GILGIT, 09 April 2014: Leading climate change researchers, policy making officials, and disaster response experts gathered at the Climate Change Adaptation Conference today to discuss the impact of global warming and ways to mitigate risks at the community and institutional levels. The two-day conference was organised by Focus Humanitarian Assistance Program in collaboration with the Karakoram International University (KIU).
Rivers in Pakistan are mainly fed by the Hindu Kush-Karakoram Himalayan (HKH) glaciers. According to a study conducted in 2012, the Hindu Kush Himalayan glaciers are melting rapidly due to global warming. Global Climate Risk Index 1993-2012 has ranked Pakistan as the 12th most-effected country by extreme weather events. Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change, hence large floods, drought and biodiversity loss is expected in future.
Speaking at the conference, Dr. Shaukat Ali, Assistant Professor, KIU said that the mean annual temperature increase recorded in Pakistan from 1960 to 2007 was higher than the rate observed globally. “The impact of this temperature increase will result in more heat waves in the country and will also affect the country’s water demand. More than 40% of the population in Pakistan is susceptible to natural disasters such as droughts, floods and cyclones,” said Dr. Ali.
Also present at the conference was Geologist Niaz Ali who stated that in the past four years, Pakistan had witnessed two of the deadliest avalanches the world has ever seen. “Pakistan has witnessed a 0.76°C rise in temperature during the last 40 years but what is even more disturbing is the fact that the mountainous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral have seen an increase of 1.5°C during the same time period,” said Niaz Ali. He linked the deadly avalanches to the rise in temperatures in the northern areas and warned that late spring spell of snowfall coupled with the increased temperature might increase avalanche events in northern Pakistan.
Chief Guest Pir Karam Ali Shah highlighted the importance of such conferences and said, “Gilgit-Baltistan is blessed with beauty and natural resources. Climate change is affecting the area and the lives of people as we have seen extreme winters, heavy rains, floods and landslides in the recent past.” He stressed on the need to work collectively and find innovative solutions through climate change adaptation and mitigations activities.” Khadija Jamal Shaban, Chairperson, FOCUS Pakistan in her address to the participants said that “the impact of Climate Change is far wider and deeper than that being discussed. It impacts every sector and therefore a strong national policy to guide climate change adaptation is very critical. It is not only about rising or falling temperature but the havoc it plays with the lives of people.”
The conference was organized as part of Focus’ disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness (PMP) initiative under which communities are empowered in the learning process. The initiative seeks to decrease a community’s vulnerability to natural disasters and prepares them to respond rapidly and effectively in the wake of such an incident.