By Sabir Hussain

IN THE confinements of the worlds highest mountain walls of Himalaya, Karakoram, Hindukush and Pamir (HKKH-P) Ranges in Gilgit Baltistan, which have remained home to the eternal glaciers since glacier age, one gets great internal pleasure and feels a deep sense of spiritual attachment to see great bounty of the mother nature while travelling through the mountain pockets in the region.

Among many fairy tales and real stories of love and altruism related to the both humans and spirits in these mountains, the sayings are followed by a legend that ; a human settlement that is irrigated by a female glacier water would be seen with the smart men, whereas a place getting water from a male glacier, would have the handsome women in the village. The above myths never confined the mountain dwellers to the aesthetic and the imaginative expressions but persuaded them to make a material benefit as well. The primitive man here displayed his exceptional physical capabilities to dig a water channel across the hard rock faces of the HKKH and Pamir mountains with the old tools and the implements to divert the water from the nearest glaciers for his livelihood. During the course of the evolution over the time man in these mountains looked for the further possibility for the creation of his, self-ice generation mechanism through ice grafting. Guided by his insight and a possible portion of intuition, the pre-emptive man began to test to graft the male glacier with the female glaciers identified through his own tools and methods.

In a glacier, marriage elders of the mountain village who would have lost their glacier, identify a male and female glacier lying at higher altitudes of two different villages in the vicinity. They determine the glacier as male or female by more than one standard. Among them in some areas the glacial outbursts are considered determinant for a glacier to be a male or a female. The more a glacier bursts out is considered a female glacier, while a glacier with no or minimum burst-outs are considered as male glaciers. For example the Pissan glacier and Ghulmat glacier lying in the lap of Rakaposhi Peak are considered female. Because they have an annual or biannual burst-out records while Minapin glacier in the lap of Diran Peak is considered as male glacier as it has a low record of burst-out.

After the determination of male and female glaciers the village elders have to cut a piece of the both. In some villages it is believed that only an old lady is allowed to carry the glacier pieces all the way up to the place of breeding. After they reach the spot, a mountain pocket above the valley, the both bride and bridegroom, mixed with some gold pieces, hay stock, and the coal pieces are covered with the soil in such a way that the male chunk of glacier should rest over the female.

As Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already warned that due to the climate change the HKKH glaciers are the fastest melting glaciers in the world. Many glaciers in the area like the glaciers of village Hindi/Nasirabad in Hunza and of Babusar in Chilas have been disappeared a half century ago. Among such traditional initiatives of glacier marriages a famous example has been in the region of Babusar valley in the district of Diamer where the glacier had dried out and the villagers brought male and female glaciers transported from two different glaciers from Bagrot valley and carried them to a distance of 230 km to breeding place at a height of 14000 ft in Babusar.

Glacier marriages in the mountain heights of villages in Gilgit Baltistan have resulted both success and failure. In Babusar people have been still hopeful of getting water from the newly bred glacier pair in the nival zone of the village but at Hindi/Nasirabad in Hunza the experiment has been failed despite various attempts.

Since the Hindi glacier is basically extended on the northern face of Chikus Peak which is opposite to the village. Only a tip of the glacier tongue was able to pour the water on the southern face and it used to make a water stream in summer down to the village where a 1000 hector of land was irrigated. A project was launched in 1990s by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme with the idea to reach to the northern face by digging the rocky mountain peak of Chikus by using detonators but the project was not successful.

“Now we are determined to make the first test tube for a baby glacier,” said Project Leader Sardar Khan who has previously worked for a decade with AKRSP on various water related projects in Gilgit Baltistan. He says, “In such a glacial baby test tube in the previous glacier zone at Chikus Peak although we will never follow the mothod of putting male and the female water in the refrigerator to find the ice. Rather through the process of reducing the level of energy in the water with the help of refrigerator function we find the ice cubes desirably”

He says that by creating an obstacle with the help of a gabion to partially stop but mostly diverting the flow to the suitable place or the man built reservoir, a fair portion of the snow sheet can be retained to be covered by the local communities with hay stock and timber wood powder, as the snow bank, that would continued to melt slowly to irrigate the fertile mountain slopes in the sub alpine zone and above the village irrigation net work.

He further adds that what the gabion would need is an iron net to be filled by the stones, fastened and positioned in the flow course of the avalanche like a big axe to have cut it like the wood and divert the flow towards the both sides and to create snow banks. Sardar Khan hopes that if results are rewarding, it would give a new orientation to the above channel irrigation in the mountainous regions with snowfall and fertile loamy soil on its slopes. He concludes that the baby test tube in the village Hindi can give a snow bank or a snow dam as its offspring which can re-irrigate the drought-hit area of the village where the lost gardens, crop fields and grasslands can be rewetted. It can be a great example for the other patches in the foothills of high mountains.

The writer is the student of M.Phil in Environmental Journalism in the Media and Communication Sciences Department Karakoram International University, Gilgit.

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