about their
future and the effects of climate change
[Music]
we’re beginning to march in this country
now and that’s great
more than 45 cities in pakistan are
participating we want to show the world
that the climate crisis concerns
[Music]
[Music]
around the world thousands of actions
are taking place
the climate strike of september 2019 was
the largest global call to action and
pakistanis responded loudly
[Music]
although pakistan accounts for less than
1 per cent of global co2 emissions it’s
one of the country’s most affected by
the climate crisis
one step in the right direction will be
to strengthen its foreign policy and
effectively negotiate climate issues
with its neighbors
[Music]
pakistan’s march to solve its climate
problems has begun
[Music]

 

 

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