Outdoor rinks under construction in Pakistan in the spirit of the NHL Green initiative
As part of the NHL Green initiative celebrating Green Month in April, NHL.com will feature stories about how the NHL seeks to develop and protect hockey and its communities for generations to come. Today, how hockey is used as a tool to fight climate change in Pakistan.
Canadian diplomats working in Pakistan are using hockey as a medium to teach about the impact of climate change.
The Canadian High Commission has partnered with winter sports organizations in the mountainous region of northern Pakistan, where outdoor rinks have been built as part of an effort to promote winter tourism.
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High Commissioner Wendy Gilmour also saw the rinks as an opportunity to develop hockey among young people of Pakistani origin and to use sport as a tool to show the effects of climate change.
“What’s interesting about this part of the world is that the Himalayan mountains are the main source of water for billions of people here,” Gilmour said. “The snowpack is very important there, and the snowpack is increasing in some regions and decreasing in others. Glaciers in northern Pakistan, and it is one of the most icy regions in the world, are climbing in some areas, which is truly unprecedented.… Due to these changes in patterns of the water, this makes the communities on their way very vulnerable. “
Irfan Karim, president of the Altit Hunza Town Management Society, said the program helps people in the area understand “what is the value of snow, what is the value of ice”.
“Because of the snow, the winter sports, people get the idea of how to protect the ice, the glaciers and the snow,” he said.
The hockey program has generated enthusiasm in areas like Gilgit-Baltistan, an area administered by Pakistan as an administrative territory, with communities offering land for the construction of ice rinks.
“We see this is a really good way to kick-start responsible winter tourism around winter sports (and) that they have to do it in an environmentally friendly way,” said Jenilee Ward, advisor to the high commission and head of the political and public affairs department, “because tourists want to come to clean and neat places.
“The communities themselves are talking to others about the need to pick up trash, start waste management systems and involve the whole community. This is a great and growing community initiative.”
Gilmour said the program has also been successful in encouraging girls to play hockey and join teams.
“It really took some effort in some of these communities to convince parents that it was appropriate for girls to go out,” she said.
Kahkashan Ali, captain of the region’s Booni women’s hockey team, said the girls were drawn to the sport because “it was really different for us, a new game for us.”
Ward said the program participants were so excited that they started forming ice hockey clubs and teaching the game to children in their neighborhood and surrounding communities.
“We have the young girls from the teams who are also teaching other girls in the area,” Ward said. “It’s a really natural organic yarn across the country.”