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Pakistan Observer

Published Date: Jul 20, 2013

Semi-arid regions in drastic environmental changes cycle

Semi-arid regions in Pakistan are witnessing drastic
environmental changes with increased rainfall and climate induced disasters.
Beside effective adaptation and policy planning, there is need to strengthen
economic resilience of local communities to cope with adverse effect of climate
change.

This was discussed in a consultative workshop on "Climate Resilient Economic
Development in Semi-Arid Regions "organized by Sustainable Development Policy
Institute (SDPI) here on Thursday. Consultation marked the start of a project
by SDPI and Oversees Development Institute (ODI)-UK to scale up
climate-compatible economic development in semi-arid regions of Central Asia,
East Africa and West Africa.

Speaking at the occasion, Shamsul Mulk, Former Chairman Wapda suggested
expediting work on ‘institutional capacity building’ of related
institutions to
cope with emerging challenges of climate change. He said that floods in
Pakistan are regular phenomenon which are causing damages worth billions
of
rupees every year and the only way to address this problem is through
‘preparedness’ and ‘structural planning’. He was of the view that
business as
usual is no more an option as Pakistan cannot afford more damages to the
scale
of 10-15 billion dollars as witnessed in 2010-11 floods in Pakistan.

Talking of improving capacity of public institutions, he stated that in
sixties, Wapda had no capacity to steer large projects, but with firm
commitment it was able to bridge capacity gap within short time and completed
the biggest ever water development structures of those times under Indus Water
Treaty including Tarbella, Mangla and other canals.

Dr Azmat Hayat Khan, Director, Pakistan Meteorological Department presented
recent climatic models and revealed that rainfall patterns in Pakistan are
changing, where instead of Kashmir and Northern Areas, semi-arid regions
particularly in KP and Punjab are now getting more extreme rainfalls events.

He further informed that average rainy days and precipitation have increased in
Sindh whereas it is gradually decreasing in Kashmir and GB which are water
lifeline for Pakistan. "Water availability is also likely to be affected by
westward shift in monsoon which has started to miss the catchment areas of
Tarbela and Mangla, along with the fact that we don’t have any water catchment
mechanisms in these semi-arid areas which are receiving more rains," he added.

Dr Azmat said that this climatic shift pose serious threat to semi-arid zones
by increasing their vulnerability and affecting agriculture, livelihood, and
economics of the region. He said that situation demands immediate policy
actions to mitigate floods in new vulnerable areas along with measures to
protect agriculture and conserve additional rain water where no water
conservation structures are present.

In his welcome remarks, Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director, SDPI called
the need for further research on climate induced vulnerabilities that not only
resonates with ordinary publics but can also influence policy discourse. He
informed that SDPI is building partnerships with relevant institutes and
supporting new breed of researchers to bridge this research policy gap
particularly in area of environmental governance.

Earlier, briefing participants about the project, Kashif Majeed Salik, Research
Associate, SDPI said that project seek to strengthen economic resilience of
communities living in semi-arid regions from climate induced vulnerabilities
and disasters .

During consultation, there was consensus among the participants that semi-arid
regions are receiving heavy damages due to climate change which are further
aggravated by poor-adaptation and lack of institutional governance.

Debating sector specific economic development, participants suggested preparing
a comprehensive inventory of semi- arid regions in Pakistan. They also demanded
for collection of decade-wise data on change in rain fall patterns to properly
gauge adverse impacts on livelihoods sources with possible adaptation
strategies.

The participants underscored the need to protect people’s livelihoods and
assets which are directly linked with their resilience and contribute towards economic
development of the region. It was observed that another way to adapt to climate
changes is diversification of livelihoods sources, with maximum policy level
support along with support from developed countries.