According to the Theory of the Continental Drift, the Indian Subcontinent, including its northwestern and southeastern regions, which are now Pakistan, was once, in fact millions of years ago, part of a supercontinent, called Pangaea. At that time, it was attached to Madagascar and southern Africa on the south west coast, and Australia along the east coast. About 160 Million years ago during the Jurassic Period, Pangaea broke into two mini supercontinents, namely, Gondwana (to the south) and Laurasia (to the north). The Indian Subcontinent remained attached to Gondwana until it also broke into pieces about 125 million years ago. The Indian Plate then drifted northward toward the Eurasian Plate at a pace that is the fastest movement of any known plate (more than the speed of growth of human nails a day!).
About 90 million years ago, the Indian Plate separated from Madagascar and started its journey towards present day Tibet where it displaced the Tethys Ocean. The closure of this ocean, which created the Alps in Europe, and the Caucasus range in western Asia, created Himalaya Mountains and the Tibetan Plateau in South Asia. This push, which is still continuing, is causing parts of the Asian continent to deform westward and eastward on either side. Concurrently with this collision, the Indian Plate has bridged on to the adjacent Australian Plate, forming a new larger plate, the Indo-Australian Plate. These geological developments have some serious implications for Pakistan;
1.Faultlines leading to Earthquakes
Joining of two tectonic plates has resulted in the creation of two major fault lines just beneath the current day Pakistan, making it one of the most earth quake prone parts of the world. The 2005 earthquake, which caused massive human and material devastation in Azad Kashmir, was just a reminder to be aware of this possibility happening again and again If the centre of this earthquake would have been a few miles towards east from where it occurred, two major cities of Lahore and Multan could have been devastated. While we cannot prevent the occurrence of the earthquakes from happening, we can take measures to minimize the human and material loss as a result of these events. Thus there is need to update our building bye laws to ensure that all our future buildings, particularly high-rise must be resistant to earthquake of at least 7.5 on the Richter scale. It also means we should create a highly efficient disaster management agency.
2.Underground Water is Seawater
Despite displacement of Tethys Ocean by the Indian Plate, there are a large number of pockets of residual seawater beneath the territory forming Pakistan. Consequently, too much of pumping out the fresh water by the tube wells is fast depleting the fresh water aquifer more than the rate of their recharging through rains and canal water seepage. In certain areas tube wells and turbines have reached those pockets and are pumping out the seawater, resulting in fast deterioration of our fertile croplands. In fact we are repeating the same mistake, which India committed two decades ago of heavily subsidizing the tube well installation and providing the farmers electricity almost free of charge for these tube wells.
3.Climate Change resulting in Glaciers Melting
As noted above, the pushing of Indian Plate against the Eurasian plate resulted in the formation of the Himalayan range along with the creation of huge glaciers, which are the source of all the major rivers flowing into Pakistan. These rivers, in turn, are the lifelines of Pakistan’s economy. According to new research these glaciers are melting as a result of climate change, which could result in heavy flooding in foreseeable future and later on total drought. There is thus urgent need to take the climate change seriously and take preventive and mitigative measures
4.Canal Water and Soil Fertility
Plains of Punjab and Sindh had been irrigated for the last 5 decades by the water of the rivers, which originate from the Himalayan basin through the elaborate network of canals laid during the 60s. No doubt, this helped the farmers to raise their productivity many fold as they adopted new fertilizer –seed technology that was heavily reliant upon water availability. However over a period of 50 yeas the same water has spread tons and tons of salt brought by them from the mountains on the fields. While the water evaporated, the salt kept on accumulating on the surface with the result that now the upper layers of our lands have very heavy amount of residual salt .it needs revision of our tube well policy, adoption of high efficiency irrigation techniques and R@D in production of crops and vegetables which are salt resistant varieties.
5.Preserving the Geological Treasures
Pakistan has a very impressive paleontological record which can be noticed while traveling by road from Karachi to Peshawar. More than 3,000 fossils of dinosaurs have been collected from various parts of Pakistan, which is one of the few countries where evidence of early whales and dolphins, who lived in the Tethys Ocean, exist. Potohar is known to be one of the richest open geological museums of the world where priceless treasures are hidden beneath the surface. The discovery of the hominid fossils of the Sivapithecus Indicus in the Potohar Plateau in 1979 was considered groundbreaking in helping the world reconsider Darwin’s track of the evolutionary path of modern man. In Baluchistan, a French team discovered the fossilized remains of Baluchitherium, the largest mammal that walked the earth. It is therefore utmost necessary that every effort must be made to preserve these prehistoric treasures. However, it is shameful that we are not taking appropriate measure to safeguard these treasure troves.