At 70 km. long, the Siachen Glacier is the longest glacier in the Karakoram Range. It is the second-longest glacier in the world’s non-polar regions and is often called the Third Pole. Studies have shown that the glacier is receding at an alarming rate, estimated at 110 m. per year. It costs Pakistan one million USD a day and India, two million USD a day, to maintain their troops in Siachen.
The Siachen glacier gets its name from the words Sia which means rose and Chun which means abundance in the Balti language. Today, the abundant wild rose plants have been replaced with discarded artillery shells and rubbish and parts of the glacier have been melted, using chemicals, to facilitate military operations in the region. The situation in Siachen is dire – if the glacier continues to melt at its current rate, the future of both countries will be dotted with natural disasters.
The solution, however, is simple – establish a Peace Park that spills over the Line of Control and create an India-Pakistan task force to restore and protect the glacier.
On August 14, 2012, social activists, environmentalists and ex-military personnel from India and Pakistan will convene in Mumbai for a civil society discussion on Siachen organised by Sanctuary Asia and People for Social Action. United by a single-minded purpose to see the glacier restored to health, the discussion will encompass the significance of the glacier, the current issues plaguing it, the restorative actions necessary and a set of policy guidelines that need to be established.
In the days ahead Sanctuary intends to work with glaciologists and ecologists and climatologists to provide guidance to policy makers on both sites of the border so we can start the long march back to ecological health in the fragile Himalaya.
Climate change knows no borders and if India and Pakistan want to survive the onslaught of global warming, working together is key.
Published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXXII No. 4, August 2012