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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Jul 19, 2013

Invest in water harvesting to shield from climate extremes

Investments
in water harvesting and water management are needed to protect Pakistan’s
semi-arid regions from climate extremes.

These views
were expressed by Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) Remote Sensing and
Computer Division Director Azmat Hayat Khan on Wednesday. Khan was speaking at
a consultative workshop on "Climate Resilient Economic Development in Semi-Arid
Regions," organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Khan said
32 per cent of Pakistan’s total area is semi-arid while around 61 per cent of
the country is categorised as arid to hyper-arid. Pakistan is on the verge of
becoming a water-deficit country and needs to manage its water availability, he
added.

He cited a
study on rainfall patterns in South Asia conducted by the Potsdam Institute for
Climate Impact Research in Germany to suggest that Pakistan’s semi-arid areas
are highly vulnerable to extreme rainfall.

Another
study done by the PMD, published in the Journal of Hydrology earlier in 2013,
shows that rainfall is shifting away from catchment areas to semi-arid regions,
said Khan.

"New areas
which have emerged in West Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that are vulnerable to
floods require more attention," he added.

He said
heavy rains in semi-arid areas, away from the catchments, would mean more
floods and more run-off water which will further cause soil degradation and
prevent recharging of water table.

Water
harvesting projects and dams are essential to protect the semi-arid areas from
climate change effects, he added.

SDPI in
collaboration with the Overseas Development Institute, UK is looking to carry
out research across Asia and Africa regarding climate resilient economic
development in semi-arid regions.

The
research programme is expected to enhance climate resilience of economic
development in six developing countries in ways that deliver rising prosperity,
environmental sustainability and social equity, said Kashif Salik, an SDPI
research associate working on the programme proposal for Pakistan.

Salik said
the workshop was an attempt to solicit opinions from stakeholders about the
programme’s four thematic areas, namely macroeconomic impact of climate change,
sectoral perspective, decision makers’ point of view and public policy
interventions.

Participants
were divided into groups to brainstorm the current impact of climate change in
Pakistan on resources, supply chains and markets and offered suggestions about
crafting economic policies to build resilience against climate change.

They
stressed on the need for livelihood diversification for vulnerable communities
and more research and development to help understand the cost of environmental
degradation.

Salik said
SDPI would be looking at some case studies, such as the economic effects of
climate change on the textile industry in Faisalabad, as it prepares the
proposal for the semi-arid region research.