Scientists call for knowledge sharing and research-based, community-driven Climate Change Adaptation
ISLAMABAD – At a time when several areas of Pakistan are again being ravaged by floods, climate experts urge the political leaders of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region to act now. Terming the recent floods as a wake-up call for political leaders, climate scientists warn of more extreme events such as floods and droughts as a result of climate change and demand the governments to take bold action on climate change.
“Time has never been more opportune for the governments of the region to rise up to the reality of climate change” as parts of Pakistan are under severe flooding, said Dr David Molden, Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
Pakistan is currently facing flash floods and torrential rains that have killed 36 and affected more than 250,000 people. Every year since 2010, which saw worst floods in country’s history, Pakistan has been experiencing harsh weather which has killed hundreds and severely affected farmland and animals.
“The urgency is to get our leaders to act,” said Nisar A. Memon of the Water Environment Forum of Pakistan. He called for greater protection of the existing environment by law and technology.
The experts advised that the impacts of climate change on mountain people must be taken seriously, and the political leadership, organizations need to work with communities to develop solutions for adaptation.
Mountain people at the frontline of Climate Change risk
Minister for Women Development and Social Welfare for Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Farzana Yaqoob, believes youth engagement is significant for greater climate change awareness. Mountain communities, Ms Yaqoob said, suffer severe impact of climate change just as the current floods of 2015 have washed away infrastructure and this is why it is important to focus in highland areas.
“Communities are at the frontline, and know better how to manage changes,” Abid Qaiyum Suleri of the SDPI said. It is time for shared responsibilities and social partnerships that engage with communities, he said.
Impact of Climate Change on Indus Basin
A key concern for climate scientists is the impact of climate change on the Upper Indus basin, one of the world’s most significant river basins which supports more than 215 million people. Research has revealed that climate change and other factors would directly impact the region, and greatly affect downstream areas. New studies warn that River Indus that flows 3,200 km from Kashmir in the north to the port of Karachi, is at significant risk of flooding in the near future.
Change in rainfall and temperature in the Indus Basin will have huge consequences for agricultural productivity, for the region’s economy and people’s lives, said Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Senior Climate Change Specialist at ICIMOD.
“With high climate variability, there are more chances of extreme events, both in terms of droughts and floods”, he said. “Therefore, there is an urgent need to share information and data, strengthen monitoring systems to manage these events” and promote local solutions.
According to a NASA 2015 report, the Indus Basin aquifer of northwestern India and Pakistan is the second-most overstressed among the 37 largest aquifers on earth. Therefore, it is highly important for Himalayan region countries to work with local communities, to enhance communication and knowledge sharing for effective implementation of climate change adaptation policies.
Climate Change Solutions and Adaptations by experts at international Climate Conference
Climate scientists working across the Indus River Basin recently gathered at a three-day (23 – 25 July 2015) international conference in Islamabad to discuss and share their knowledge on the impacts of climate change on mountain people and the challenges and opportunities for policy and action.
The conference ’Action for Adaptation: Bringing climate change science to policy makers’ was jointly organized by ICIMOD, Pakistan’s Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Pakistan Ministry of Climate Change, the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), WWF Pakistan, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
It is time for the leaders of the Hindu-Kush Himalayas to act now, climate scientists at the conference rigorously demanded.
Governments should look beyond political and national boundaries and adopt common solutions to climate change risks. The solution, according to Dr Molden, is to view boundaries in a different way. “Instead of viewing boundaries as barriers separating people, we need to view them as meeting places to develop solutions”, he said.
“We can use this crisis to bring people together to develop common solutions. We should forget boundaries and share ideas for policy makers, besides focusing on resilience especially for women, mountains are shared resources between different countries, the communication gap between scientists, policymakers and practitioners is a major challenge,” Molden said.
Another huge challenge for Pakistan is timber mafia which ruthlessly cuts forests and trees which stand at the frontline against climate change. Experts called for stiff measures to discourage timber cutting from natural forests to protect local flora and fauna. Inspector General of Forests Syed Mahmood Nasir informed that Pakistan government has devised a revolutionary forest policy for 2015 to help protect forests. But he added that consistency in policies for climate change adaptation is vital for Pakistan.
Climate experts believe that use of science and knowledge to address climate change issues is one of the key solutions. However sadly, Pakistan is the only country in the region where scientific research and investment in climate science is lowest in the region, said Ifthikhar Ahmad of the PARC.
Experts suggest, it is crucial for Himalyan region countries to achieve a good integration between science, policy and practice, and prioritize communication and knowledge sharing in the region and implement climate change adaptation measures based on data and knowledge.
Significant measures suggested by climate scientists include:
- Provision of adequate funds, mandates to local institutions to implement climate change adaptation strategies.
- Implement flood zoning and strict ban on settlements next to vulnerable waterways.
- Strong measures to protect existing environment by introducing mechanisms like REDD+ and the control of construction and tree-cutting.
- Women should be given an equal role in decision-making forums on climate issues.
- Utilization of hydropower resources.