Rising temperatures and level of seawater were directing affecting weather patterns in coastal areas of the country and this was why extreme natural disasters such as wind storms and tropical cyclones had become more frequent and dangerous over the years.
This was expressed by leading climate change researchers, policy makers and disaster response experts who had gathered at the ‘Climate change adaptation conference’ to discuss the impact of changing weather patterns on the lives people living in the coastal areas of Pakistan on Thursday.
The conference was 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.
Speakers at the conference also brought to light the adaptation practices and strategies needed to reduce the risks of disasters brought about by climate change.
They said that Pakistan was the sixth most populous country in the world and ranked 135 in carbon dioxide emissions which were increasing at an alarming rate of to 10 percent. The annual rate of deforestation ranged between 4 to 6 percent while the annual cost of restoring the degraded environment was somewhere around US$ 5.2 billion.
Experts said that a number of climate-induced changes including cyclones, tidal and monsoon flooding, rise in the sea level, extreme hot temperatures and droughts were currently affecting the 990-kilometre-long coastal belt of Pakistan. They said scientists had predicted that by the year 2060, the average temperature of the area would increase from 1.4 to 3.7 degree Celsius. This change in temperature could have a significant impact on wheat and rice crops, besides the water supply of the entire country.
Sharing the specifics of weather changes, Mr Zubair Siddiqui of the Pakistan Meteorological Department said, “There was an increase in average temperatures of between 0.6 to 1.0 degrees Celsius along the coastal belt while the sea level had continued to rise by around 1.2 millimetres per year during the 50 years.”
He said these changed were directly affecting the weather pattern along Pakistan’s coast as a result of which extreme events such as wind storms and tropical cyclones had become more frequent and of greater intensity than seen in the past.
In his keynote address, Dr Qamar-ur-Zaman Chaudhry, the senior adviser of Climate Change- LEAD, recommended a community-based approach to accelerate the implementation of climate change adaptation practices in the country’s coastal areas. “A community-based approach overcomes the shortcomings of traditional top-to-down approaches to adaptation planning,” he said. “Plans developed by local communities consider local contextual needs and constraints which ensure community ownership.”
He also stressed on the need for enhancing resilience of local communities through building capacity and developing climate-resilient policies.
Moreover, Pakistan’s demographic trends showed rapid urbanisation with an average annual rate of urbanisation exceeding 4 percent 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 while the city has struggled to improve basic infrastructure, such as roads, water pipes and sanitation, to match rising demand.
Meanwhile, Farhan Anwar, the executive director of Sustainable Initiatives, presented a roadmap for climate change adaptation strategy in Karachi and called for the need to establish ‘flood risk zones’ and policies for preparing surface water management, ground water management, reducing water and energy losses, increasing green cover, promoting water and energy conservation practices, preventing violations of land usage and sustaining urban agricultural practices.
He also underlined the importance of placing the city government at the top of the climate change adaptation planning and coordination pyramid.
Former federal minister Javed Jabbar while speaking as the chief guest on the occasion, that the name of the conference was of extreme importance for Pakistan whether discussed in reference to coastal areas or to the well-known glaciers of Gilgit-Baltistan. “Government organisations, academic institutes and individual scholars need to make collective efforts for revising the overall framework and policies related to climate change in Pakistan,” he said.
The chairperson of FOCUS Pakistan, Khadija Jamal Shaban, said climate change was becoming a serious concern for Pakistan where a significant percentage of the population lived below the poverty line and was thus more vulnerable to natural disasters.
She said FOCUS Pakistan’s mandate was to save lives and create resilient communities especially in most vulnerable areas by enhancing the capacities of local communities to cope with calamities. In this regard, she said, FOCUS was working closely with all government agencies in the field of disaster management and was also paring up with other NGOs and academic institutions for capacity building within communities so that they were better informed and prepared to manage the impacts of the ever-increasing disasters.
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. It seeks to build capacities of government, civil society organisations and communities to mitigate disasters by developing resilience within the local populace.
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.
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