Glaciers in Gilgitbaltistan

If you want to save the glaciers water environment, you should also plant trees.

Northern Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) in Pakistan, which is renowned for its stunning scenery, glaciers, and some of the world’s tallest mountains, is home to scientists and locals who have developed a novel solution to the severe water scarcity issue that annually impairs crop development in the area.

In collaboration with the local community, experts from Baltistan University, a local institute, have constructed man-made glaciers, also known as ice stupas. These structures, which resemble the towers found at Buddhist temples, are used to gather and freeze an abundance of water during the winter months for use in the dry season, especially in the months of March and April when water is most needed for the cultivation of wheat, maize, and potatoes.

Gilgit Baltistan is known as the “land of glaciers” because it has more than 7,000 glaciers. On the other hand, an antiquated grafting method is employed in areas where glaciers have not formed naturally. The method and ritual of the activity are obscured. The first step is to find a suitable location, such as a cave or deep pit in a mountain, that is at least 4,000 to 5,000 meters above sea level and has year-round below-freezing temperatures. Avalanches and snowfall must occur frequently and without exposure to the sun.

In folklore, glaciers are also endowed with gender identities. While female glaciers are dazzling white or blue, male glaciers are grey in color and include a lot of debris. In mountainous regions, this disparity between males and females is typical. For instance, at a confluence close to one of Punakha’s holiest dzhongs, the calmer Mo Chhu (the female river) and the tumultuous Pho Chhu (the male river) meet in Bhutan.

According to Skardu-based documentary filmmaker Liaquat Ali Baltee, “The people of Gligit Baltistan believe that glaciers are living entities.” This is the reason it was imperative to use both male and female ice.

Nonetheless, the work is buried in tradition in Gilgit-Baltistan. The University of Baltistan’s Ishtiaq Ali claimed that the custom dates back to the time of religious leader Ameer Kabir Syed Ali Hamdani’s (1314–1384 AD) visit to Gilgit Baltistan. It is reported that in response to requests from the locals to defend them against Kashgar and Tibet attacks, he planted the first glacier to close mountain passes.

Women are not allowed to participate in what is considered to be a “masculine activity,” which is one facet of the traditional practice. However, it has a significant impact on their life, particularly as a large number of women are farmers and they are disproportionately responsible for controlling the household’s water supply due to social norms.

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