Broadcast on the Int’l Day of the Seafarer recognising seafarers’ roles and the need to safeguard their well-being and working conditions aired on HOT FM 105
Science and Development News Network International
September 09, 2013
In his short climate video documentary, Saleem Shaikh reports on how changing rainfall patterns have been devastating crop yields for farmers in Pakistan.
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 4 Sep 2013
ISLAMABAD (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Business has picked up for Abdul Latif, and he credits to an eco-innovation in Pakistan’s capital: the solar-powered traffic signal.
Latif runs a shoe shop in Aabpara, a bustling main shopping area in an upscale sector of the heart of Islamabad.
The traffic signal at the Aabpara intersection used to regularly fall dark because of frequent and protracted power failures, causing massive traffic jams on the road that passes by his shop.
“The traffic jam had become a nuisance equally for shoppers and shop owners in the market. Customers would avoid coming to the market for fear that they would become entangled,” he said. “Business activities were suffering seriously.”
But the installation of solar-powered traffic signals has resolved the problem and business is now booming again, a happy Latif told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Traffic jams on Islamabad’s main arteries and at intersections have become routine in the power-starved capital, which sees regular power outages, particularly when energy demand is high. Outages can lead to traffic signals going dark for hours, leading to massive traffic snarls.
But in July, the city’s Capital Development Authority launched a pilot project to power traffic signals using solar panels. Solar-powered signals are now working at the Aabpara roundabout and at two other busy locations in the city.
Officials at the Authority’s engineering wing said that if the pilot project is effective, the solar-powered signals would be installed at more intersections or roundabouts where traffic jams are a serious problem when the signals go dark.
Navid Hassan Bokhari, director of solar energy affairs for the Pakistan Alternative Energy Development Board, said board had put together a plan to install solar panels at 25 traffic signals in Islamabad.
Frustrated traders, fed-up drivers and exhausted traffic wardens welcomed the changes.
“When traffic signals shut down during load-shedding hours, it is the wardens who have to handle vehicular traffic congestation for hours, said Bilal Raza, a 45-year-old traffic warden, standing beneath the solar-powered traffic signal at the Aabpara roundabout.
The solar-powered signals are “helping us manage traffic jams that are a nightmare for us,” he said.
Jacob Joseph, who runs a smartphone shop at the Jinnah Super market in another upscale residential and commercial sector, said he believed solar traffic signals could help manage business-destroying congestion at a range of shopping areas across the city.
Hit by worsening power crises, the country’s other provinces, such as Sindh and Punjab, also are mulling installing solar traffic signals and street lights.
Saeed Akhtar, chief engineer for Punjab province’s Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency told Thomson Reuters Foundation over the telephone from Lahore that contracts have been signed with three local firms for the conversion of traffic signals to solar power at five road intersections in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province.
The costs of installing solar panels will be paid for by private firms in return for small advertisements at the signals, noting which firm had backed the project, he said.
Akthar said his department is in touch with different potential corporate sponsors to fund installation and maintenance of solar panels at all 138 traffic signals.
If the plan works, it “will help address our aggravating traffic mess without becoming any financial burden on the government’s pocket,” he maintained.
Pakistan is grappled with one of the worst energy crises in its history, with around a 4,000-megawatt shortfall. Authorities hope that can be plugged by tapping into Pakistan’s huge solar energy potential.
Right now, Pakistan uses only 7 megawatts of solar power, out of its estimated potential of 2.9 million megawatts, Gholamreza Zahedi, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, told Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email interview.
He said that attracting local investments in small- and medium-size renewable energy plans and launching local manufacturing of basic components, with the help of European countries and China, which have more advanced renewable technology, could make a big difference in expanding Pakistan’s solar energy production.
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan.
- A model village after construction in flood-prone Dera Ghazi Khan district, Punjab province, Pakistan. PHOTO/Punjab Disaster Management Authority
DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ayesha Fatima, a 29-year-old widow with two small children, burst into tears of delight when she was handed the key and ownership papers for her new home, a two-room, single-storey, disaster-resilient brick building.
