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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Dec 12, 2014

Vulnerable to climate change: South Asia at risk of food, water insecurity

ISLAMABAD: Environment and food security experts have said that better water management is essential to ensure food security in South Asia.

They were speaking at a panel on “Water and Food Security in South
Asia in the Era of Climate Change” as part of the three-day “Pathways to
Sustainable Development” conference, organised by the Sustainable
Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Thursday.

They said water in highland areas should be conserved in such a way that it could not affect crops in plain areas.


Prakash Tiwari, a professor at Uttarakhand’s Kumaun University said
that the Himalaya had some of the biggest glaciers of the planet, which
constitute headwaters of some of the largest trans-boundary river basins
on earth.

He said that climate change was likely to cause disruption of
hydrological regimes of the Himalayan watershed and change the
discharge, volume and availability of water, which will increase
frequency and severity of extreme events both in mountains and lowland.

He suggested restoring watershed through integrated land, forest and
water management in groundwater recharge that improved availability of
access to water for drinking and food production.

“Increased forest covers, community participation, creating
livelihood opportunities and improved community access to institutions
can help mitigate climate change,” he said.

Babar Shahbaz of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad in his
presentation on climate change, agriculture and food security in the
highlands with Kaghan Valley of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as case study, said
that South Asia was highly vulnerable to climate change.

“Warming in the Himalayas is higher than global average coupled with
mixed trend of rains in the mountainous region of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,”
he said. He said there was a dearth of climate change studies in
Pakistan and lack of climate stations. There were only 13-15 climate
stations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as compared to 500 in Switzerland.

He also highlighted socio cultural aspects of the vulnerability. He
said the climate change had caused late arrival of winter, increase in
temperature during winter, and decrease in rainfall in the Kaghan
Valley. “There is no regular pattern of rainfall, and snowfall has
decreased in the area,” he said. He said 85 percent people of the area
had felt long term changes in climate but very few heard about the
phenomenon. Besides, migration, changing pattern of cropping and
changing food habits have led to food shortage and insecurity.

SDPI’s energy analyst Maha Kamal, while discussing the
water-energy-food nexus, said that by 2050, the South Asia’s population
was likely to exceed 2.2 billion from the current 1.5 billion.

“With an estimated 600 million people subsisting on less than $1.25 a
day in South Asia, even small climate shocks can cause irreversible
losses and tip a large number of people into destitution,” she said
while citing a World Bank study.

Source :