Lakeshore City

The Unusual Challenge of a Snowless Winter in Northern Pakistan

January 24, 2024

Kalam Pakistan: At this time of year, travelers from all over Pakistan swarm to the gorgeous Kalam Valley to take in the snowfall, and hotels and streets are frequently jam-packed with visitors.

Normally encircled by snow-capped mountains in the winter, this well-liked tourist destination is about 326 kilometers (202 miles) from Islamabad, the nation’s capital. However, as of right now, the northern and northwest regions of the country have not yet seen the first snowfall of the season, giving the area a brown and desolate appearance.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over South Asia come to Northwestern Pakistan between the middle of December and the end of January when the region typically experiences moderate to heavy snowfall.

Aside from the Kaghan and Naran valleys in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Murree, a hill station in northeastern Punjab province, the most well-liked tourist sites are the picturesque Kalam and Malam Jabba valleys of Swat, sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Pakistan.”

Local hotel owner Mohammad Riaz told Anadolu, “There is a 60% to 70% decline in the number of tourists this winter, and the reason is obvious: no snowfall.”

“The season was jam-packed the year before. We had to set up additional rooms to accommodate the large number of visitors. But even with a rate reduction, 70% of our rooms are empty these days.

Also, this applies to neighboring Malam Jabba, which is the hub of winter sports festivals and has the largest ski resort in the nation.

While shops and carriers pass the time with idle chatter, the majority of the hotels remain empty.

“We’re hoping for snow to fall. We would really value that. Mohammad Adil, who owns a guesthouse in the famous Malam Jabba bazaar, told Anadolu that snowfall is essential to the local economy.

Our entire economy depends on snow.

The Gilgit-Baltistan region in the north, which shares a border with China, experiences a prolonged snowfall season, lasting from November to March.

The region, which contains five of the 14 peaks above 8,000 meters (26,246 feet) and is situated at the meeting point of the world’s largest mountain ranges the Karakoram, the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, and the Pamir Mountains saw some light snowfall in November of last year, the peak season is still without snow.

The tourism department director of Gilgit-Baltistan, Iqbal Hussain, predicts that the region’s economy, which depends “directly and indirectly” on snowfall, would be “deeply” impacted by the lack of snowfall this winter.

Our whole economy which includes hydroelectricity, tourism, fishing, and agriculture is based on snow. Aside from power outages, no or little snowfall implies less water, which in turn means fewer farming and fishing, Hussain told Anadolu.

In addition to contributing to a further drop in subsurface water levels, he clarified that no or little snowfall would cause early spring water shortages for nearby farmers and fishermen.

He stated that even while the area does not draw many snow-loving tourists, the absence of snow this year is expected to impact the region’s usual winter activities.

Due to unanticipated events, his department has been obliged to move this year’s “winter feast,” a customary wintertime celebration, from Hunza Valley to Ghizer District.

Over the past few decades, the valley has seen a slow increase in temperature, according to environmental journalist Fazl-e-Khaliq, who is based in Swat. This gradual increase in temperature has caused major harm to local infrastructure and agriculture.

Speaking to Anadolu, he added that in addition to lowering subsurface water levels, growing temperatures frequently cause tiny and large glacier eruptions across the valley, sweeping away infrastructure and farmlands.

Even the lower regions of Swat, which included the capital Mingora, experienced snowfall until ten years ago. However, you can’t even consider it these days,” he remarked.

Mahmood Hussain was really disappointed because he had traveled all the way to Kalam from Karachi, a port city in the south, in the hopes of seeing snow.

“The only thing present here is the extreme cold,” Hussain informed Anadolu.

Summertime brings with it lakes, springs, and foliage. However, you only come here during the winter months when it snows,” he said.

Even though Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is nonetheless one of the top 10 nations most at risk from climate change and global warming.

According to environmentalists, the region’s weather patterns have become more “erratic” and “extreme” in recent years due to climate change, leading to unpredictable showers, snowfall, and extended periods of drought.

Chief meteorologist, Sardar Sarfraz of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, told Anadolu, “It’s true that weather patterns have become erratic and unpredictable because of that over the years, even though we cannot associate one particular phenomenon as a whole result of climate change.”

Over the previous three years, snowfall in Pakistan’s northern and northwest regions—including Pakistan-administered Kashmir—has been less than usual.

“Compared to this time last year, Pakistan has received between 92% and 80% less rain in December and January,” Sarfraz stated.

He explained that the reason for the lack of rain and snowfall is because the system of “westerly waves” that brings these to the area has not yet fully evolved.

Though they would still be less than in January of last year, he claimed that Pakistan’s northern and northwest regions are expected to receive “good rains” by the end of this month.

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