Her former home, a mud-brick house, was washed away by devastating floods in 2010, forcing the family to flee for their lives, abandoning everything they owned except two goats.
While living in a makeshift tent outside a nearby primary school, Fatima’s husband died of pneumonia and she was reduced to begging to survive, she told Thomson Reuters Foundation in muted tones.
The village where Fatima now lives – ‘Basti Hote Lashari’ in Taunsa town in Dera Ghazi Khan district, 405 km (250 miles) from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad – is one of 22 model villages built to replace homes washed away by the floods.
Constructed with private-sector funds and technical expertise, the houses are strong and designed to withstand earthquakes and extreme climate events, including floods, as part of a “climate-compatible development” initiative by the Punjab provincial government.
Climate-compatible development focuses on “triple win” strategies that limit greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience and promote development at the same time.
Parts of Punjab have been hit yet again by monsoon flooding in recent weeks, underlining the need for measures like these to protect people, property and crops from natural hazards.
When Fatima moved into her new home, in June 2011, her role as the family breadwinner was transformed by the gift of two buffalos.
“I earn Rs800 ($8) a day by selling nine litres of buffalo milk and this is enough to feed my two children,” she said happily, while milking one of the animals. “My children have also resumed going to school in the model village.”
Thousands of other poor families also lost their homes to the 2010 floods, the worst in Pakistan’s history, which tore through Fatima’s village early one morning after days of torrential rain.
She was woken by a huge uproar and the cries of villagers: “Wake up … wake up, people … Floodwater is coming!”
“When I came out of my room, the gushing floodwater was just minutes away from our home. Getting hold of my two children and two goats, I fled to the higher ground along with my 54-year-old husband. We left everything behind to the floods,” she explained.
The family spent 45 days in a school building on higher ground. When she returned, she could see only mud bricks strewn around where her home had stood.
Some 1.9 million houses were damaged or destroyed by the 2010 monsoon floods, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. Around 2,000 people died and over 20 million were affected, more than one-tenth of the population, from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.
The World Bank calculated the economic damage at over $9 billion.
With financial support from the non-government and corporate sectors, the Punjab government has built 22 disaster-resilient showcase villages in seven of the severely affected districts, drawing on expertise from two private firms, National Engineering Services Pakistan and Associated Consulting Engineers.
The villages, costing nearly Rs1.35 billion, contain 1,885 single-storey homes, which have been handed over to people who lost their houses in the 2010 floods. The villages have schools, health centres and other community infrastructure, replacing what the floods destroyed.
“These will show how such villages can be better planned, built to higher standards and with improved community infrastructure and facilities. Other facilities are biogas plants, solar energy systems, livestock sheds, covered sewerage, brick-paved streets, parks, play areas, markets and community centres,” said Mujahid Sherdil, director-general of the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).
“The corporate sector played a pivotal part by extending support in both cash and in kind for the construction of disaster-resilient houses,” he added.
Sherdil told Thomson Reuters Foundation from his office in Lahore, the provincial capital, that public relief operations after disasters were often delayed by lack of funds, but that businesses could play a bigger role by immediately making financial contributions to meet aid needs under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.
The private sector’s role in post-disaster reconstruction in 2010 showed it can help society cope with disasters, as well as providing resources, expertise and essential services for rebuilding afterwards, he said.
Dina Khan, manager of climate-compatible development projects in Pakistan for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), told Thomson Reuters Foundation the Punjab PDMA had asked her organisation to help it incorporate climate resiliency into its post-disaster reconstruction efforts.
CDKN in turn uses management and engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald to prepare guidelines on reconstruction in hazard-prone areas of the province, and to assess the climate compatibility of model villages being built.
Arif Hasan, an independent architect, said this kind of approach addresses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use fewer resources and put up buildings that can withstand weather-related disasters.
“There is an urgent need for implementation of such guidelines in highly disaster-prone Pakistan that will help the country adopt climate-resilient construction methods in disaster-prone areas,” he added.
Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CDKN’s Asia director based in Islamabad, said Pakistan has inadequate guidelines for disaster risk reduction in the construction sector.
It is hoped the climate-compatible development initiative will pave the way for the country to adopt an effective national policy, and give the rural poor and local decision-makers the knowledge they need to reduce the impact of future disasters, he said.
“The Punjab government asked CDKN to help ‘build back better’ after the devastating floods in 2010,” he said. “Not only is this a strategic project for Pakistan, it is also a test case for climate-compatible development that promises to offer lessons for the international community.”
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 21 Aug 2013
SIALKOT, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Saleema Bibi died at the age of just 29 when the roof of her house in Talwandi village in northeast Pakistan’s Sialkot district collapsed under heavy monsoon rains. Her husband and three children were badly injured.
“The roof of our house, where we all were sitting on a cot-bed, caved in after failing to withstand torrential rain that lasted for five hours,” sobbed Bibi’s husband, Muzzamil Raza, describing the tragedy that hit his family on Aug. 14.
As the monsoon brings seasonal downpours and floods across Pakistan, Sialkot – 192 km (122 miles) from Islamabad – is the worst-hit district in Punjab province, in terms of fatalities and property damage.
An estimated 200 villages in Sialkot are waist-deep in floodwater, which has damaged homes and public infrastructure, as well as rice, cotton and vegetable crops on thousands of acres, according to local disaster officials.
Emerging from Himachal Pradesh state in northern India, the ChenabRiver enters Pakistan after passing through Indian-administered Kashmir. It flows through Punjab province’s northeastern districts and joins the Indus River in Multan district in southeast Punjab.
According to Asjad Imtiaz Ali, chairman of the Federal Flood Commission, the Chenab has experienced its first flood in 30 years, following exceptional rains in its catchment area.
“The river broke its banks at different places as the water level rose, particularly after India released (on Aug. 14) surplus floodwater into the river in its territory, to the sheer surprise of the Pakistani authorities concerned and without prior intimation as required under the Indus Waters Treaty agreement,” Imtiaz Ali told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Pakistan has suffered economic damages of more than $16 billion as a result of consecutive monsoon floods each year since 2010. Some 4,000 people were killed, thousands injured and millions displaced from their homes, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-12.
This year, again, the swelling floods in the Indus River and its tributaries in Pakistan – the Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej – are leaving behind a trail of devastation.
As of Aug. 21, 118 people had been killed, 812 injured and over 399,000 affected in different parts of the country. An estimated 1,700 villages have been hit by flash floods, with many of them vanishing completely, according to the latest loss and damage report from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Around 11,200 houses have been damaged fully or partially, and summer crops – rice, cotton, sugarcane, maize, peanut, millets, sunflower and vegetables – on over 325,000 acres of land have been devastated by heavy rains and flash floods.
Iftihar Ahmed, chairman of the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council, noted that prices of vegetables used in daily cooking have jumped 300 percent, raising “a serious threat of food insecurity” if damaged road and rail networks are not repaired urgently and financial support is not provided for farmers to re-sow their crops.
All rivers, including the Indus, are now flowing at full capacity, while the country’s two largest reservoirs, Mangla and Tarbela, in northern Pakistan are close to their maximum volume for the first time in many years.
People living near the reservoirs fear their homes will be washed away, as government authorities have asked them vacate the areas, amid the latest forecast for another spell of torrential rain during the last week of August in southern Punjab, eastern Balochistan and southern Sindh provinces.
The Punjab Disaster Management Authority said Mangla Dam and the Jehlum River had already overflowed on Aug. 15, flooding at least 500 houses in 12 residential areas of Kallar Syedan, a town in Rawalpindi district, a few kilometres east of Islamabad.
Nawaz Suleman, a resident of Dhoke Mistrian, one of the flooded suburbs, said the area looks like a collection of islands but local officials have not responded to pleas for families to be relocated to a safer place.
