Climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events

Climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events

Far from being isolated, the Philippines typhoon Haiyan followed other extraordinary meteorological events that are becoming more frequent and increasingly severe Three weeks ago the most powerful typhoon ever recorded to hit land destroyed parts of the Philippines. The devastation has been catastrophic, flattening homes, schools and hospitals and leaving thousands dead and 5.5 million children affected.

Unicef has worked in the Philippines since 1948 and experienced staff returning from the worst affected areas such as Leyte are reporting having never seen anything like this – not even after the Asian tsunami on Boxing day almost a decade ago. They have seen hundreds of kilometres of coconut groves literally blown away by 300kph winds. A coconut tree takes 12 years to grow, so this is a decade of livelihoods wiped out in a single storm.

I am incredibly concerned about the children who are without a doubt the most vulnerable right now. But as the immediate shock of the typhoon news reports begin to fade from people’s memories we need to address with energy and decision the true facts behind the intensity of the Philippines typhoon.

If the Philippines typhoon was an isolated incident, it would be a meteorological phenomenon, but the real worry is that far from being isolated, these events are both frequent and increasingly severe. This typhoon comes on top of other extraordinary meteorological events that have occurred recently; unprecedented floods caused by a cyclone in Sardinia last week; unprecedented typhoons in the United States a few weeks ago; unprecedented rains that caused the Pakistan floods in August and last year.

We can not turn a blind eye to the stark reality; the reality that is climate change. Leaving aside the appalling individual tragedies that have occurred we must see that these are flashes of the future. Climate change is contributing to these events becoming more intense.

Hazards only become disasters when a population or society’s capacity to cope within existing resources is overwhelmed. In such a situation, children, especially the hardest to reach, are always the most vulnerable. Disasters put children at greater risk of death, exposure to disease and trauma, and disruption to their education and social development.

As disasters intensify with increasing impacts of climate change, there must be an expansion of adaptation and resilience programmes in vulnerable countries to protect children from risk. Unicef’s disaster risk reduction programmes implement simple measures like early warning systems which can mean the difference between life and death. These programmes work – the Indian state of Orissa’s disaster preparedness plan implemented last month undoubtedly saved lives as nearly a million people were evacuated when a cyclone was known to be heading towards the eastern coastal region.

Last weekend the UN climate change talks ended in Warsaw. The Philippines disaster should have sent an urgent message demanding bold action to protect children from disasters like these and delivered plans for how we can effectively rebuild when the worst happens, but the lack of energy has left me speechless. I can not believe we are not yet gripping this issue with the urgency that is needed and unless we do that, what you see isn’t going to be one event that shocks and saddens us but an event that is repeated and repeated and repeated.

I’m not saying that human beings alone are causing global warming, they’re not. The Earth is going through one of its warming cycles, but there is no doubt, none whatsoever, that human beings are adding to that and adding to that in a dangerous and ultimately fatal way. Unless we begin to take this seriously, according to experts, climate related disasters could affect 375 million people every year by 2015, up from 263 million in 2010.

Climate Change in Shigar Valley

Climate Change in Shigar Valley

Changes in Local Climate – Precipitation and Temperature Analysis


The aspects of changes in local climate that were assessed included the following:

Change in winter temperatures

The climate of Shigar can be classified as dry continental Mediterranean. The general

perception of the community members was that the winter season has become milder and shorter, and summer is now considerably warmer. April and May were characterized by moderate temperatures, while summer season was identified as very hot, with temperatures

reaching about 400C in July.

The respondents reported a definite increase in winter temperatures over the past 5 years. A few villagers, including a village head, reported that minimum winter temperature has

increased from about -250C (5 years ago) to about -120C in the past 2 years. The village head also mentioned that in 1996 the minimum winter temperature fell to -360C. Respondents

further stated that till 5-10 years ago, winter lasted from November till February and now it

starts in December. They added that there is hardly any snowfall anymore, while 10-15 years ago snowfall was a continuous feature in winter. Earlier, pots would break, oil would freeze, and trees and birds would perish during the harsh winter season.

Discussions revealed that about 5 years ago people required several blankets (3–4) to keep them warm in winters, but since the past 2–3 years one blanket suffices the need. The complete

stock of quilts and blankets in each household is no longer required. Further, the community members said that there has been a drastic reduction in the use of woolen clothing and carpets in homes. Additionally, pedestal fans were never needed in summers before, but now they are in common use. Conversely, now few bukharis (heaters) are needed to warm houses.

