SHISPER GLACIER, Pakistan | AFP) — The villagers of Hassanabad live in constant fear.
Above them the vast Shisper glacier dominates the landscape: A river of jagged black ice moving towards them at as much as four yards per day.
Climate change is causing most glaciers worldwide to shrink, but due to a meteorological anomaly this is one of a few in the Karakoram mountain range in northern Pakistan that are surging.
This means hundreds of tons of ice and debris are pushing down the valley at ten times the normal rate or more, threatening the safety of the people and homes below.
"People's lives, properties and animals are in danger," warns villager Basir Ali.
Flash floods caused by glacial lakes, ice and rock falls, and a lack of clean and accessible water are all serious risks for those close to its path.
"When a glacial lake bursts there is an enormous amount of not only ice, water and debris that falls through, but also mud and this has devastating effects, it basically destroys everything that comes in its way," said Ignacio Artaza of UNDP Pakistan.
But repercussions of the Shisper glacier surge extend far beyond its path: The mighty Indus River is reliant on seasonal melt for more than half of its flow and changes in Pakistan's ice fields affect this.
That has implications not just for those living in its basin, but for the whole nation, which relies on it for much of its food.
Shifting water levels also have implications for the fragile relationship between nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and India.
Already ranked among the planet's most water-stressed nations according to the World Resources Institute, both need the Indus and its tributaries.
Their access to the water is governed by the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, which aims for fair usage.
But there have long been fears India, which sits upstream, could weaponise the resource, it has threatened more than once to restrict Pakistan's access -- including just last year.
Millions in danger
The Karakoram, which contains some of the world's tallest mountains including K2, is just one of the mountain ranges that criss-cross the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region.
Sometimes called The Third Pole, the region holds more ice than anywhere other than the Arctic or Antartica.
But a third of the glaciers here are expected to melt by 2100, endangering the lives of hundreds of millions, according to this year's Hindu Kush-Himalaya Assessment Report.
Rising in Tibet, the Indus crosses through India and Pakistan fed by a multitude of tributaries before it reaches the Arabian Sea.