Flood Commission Chairman Imtiaz Ali said the coming bout of rainfall – due in the last week of August and first week of September and predicted to be the most intense so far of the ongoing monsoon – is likely to be catastrophic, as all the rivers are already in high flood and the reservoirs are brimming.
“Disaster management authorities have to take all possible measures to relocate people from vulnerable areas to safer locations and arrange for food items, medicines and water for emergency needs to avoid further death tolls,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation from Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province.
The floodwaters are now rushing southwards into Sindh province.
Sharjeel Memon, a spokesperson for the Sindh government, said from Karachi that the provincial authorities have declared an emergency at three main barrages – Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri – and have asked the Sindh Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority and the Sindh Irrigation Department to remain on high alert to cope with the emerging flood situation and provide relief.
Patchy aid responses by the disaster management authorities have drawn criticism from flood victims, humanitarian agencies and disaster risk management experts alike.
NDMA officials say they have taken adequate relief measures in flood-hit areas, but this claim has been met with scepticism.
The NDMA said 60 relief camps have been set up, housing 2,800 people. It has distributed nearly 23,000 tents among flood-hit families and provided them with 500 blankets.
But flood relief expert Sattar Zangejo said no substantial aid operations are being undertaken by the PDMAs in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, where he has been travelling to survey the situation for international humanitarian groups.
Zangejo worked with Oxfam and Plan International on relief and rehabilitation operations during the last three monsoon floods.
In Punjab, more than 90 percent of people have not received any assistance this time, and have had to relocate independently, he said.
“Despondency among the flood victims fleeing affected areas in Punjab and Sindh provinces was visible on their faces,” he said. “There is a clear absence of arrangements by the PDMAs for food items, medicines, clean drinking water and safe sanitation.”
There may be a bureaucratic reason for the delay in launching relief operations.
On Aug. 17, Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning and Development and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, told media in Islamabad that Rs. 16 billion (about $154.8 million) is urgently required by the NDMA for emergency flood operations.
“The federal finance ministry has been requested to make the required funds available and we hope it will release the funds soon to expedite relief and rehabilitation operations in flood-hit areas,” Iqbal said.
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are Islamabad-based correspondents specialising in climate change and development issues.
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 1 Aug 2013
SIALKOT, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – “We kept quivering with fear the whole night and could not sleep even a wink,” recalled Salma Zehra, a mother of five teenage children. The family trembled to think that the roof of their mud house could cave in at any time, as the rain lashed down in a huge thunderstorm.
By early morning on July 22, the house in Mehtabpur village in northeast Pakistan’s Sialkot district was waist-deep in water. The torrential downpour had left Zehra’s two buffaloes dead, the 45-year-old said in a shaky voice.
Another bout of heavy rain followed later that night. The Dek tributary of the Chenab River in Sialkot, 192 km (122 miles) from Islamabad, burst its banks, submerging more than 72 villages in the district.
Besides Sialkot, other districts in Punjab province have also suffered massive damage to crops across 1,000 hectares of land, as well as to properties. According to the district disaster management authorities of Sialkot, Gujranwala and Narowal, an estimated 400 villages have been flooded.
Officials have declined to give final figures for the losses, but say dozens have died and thousands of people remain stranded in the affected parts of the three districts. Some are starting to return home, but many houses have collapsed and must be rebuilt, they report.
Sialkot District Coordination Officer Iftikhar Ali Sahu told Thomson Reuters Foundation thousands of people had been trapped on the roofs of their houses during the worst of the flooding. “Mortality among cattle is high – the number of dead animals continued to rise as the floodwaters began to recede on July 26,” he added.
The situation in adjoining districts is just as bad. In Narowal alone, around 2,000 people were marooned on their rooftops in some seven villages a week ago.
Less than 30 percent of the floodwater has yet to recede, according to Mujahid Sherdil, director-general of the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority.
Machines have been brought in to help drain water out of the flood-affected areas, and he hopes the task will be accomplished in the next two to three days, he told Thomson Reuters Foundation from Lahore.