6 Community Perceptions on Climate Change in Shigar Valley – A Case Study

Change in quantity of fuelwood required for heating in winters

Respondents reported a reduction of atleast 50% in the use of fuelwood by households during

winters, in the past 5 years. According to one village resident, his fuelwood consumption has drastically reduced, from 200 kg to 25 kg.

Change in flowering time of fruit trees

The main fruit tree species in Shigar are apple, apricot, cherry and pear. A shift in the

flowering time, by about 7–15 days, was reported to have taken place during the past 5-10

years. Previously, flowering took place in mid-April, but since 2007 fruit trees blossom

between the last week of March and the first week of April.

Change in location / altitude of pasture sites

The study revealed that there are 22 grazing sites for the 22 villages of Shigar Town. In other words, there is one site designated to one village. Permission is needed to use another

village’s site.

The respondents were asked to quantify the number of hours it took to travel to the pastures in 2003, as opposed to in 2007-08. The response to this question was divided. 53% of the persons that were interviewed reported that there has been a change in their travel time; some reported a lengthening of travel time by about 2-3 hours, denoting that they now had to travel to higher altitudes to reach good pastures. However, it needs to be mentioned here that thedisparity in response may be due to the varied locations of the pastures that are used by the respondent. The pastures which are already at a higher altitude may not have undergone any change, while those located at lower altitudes may have dried; hence forcing the communities

to go higher up the mountains.

All respondents reported that the quality and quantity of grass in pastures had deteriorated,

due to a decrease in precipitation since 2005-06. The grass that was waist high earlier was now only knee high. Moreover, 10-15 years ago, livestock grazing took 1-2 hours, but now it takes a whole day. However, one respondent notified that fodder is easily available now, due to early greening of trees.

Conservation of Mangroves for climate change mitigation

Conservation of Mangroves for climate change mitigation

Mark Spalding, principal investigator on the project and a marine scientist at the US-based worldwide conservation organisation The Nature Conservancy, says: “These results can help guide decisions regarding priority areas for the conservation and rehabilitation of mangroves for climate change mitigation.”

International Union of Conservation (IUCN) advisor on coastal ecosystem and famously known as father of mangroves, Tahir Qureshi said, “About 20 years ago, mangroves were at 5,000 hectors in Karachi but now its limited to less than 3500 hectors, Port Qasim, Karachi Harbour, Mai Kullachi, Boat Basin, Kaka Pir, Baba Bhit, Salehabad, Manora, Ibrahim haideri and all other areas at east and west coast of Karachi are witnessing shrinking mangroves deposit and as a result population of birds, fishes on decline while shrimps and lots of other species are alarmingly vanishing” he added.

Beside threats to nature, scientist believe that Sindh coast lies in a dangerous zone where storm surge could be dangerous and Karachi is one of vulnerable city where Industrial effluents, oil spills, municipal waste and land mafia are the real time threats for sea itself.

Worldwide study of mangrove swamps’ carbon storage capacity will help scientists identify where efforts should be focused to protect these rich resources for climate change mitigation.

Questions regarding Margalla Hills tunnel !

Questions regarding Margalla Hills Tunnel  !

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) is currently working on an estimated US$12 billion mega-project which includes building a twin capital across the Margalla Hills, connecting the two with a tunnel. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, despite severe opposition from politicians and members of the civil society, has directed CDA to continue working on the project.

I raised these questions :
The digging of tunnel in Margalla Hills a sheer violation of the law governing the Margalla Hills National Park.
Firstly, building a tunnel through the Margalla Hills would be a flagrant violation of the laws covering the Margalla Hills National Park, which is protected from construction of any kind under the law of the land.
Secondly such a tunnel through the beautiful Margalla Hills would be a serious threat to the environment of Margalla Hills National Park and Islamabad and this would cause irreparable damage to the ecology and beauty of Islamabad, which is one of the most beautiful capitals of the world.
Thirdly, this decision seems to have been taken in a hurry since even the official procedure for processing and permitting such projects has not been followed, as such projects require approval of the Planning Commission and sanction by the ECNEC as well as the NOC of the Environment Protection Agency.

The Supreme Court has also taken a suo motu notice of the project and sought replies from the government.

World Tourism Day…prospects of tourism in Pakistan

World Tourism day 2013…. prospects of tourism in pakistan

Tourism today is a trillion dollar sector involving the movement of over one billion tourists a year around the world and another five to six billion domestically.

In line with the 2013 United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation, the 2013 theme for World Tourism Day is Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future. As the most widely celebrated global day for tourism, it represents a unique opportunity to raise awareness of tourism’s role in water access and shine a spotlight on the sector’s contribution to a more sustainable water future. 

