Leading development professionals, policy makers and community representatives gathered in Thatta district of Sindh to attend the inception workshop on “Climate Resilient Communities in Coastal Lying Areas of Sindh project” organised by Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan (AKPBS,P), an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. The interventions planned as part of the project will create awareness about the impact of climate change on the lives of local people living in the coastal areas of Pakistan and equip them with necessary knowledge and skills to cope with disasters related to climate change.
Briefing the participants of the event about the challenges the coastal areas of Pakistan face, Saleema Salim, Programme Manager Sindh, AKPBS,P said, “Studies by WWF-Pakistan and National Institute of Oceanography, Pakistan show that sea water intrusion in the past 30 years has encroached over 1km inland. Indus River Delta may see a rise of up to 10mm per year in the future. Other studies predict an eventual rise of up to 6.5 feet, naturally displacing local communities. The flat topography of the Sindh coast makes the area very susceptible to sea level rise and its harmful impacts.” She further said that in Sindh, the precipitation pattern does not allow for accurate flood predictions and therefore adaptation measures are an absolute necessity.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Zahid Hamid recently revealed that Pakistan ranks 135th in carbon dioxide emissions, and being the sixth most populous country in the world, scarce resources are being burdened with an annual deforestation rate of four to six percent. Human induced hazards such as deforestation and increase in population aggravate the existing predicament by causing soil erosion and resource scarcity, particularly in rural areas where wood is primarily used as fuel for cooking and/or heating. Trees store carbon dioxide as they grow, and clearing or burning wood releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, directly contributing to climate change. Carbon emissions in Pakistan continue to increase at an alarming annual rate of eight to 10 percent.
The workshop highlighted the threat that climate change poses in Pakistan where lack of awareness puts an increased risk on each citizen. Coastal areas such as Thatta in particular suffer the most. Hotter summers result in raised sea levels, posing a serious threat to coastal areas. Sea levels have risen about seven inches in the last 100 years, which is more than in the previous 2,000 years combined. Sea levels could rise another 19 inches by the year 2050.
According to fact sheet of World Health Organisation (WHO), many of the major killers such as diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are highly climate-sensitive and are expected to worsen as the climate changes. More significantly, diarrhoea, dysentery and respiratory infections, among others, result from floods and water logging. Damaged transport infrastructure keeps people from accessing the nearest clinics and hospitals, and obstructs emergency services from reaching people. More significantly, population displacement as a result of flooding could increase tensions and potentially the risks of conflict.
Under the Climate Resilient Communities project, Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan will work in 30 villages of Thatta district and will form Climate Change Adaptation Committees (CCACs) within each village. Members of these committees will be trained to drive climate resilient assessment, and undertake response and mitigation measures. AKPBS,P will also implement 15 small scale infrastructure projects such as water protection bunds and link roads to mitigate the risks of flooding and resultant problems such as disease incidence and destruction of road networks. Fuel-efficient stoves will be installed in 150 model homes to reduce wood usage and indoor air pollution. About 30 local artisans will also be trained to manufacture smoke-free, fuel efficient stoves which will be further replicated by communities through promotion by the CCACs.
Speaking at the event, Chairman AKPBS,P, Hafiz Sherali said, “Despite challenges in the region, the Climate Resilient Communities project will fill a gap and be a stepping stone towards future built environment related interventions to tackle the hazardous impact of climate change. The project aims to make communities self-reliant and aware of the resources and tools that they can use to protect themselves from catastrophe.” He also expressed hope that the project will serve as a sustainable and replicable model to readdress environmental issues in the region.
Chief guest at the occasion, Senator Karim Khowaja also stressed on the importance of preparing the built environment, which is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. He said, “Millions of acres of land in Badin and Thatta eroded due to the movement of water downstream.”
He also pointed at the impact of climate change on the food chain of the region by saying, “Rice and wheat was in abundance in Sindh in the 1920s, when workers from Middle Eastern countries used to come here to work on our farmlands. Now the province starves as nothing to eat remains.”
The Climate Resilient Communities project is being undertaken by AKPBS,P under the partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia – a joint initiative between the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) and the Government of Canada, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD). The project aims at to equip beneficiaries with the ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. Project interventions will promote gender equity through inclusion of women in Climate Change Adaptive Committees; an improvement in the natural environment through installation of energy efficient products and mitigation infrastructure and increased capacity of communities to drive climate resilient assessment, response and mitigation measures. Local artisans will also be trained to manufacture and sell energy efficient products, contributing to livelihood development in the area.
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>>