Climate change is affecting Pakistan. According to the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2014 developed by the German Watch Institute, Pakistan is ranked number three after Haiti and the Philippines as one of those countries that are most affected by climate change. This goes to show that the ecologically vulnerable areas of Pakistan are badly affected with this global phenomenon.
Our mountainous and coastal regions of Pakistan rely on various environmental factors for their survival. Unfortunately climate change is leading to the melting of glaciers at a faster pace causing Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) and flash floods.
A similar situation is observed in the coastal areas of Pakistan where the entire 1,050km coastline is witnessing the worst climatic impacts. The frequency of floods and natural disasters has increased, hence affecting the coastal communities.
Keti Bunder, a small coastal community situated at about 200km south-east of Karachi stretches over an area of 60, 969 ha. It has four major creeks namely Chann, Hajamro, Khobar and Kangri with an arid subtropical climate and temperatures remaining moderate throughout the year.
Over the past few years, the local communities have suffered badly at the hands of climate change impacts as extreme rainfalls, floods, cyclones have forced people to migrate to other places for livelihoods and shelter.
Mangrove forest depletion has damaged infrastructure and property, as mangroves help in protecting communities against storms but their absence has affected lives and property of villagers.
Climate change impacts in Pakistan have increased to a significant level as the average annual temperature has increased by 0.12 0C, affecting marine life leading to lesser fish catch and the annual rise in sea level by 1.1 mm, forcing communities to shift their homes after every five to 10 years.
Floods have devastated our plains leading to other issues including food insecurity, loss of livelihoods, mass migration, disease outbreaks and threats to vulnerable ecosystems. People living in Keti Bunder are unable to understand the main cause of their problems and the lack of governments’ attention has soured the issue.
Previously, communities of the Siddique Dablo village in Hajamro Creek didn’t realise the ecological importance of mangrove forests and used to chop them down for domestic and commercial purposes. As a result they faced various issues including increased cyclonic activity, floods, sea intrusion and reduced fish catch.
However, due to the efforts of World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) the people of Keti Bunder, Kharo Chan and Jiwani (coastal towns in Sindh and Gwadar) are sensitised and aware about their problems. Due to capacity-building initiatives, communities are adapting to climate change by planting mangroves in the area, among numerous other steps.
WWF-Pakistan, through its Indus for All Programme (IFAP), to make the coastal areas of Sindh resilient to climate change planted 7500ha of mangroves and another 550ha through its ‘Building Capacity on Climate Change in Coastal Areas of Pakistan’ (CCAP) project. Avicennia Marina, a local species which requires less freshwater, has been planted along the coast in order to protect vulnerable communities.
Mangrove plantations have increased in Keti Bunder, especially in the Hajamro creek which is located in one of the last settlements on Pakistan’s mainland before the Arabian Sea.
Other than mangroves, WWF-Pakistan has helped the people of Siddique Dablo village build elevated homes so that water does not enter houses during high tide. Solar panels have been provided so that community members can charge their cell phones without paying Rs10 at shops in Keti Bunder. As a result fisherfolk are able to keep in contact with their relatives while out at sea.
Other livelihood interventions include legal nets, iceboxes to keep the daily catch fresh, crab pond facilities to increase the weight of juvenile crabs, which have helped to improve the standards of local communities who are deprived of electricity and gas. Climate change adaptation initiatives have borne fruit as people are sensitised and look forward to solving their problems seriously.
Increased government attention is required to help mitigate climate change in the coastal areas of Pakistan and effective policy-making is needed to understand the issues of communities better. Rehabilitation of coastal areas is vital to protect communities from environmental hazards so that its impacts can be reduced.
In order to combat climate change effectively, more funds should be allocated for the Climate Change Division so that vulnerable areas can be strengthened against it. Unfortunately its budget has been further reduced to Rs25 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year as compared to Rs58 million in the 2013-14 budget.
This reduction in funds means resources are insufficient to meet the challenging environmental issues that Pakistan faces today. There is still hope that the government considers climate change a real threat and adopts a pro-environment approach to governance and development.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>