FOR Pakistan, tourism can be a massive source of earning as our country possesses top-class tourist attractions from the stunning Himalayan peaks, beautiful lakes, scenic valleys, rich culture, centuries-old civilisations, vast deserts, golden beaches of Makran to all the other natural and man-made attractions.

But unfortunately Pakistan’s tourism potential has largely been untapped and no serious attention has been paid by authorities concerned to make it a major engine of economic growth for the country.

Ironically, the sector was ignored during the previous government’s tenure. The law and order situation in the country has hurt tourism greatly, but what made matters worse is the unnecessary restrictions on the travelling of foreign tourists to various tourist spots. Now foreign tourists need an NOC for travelling to most of the places in Pakistan and it is almost impossible to get this NOC well on time due to lengthy and tedious bureaucratic procedures.

Although security of foreign tourists is a major concern of the government, once they are issued visas, there should not be any extra hurdles in their way to visit places of tourist interest for which they have paid thousands of dollars on air travel and other ground arrangements. We need to facilitate them and provide them invisible security so that they could enjoy their holidays without any fear and worry. On the other hand, we have also not paid serious attention to facilitate our own domestic tourists. There is a large number of Pakistanis who are interested in exploring their own homeland but the dilapidated tourism infrastructure and high cost of board and lodging, coupled with poor standard of services at tourist spots, discourage them to do so.

What we need here is a good tourism policy and full government backing. The new government should prioritize tourism as a leading sector of Pakistan’s economy and help bring the tourism industry back on its feet. We can easily defeat terrorism with tourism by creating income and employment generation opportunities for the insolvent people of far flung areas of KP province and GB where there are no other industries to support their livelihoods. By developing tourism industry, other businesses such as hotels, restaurants, transport, handicrafts, shopping, local recreational spots and local entrepreneurs get simultaneously boosted and it create thousands of new jobs for unskilled and skilled workforce.

A targeted investment strategy by the government, coupled with a sound tourism development policy, can do very well help in addressing these challenges and capitalising on this untapped potential.

Far-reaching policy measures would need to be adopted so that tourists who were scared away due to terrorist activities may be attracted back to revive tourism in Pakistan.



Can we learn from Nepal’s early warning system ?

Can we learn from Nepal’s early warning system



How early warning technology protects Nepali villagers from sudden floods.

 The early warning system gives villagers 5-8 minutes’ notice of a flood – just enough time to save themselves.

 Five flood sensors are positioned near the Nepal-China Friendship Bridge, about 6 km upstream from the power station.

 If the water in the river reaches a dangerous level, the sensors activate sirens placed at four locations, including one at the power plant. The sirens warn the communities to flee to higher ground. Residents use their mobile phones to warn other villages further downstream.

 According to authorities, a glacial lake outburst flood takes about five minutes to travel from the Nepal-China Friendship Bridge to the plant and lives can be saved if people respond to the alarm immediately. 14 July 2013

Nanga Parbat incident to harm tourism!

Nanga Parbat incident to harm tourism!

The objective behind this attack appeared to tarnish our image and discourage tourism in Pakistan.

President of the Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan Aftab-ur-Rehman has said that killing of foreign climbers in a terror attack at Nanga Parbat base camp will have negative impact on the tourism in the country. Aftab-ur-Rehman urged the govt to take wide ranging policy measures to woo back the tourists, who had been scared away due to terrorist activities. He called for beefing up security measures at tourist resorts, particularly in upper Kyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgil Baltistan.
He said tourism could be a massive source of earning foreign exchange for the country in the presence of tourist attractions from stunning Himalayan peaks, beautiful lakes, scenic valleys and centuries-old civilization etc.
But unfortunately this potential has largely remained untapped due to the lethargic attitude of authorities concerned, he regretted.
He said the tourism was ignored by the previous government. Law and order situation badly hurt the tourism, but unnecessary restrictions on the travelling of foreign tourists to various tourist spots made the matters worse.
Aftab said now foreign tourists need an NOC for travelling to most of the places in Pakistan and it is almost impossible to get this NOC well on time due to lengthy and tedious procedure.
He said there is also need to pay serious attention to facilitate our own domestic tourists. There is a large number of domestic tourists interested in exploring their own homeland but the dilapidated tourism infrastructure and high cost of boarding and lodging, coupled with poor standard of services at tourist spots, discourage them to do so, he said.
He said the new government should give tourism its due status of a leading sector of economy and put the industry back on the path to progress.
He said terrorism could easily be defeated with promoting the tourism industry, which would create job and income generation opportunities for the insolvent people of far flung areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan.