The glacial resource of Azad Kashmir represents a unique resource of fresh water vital for agricultural, industrial, and hydropower generation. A major part of the snow and ice mass of the Kashmir’s Himalayan region is concentrated in the watershed of the Indus basin. The glaciers of Kashmir lie in Mangla watershed which is drained by Jhelum River contributing about 16 percent flows to the Indus River system. The glacial environment is an important economic component of tourism and an influential factor in high mountain ecology. The glaciers, which consist of a huge amount of perpetual snow and ice, are found to create many glacial lakes. These glaciers as well as glacial lakes are the sources of headwater of our main Indus river system. Glaciers react very sensitively to climate fluctuations, and thereby provide some of the clearest evidence of ongoing climate change.

There are 6500 glaciers in the Himalayan regions and out of which 3136 glaciers are in the mountain belt of Jammu and Kashmir. Of the major 327 glaciers in the Himalayas,
60 are in Kashmir and Ladakh. Due to their subsequent depletion, annual flows would be much lower which would inevitably affect the performance of dams. Half a billion people in the Himalaya-Hindukush region and a quarter billion downstream who rely on glacial melt waters could be seriously affected. Glacier thinning and retreat in the Himalayas has resulted in the formation of new glacial lakes and the enlargement of existing ones due to the accumulation of melt water behind loosely consolidated end moraine dams that had formed when the glaciers attained their Little Ice Age maxima.
The glaciated area in Kashmir lies mainly in the Lesser and High Himalayas. The Lesser Himalayas are located in the north of Siwaliks and rise within 1,800-4,600 m range. The High Himalayas starts from 4600 m elevation with an average height of about 6,000 m and remain covered under snow throughout the year. Among total glaciated area of about 15,040 km2 in the Upper Indus Basin, 7.5% area lies in the Himalaya while the rest in the Karakoram and Hindukush Ranges. The Himalaya range comprises of Jhelum, Astore and Shingo river basins, and some parts of Indus sub-basin east and south of the Indus River contains ice reserves of about 76 km3. The territory of Azad Kashmir lies mainly in the western part of Jhelum River basin. The permanent snow and glacial ice in Kashmir predominately exist in the Neelum valley district situated in the north and northeast part of Muzaffarabad. Here the significant glaciers are Saranwali, Shonthar, Parbat, Dewarian, Rati Gali and Mianwitch. A fair weather road opens the valley to tourists up to KeI which is a base camp of mountaineering activities up to “Sarawali Peak” (6325 m). From Kel, a way leads to Gilgit-Baltistan area via Shountar Pass at 4,420 masl. The snowline in Kashmir is around 1200 masl in winter and at 3300 masl in summer.
The glaciated area in Azad Kashmir stretches over 0.8 percent area. There are 224 glaciers of various types identified in the area, which contain ice-reserves of about 4.9 cubic km. The large Valley glaciers of Kashmir are Sarawali and Shonthar which have mean lengths of about 8 and 7 km. The former is the largest in length and the later in surface area and ice-reserve. Both the glaciers are oriented in the southward direction and drain ultimately into Shonthar Nala joining Neelum River near Kel. Generally, the hanging glaciers formed over the mountains slopes are taken typical Mountain glacier. They can cause avalanche due to their susceptible condition. They are mainly nourished by snow and drift snow at the headwater and by snow and ice avalanches at the lower valley. There are 31 Niche type glaciers. Niche glacier is formed in a V-shaped gully or depression on a mountain slope. There are few Ice cap glaciers. Ice cap glacier is usually formed on mountain’s peak and possesses radial flow. Although small sized glaciers (area less than 50 ha) are higher in numbers but they contribute lesser ice reserves than the large sized glaciers (area >400 ha).
The thickness of glaciers ranges between 5 and 82 m with average thickness of about 24 m. About 53% of the glaciers have thickness greater than 20 m while only 5% have thickness more than 50 m. Most of the glaciers are oriented on the western and southwestern aspects of the mountains.
About 87 glaciers covering 50% of the total glaciated area and over 63% (i.e. 3.104 km3) of the total ice reserves of the AJK lie in the catchment of Shonthar Nala entering Neelum River along with other adjoining tributaries near Kel. The aggregate length of these glaciers is about 80 km. In other catchments like of Surgun Nala (joining Neelum River near Sharda) and Jagran Nala (entering Neelum River near Kundal Shahi).

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07 March 2019
07 March 2019
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