Author: Dr. Abdul Ruff
Edited, Rewritten and Moderated by DIVAS ——————————————————————–
The speedy climate change taking place across the globe is not only because of global green gas emissions but also due to militarism led by US, Russia, China and India.
The military operations and other activities by the forces now occupying Siachen Glacier lying between Pakistan and Jammu Kashmir, now under India occupation, in South Asia, have threatened to harm the environment leading to climate change.
Rulers seeking to get political mileage out by showcasing their rhetoric power, often click the war button, killing innocent people, destroying properties worth trillions and harming the environment.
NATO wars on energy rich Mideast has caused devastating damages to the climate. So are the nuclear reactors pumping out poisonous gases into the atmosphere, besides attacking the people of the region with radioactive stuff.
Siachen Glacier lying between India and Pakistan as part of Jammu Kashmir is also being heavily militarized. Extended over-stay of military forces has harmed the region badly. Environmentally sensitive zone of Siachen is fast becoming the biggest garbage dump that may turn this large source of drinking water into a dangerous source of pollution.
The Siachen Conflict, sometimes referred to as the Siachen War, is a military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir. A cease-fire went into effect in 2003.
The conflict began in 1984 with India’s successful Operation Meghdoot during which it gained control of the Siachen Glacier (unoccupied and not demarcated area). India has established control over all of the 70 kilometres (43 mi) long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier—Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Pakistan controls the glacial valleys immediately west of the Saltoro Ridge.
The Siachen Glacier is the highest battleground on earth, where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since April 13, 1984.
Both countries maintain permanent military presence in the region at a height of over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). More than 2000 people have died in this inhospitable terrain, mostly due to weather extremeties as well as mountain warfare.
Since September 2007, India has welcomed mountaineering and trekking expeditions to the ealier forbidden glacial heights.
The expeditions have been opened to show the international audience that Indian troops hold “almost all dominating heights” on the important Saltoro Ridge west of Siachen Glacier, and to show that Pakistani troops are not within 15 miles (24 km) of the 43.5-mile (70 km) Siachen Glacier.
Ms Benazir Bhutto, the first woman PM of Pakistan, visited the area west of Gyong La as the first premier from either side to get to the Siachen region.
On June 12, 2005, Indian PM Manmohan Singh visited the area, calling for a peaceful resolution of the problem. In 2007, the President of India, Abdul Kalam became the first head of state to visit the area.
After the Kargil War in 1999, India decided to maintain its military outposts on the Glacier, wary of further Pakistani incursions into Kashmir.
The heavy military presence in the Siachen area has so far resulted in loss of ice mass at the terminus, heavy deposits of carbon on glaciated ice and increased absorption of solar radiation that were believed to be main cause of unexpected avalanche in Gayari sector of Siachen area.
The satellite images taken with the help of Italy based organization showed 4.3 km ice line retreat and presence of glacial lakes that are enough evidence to prove that the Glacier region is fast melting and shape of snout is constantly changing due to transboundary pollution effects in the Siachen area.
Following an avalanche on April 7 that killed 124 soldiers of the 6 Northern Light Infantry and 11 civilians, the then Pakistan Army Chief, General Kayani also remarked that it was time to demilitarize the Glacier.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that, on the Indian side alone, over 2000 lbs of human waste are dropped daily into crevasses. Clothing used in warfare is washed at hot sulfur springs near the Indian base camp, and toxic residue flows freely into the Nubra River.
IUCN said that Siachen lacks natural biodegrading agents, so metals and plastics simply merge with the Glacier as permanent pollutants, leaching toxins like cobalt, cadmium, and chromium into the ice. This waste eventually reaches the Indus River, affecting drinking and irrigation water.
Amidst the disagreement between Pakistan and India, an interesting idea bereft of emotion and politics, purely based on science was mooted by the Institute of Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) in Washington DC. IMTD has come up with the idea of setting up of a joint Siachen Science Centre (or Centres) based at the University of Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.
A study conducted by the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment of the Himachal Pradesh state of India, revealed that 67 per cent of the Himalayan glaciers have shown retreating trends.
Pakistan and India should realize the intensity of the environmental threats due to increasing human and military activities in the Siachen Glacier. Both the governments need to consider establishing ‘Science Park’ and non-military zone in the Glacier region.
Sensing future problems, Pakistan has been pushing for demilitarization of Siachen but India has maintained that this cannot take place without proper authentication by both sides of the present troop positions on the Glacier.
The India military team would not like to move out from the Glacier as it is of strategic importance to them. The Army has not changed its views on the importance of the strategic heights which have been under Indian physical control since 1984 after the Army launched Operation Meghdoot to occupy them.
In the recent times, the Army has worked towards using new and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy to meet its energy requirements in the Glacier area.
As a matter of fact, the Himalayan Glacier feeds the river system that sustains life and economic activity in both countries. Environmentalists have long been warning that glacial melting caused by human activity would bring catastrophic changes in this region’s weather patterns.
Needless to say, nature does not recognize territorial claims by one or the other country. Degradation of the Glacier’s environment must be taken seriously by both India and Pakistan.
Initially spells of droughts and floods will have a profoundly disruptive impact on the area’s agrarian economies, followed by an acute water scarcity.
Indian and Pakistani troops are face-to-face at Siachen for years in freezing temperatures. Demilitarization of Siachen would mitigate the water scarcity of both the countries.
It is worthwhile to note that despite both countries staking claims on the Glacier, located in the occupied and disputed Jammu and Kashmir region, the Line of Control demarcation never covered Siachen. It was left alone, apparently, because of its uninhabitable conditions until India decided in April 1984 to set up posts on some of Siachen’s advantageous heights.
Learning about the Indian occupation a week later Pakistan asserted its own claims, taking control of other adjoining important points. They have since remained locked in a mindless standoff with more soldiers dying from weather and altitude related causes than fighting the other side.
For over nearly three decades, both sides have been firing ordnance at each other, and using helicopters for transportation of men and equipment as well as to launch surprise raids. Surely, they also light fires to cook and bathe or simply to stay warm.
Such activities combined with greenhouse gas emissions by Indian and Chinese coal-fired power plants and industries threaten to melt the glacier faster than most estimates predict.
It is of great urgency that the glaciers are left alone to themselves. It is about time New Delhi & Islamabad recognize the threat that Siachen standoff poses to both the countries, peoples and their livelihood.
India may be relatively better placed to pay a huge price in terms of lost lives and financial burden required by military presence on Siachen, but it must also think of the longer-term cost of damaging the environment and resultant climatic upheavals.
The sticking point has been India’s stance that in the event of its pullback, Pakistan will move up to occupy its present positions. That can be resolved through a satellite surveillance agreement. The glacier must be declared a demilitarized zone.
According to environmentalists‚ glacial retreat on Himalayas and Karakorum ranges has accelerated during the recent years because of human presence on the glaciers.
There cannot be two opinions of the humanity that military threat to Siachen Glacier lying between India and Pakistan must be removed by demilitarizing the sandwiched zone.