Thar to Get Warmer, Water Scarcity to Worsen

Mar 17th, 2014 | By | Category: Pakistan, Water, Weather

Dawn: The already existing water scarcity in Thar will exacerbate in the next three decades as the desert is going to become hotter and rainfalls are unlikely to improve remarkably, says a recent study.

Titled Climate Change Scenario in Pakistan: A Case Study of Thar, Sindh, the research is part of a series of documents and toolkits being developed by the Research and Development Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, under its climate change adaptation programme being implemented in Chachro taluka, Tharparkar district, in collaboration with Kindernothlife and German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

The study was commissioned to the Pakistan Metrological Department (PMD) and authored by Dr Mohammad Hanif and Mohammad Aleemul Hassan Ramey who used an established scientific methodology to predict climate change scenarios in Chhor, a town in Umerkot district, and Mithi, part of Tharparkar district. Data provided by the PMD’s Climate Data Processing Centre was used as a baseline of climate scenarios.

The report indicates that global warming may accompany much larger climatic changes and their adverse impacts in Thar in coming decades. The most commonly considered indicator of climate change, according to the report, is the increasing surface air temperature that causes an increase in evaporation/evapo-transpiration and generally higher levels of atmospheric water vapours, resulting changes in the seasonal rainfall patterns.

“The Thar area, one of the most vulnerable regions (both socially and environmentally) of Pakistan, is almost definitely going to get hotter and rainfall conditions are probably going to remain as wildly variable as they are now,” the report says.

The case of Thar, according to the report, is serious given the fact the region exhibits some of Pakistan’s lowest indicators on measures of education, employment diversification and social mobility, all of which are key factors for promoting resilience. Often, poverty leads to vulnerability because it limits adaptation.

“Climate change poses further risks in its interaction with other environmental problems. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report also indicates that the combination of overpopulation and climate change in Pakistan could potentially decrease the amount of water available per person, leading to intense water shortages.

“Such changes would be potentially potent in the Thar Desert where water is already scarce. The region is the world’s most densely populated desert ecosystem. It already endures heavy resource stress, with increasingly dire situations of overgrazing and groundwater exploitation,” it says.

Climate change, according to the report, exacerbates existing problems, especially depletion of groundwater. Farmers who use tube wells are less likely to perceive or expect changes in rainfall, and they are less likely to implement certain adaptive practices, suggesting that groundwater irrigation serves as a potentially unsustainable crutch against climate adversity.

According to the report, the projections for Chhor indicate that annual temperature of the study area is increasing gradually and an average expected increase in 2040 would be 1.76 centigrade. The projected seasonal scenarios indicate that nights during winter are likely to become warm and days during summer are expected to become hotter.

The expected winter temperatures indicate that the season is getting warm and the winter span would be in reduction. Monsoonal and annual rainfall would continue to increase gradually till 2030 but are expected to decrease after that. The negligible winter rainfall of the study area is already decreasing and the projected amount is also indicating decreasing trend, the report says.

The weather projections for Mithi indicate that annual temperature is increasing gradually and an average expected increase in 2040 would be 1.75 centigrade. Nights during winter are likely to become warm and days in summer hotter. The town would experience similar rainfall trends with winter getting warm with the passage of time.

The report suggests that local communities in the Thar region should adopt traditional and sustainable practices that foster resilience, such as rainwater harvesting, agriculture diversification, animal husbandry and conservation of forests to deal with the climatic variability.

“By continuing and improving these practices, the residents of Thar can efficiently adapt to future changes. As farming becomes more difficult, villagers will need to seek alternatives to agriculture as a source of livelihood. Otherwise, the life in Thar, in the long run, cannot be truly sustainable,” the report warns.

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