KARACHI, 22 May 2014: Leading climate change researchers, policy makers, and disaster response experts gathered at the Climate Change Adaptation Conference today to discuss the impact of climate change on the lives of local people living in the coastal areas of Pakistan. The conference organised by Focus Humanitarian Assistance Programme (FOCUS) Pakistan, an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in collaboration with NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi also brought to light the adaptation practices and strategies needed to reduce the risks of disasters brought about by climate change.
Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world, ranks 135th in carbon dioxide emissions. The annual rate of deforestation in Pakistan ranges from 4 to 6 percent while carbon dioxide emissions are increasing at an alarming annual rate of 8 to10 percent. The annual cost of restoring environment degraded as a result of this is up to US$ 5.2 billion.
A number of climate-induced changes including cyclones, tidal flooding, monsoon flooding, rise in the sea-level, extreme hot temperatures and droughts are currently affecting the 990km coastal belt of Pakistan. Scientists have predicted that by the year 2060, the average temperature of the area will increase by 1.4 to 3.7 degree centigrade. This temperature change could have a significant impact on wheat and rice crops as well as the water supply of the entire country.
Speaking on this issue at the conference, Mr Zubair Siddiqui, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Karachi said, “The rise in average temperatures of up to 0.6 to 1.0 °C along the coastal areas of Pakistan and the continuous rising of the sea level at an approximate rate of 1.2 mm per year during the last fifty years are directly affecting the weather pattern along the coasts of Pakistan. As a result, the extreme events including wind storms and tropical cyclones have become more frequent and of greater magnitude, and are depicting critical warnings of storm surge damages than seen in the past.”
Present at the conference was Dr Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, Senior Advisor (Climate Change) LEAD who in his keynote address, recommended a Community Based Adaptation (CBA) approach to accelerate the implementation of climate change adaptation practices in coastal areas of Pakistan. “A community based approach overcomes the shortcomings of traditional top down approaches to adaptation planning. Plans developed by local communities consider local contextual needs and constraints which ensure community ownership,” said Dr. Chaudhry. He stressed on the need to enhance resilience of local communities through building capacity and developing climate resilient policies.
Pakistan’s demographic trends show rapid urbanization with an average annual rate of urbanization exceeding 4 per cent since 1951. It is estimated that by the year 2030, Pakistan will be predominantly urban with 45.6 per cent of its population living in urban areas and about 12 cities housing more than one million people. Rapid growth in the country’s largest city Karachi has exacerbated environmental challenges, and the city has struggled to improve basic infrastructure, such as roads, water pipes and sanitation, to match rising demand.
Farhan Anwar, Executive Director, Sustainable Initiatives presented a roadmap for Climate Change adaptation strategy in Karachi and called for the need to establish ‘flood risk zones’and “prepare surface water management plan and a ground water policy, reduce water and energy loss, increase green cover, promote water and energy conservation practices, prevent land use violations and sustain urban agricultural practices.” He also stressed the importance of placing the City Government at the top of the climate change adaptation planning and coordination pyramid.
Mr Javed Jabbar, Former Federal Minister and Chief Guest at the Conference said that the theme of conference is of extreme importance for Pakistan whether it is discussed in reference to coastal areas or to the well-known glaciers of Gilgit-Baltistan. “Government organizations, academic institutes and individual scholars need to make collective efforts to revise the overall framework and policies related to climate change in Pakistan,” he said.
Khadija Jamal Shaban, Chairperson, FOCUS Pakistan in her address said that “climate change is getting to be a serious concern for Pakistan where a significant percentage of the population is living below the poverty line and is more vulnerable to disasters. FOCUS Pakistan’s mandate is to save lives and create resilient communities particularly in the most vulnerable areas by enhancing the local community’s capacity to cope. FOCUS is working very closely with all government agencies in the field of disaster management and is also partnering with other NGOs and academic institutions for creating capacity within the communities so that they are better informed and well prepared to manage the impacts of these ever increasing disastersm.”
The conference is being organised by FOCUS as part of its “Harnessing Capacities in Disaster Risk Reduction in the Hazardous Areas of Pakistan” project, supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy. The project seeks to build capacities of government and civil society organizations and communities to mitigate disasters by developing resilience within communities. A similar conference was organised in Gilgit-Baltistan last month in collaboration with the Karakoram International University on the impact of climate change in the northern areas of Pakistan.