Sherdil said the torrential rainfall had caused breaches of irrigation canals, streams and natural dams, and the floods had washed away crops, livestock, roads, bridges, buildings and even entire villages.
Farmers say surviving cattle in flood-hit areas are now at risk.
“Besides paddy, maize and vegetable crops, fodder fields are also underwater. This has created an acute shortage of fodder, and it is barely possible to save our cattle from the looming threat of hunger and disease,” said Zehra’s husband, Ghulam Abbas.
The above-normal monsoon rains in Punjab’s northeastern districts have taken weather experts by surprise.
“Last month, we predicted that this year monsoon rains across the country would remain normal with no possibility of flooding. But unexpected heavy rains in the northeastern districts are startling for us,” said Ghulam Rasul, a senior weather scientist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) in Islamabad. “This shows how monsoon rains have become erratic and unpredictable in timing, volume and intensity.”
Sherdil, head of the Punjab disaster management agency, said the heavy rains and flooding had caught them unprepared.
“We were closely following the weekly and monthly forecasts of PMD that never predicted heavy rains of unprecedented significance for July in northeastern parts, which have been nearly 40 percent above normal for the month,” he said.
It has been difficult to get aid into the affected areas due to damaged and flooded roads and bridges, he said. “Nevertheless, we left no stone unturned to get the emergency relief items including food, medicines, to the flood victims on boats – although (they arrived) a bit late,” he added.
In June 2012, scientists argued in the Nature Climate Change journal that global warming would make understanding changes in the South Asian monsoon more difficult.
They said the impacts of short- and long-term monsoon shifts would affect the lives of over a billion people in the region, who rely on rainfall for agriculture, hydropower generation, economic growth and basic human needs.
Understanding how the South Asian monsoon will alter due to climate change is necessary to cope with the effects, reduce the risk of disasters and safeguard people’s livelihoods, they underlined.
“Addressing the uncertainties in projected changes of the monsoon variability in coming years will remain a daunting challenge for climate scientists,” said Arshad Abbasi, a water and energy expert at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad.
Arshad Khan, the executive director of the Global Change Impact Study Centre (GCISC), the research arm of Pakistan’s Federal Climate Change Division, said the country is in the grip of unpredictable weather patterns.
Intense monsoon rains will be a common phenomenon, particularly on the country’s southern plains which lack water reservoirs and are highly vulnerable to floods, he warned.
And a spurt in the speed of glacial melt, due to rising global temperatures and above-normal monsoon rains, is likely to cause rivers to overflow and burst their banks across the country, he added.
Officials at the Climate Change Division, which operates under the oversight of the prime minister, said efforts are underway to tackle the vagaries of climate change across different sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture and water.
“Consultations are being made with national and provincial disaster management authorities, and officials of federal and provincial environment, agriculture, irrigation departments to implement national climate change policy to mitigate the impacts of changing weather patterns and erratic monsoon rains,” said a senior official, who coordinates policy at federal and provincial levels.
The Climate Change Division is developing climate adaptation plans for the agriculture, water and irrigation sectors, which will be implemented in Pakistan’s four provinces in collaboration with international NGOs and provincial government offices.
It is also working on programmes to ensure that climate change is considered in other sectors such as health and education, to make them more climate-resilient.
Abbasi of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute said the best ways to avert the growing threat of floods in Pakistan include efficient watershed management, reforestation in northern mountain areas and the revival of riverine forests.
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are Islamabad-based journalists specialising in climate change and development issues.
The life of Northern areas in Pakistan is prone to effects of climatic change.The devastating rains which flooded the houses and farms and fields of the people were due to climatic change the experts say. Northern areas of Pakistan are hilly and mountainous areas having a large population solely dependent on fruits,and agriculture.But due to climatic changes,the changes in temperatures and shifting in the moon soon seasons the crops are badly effected.The floods have added to it more.
The public of the area need to be educated to adapt to the climatic changes and earn their livelihood.The international community must come forward with humanitarian assistance for adapting,educating and helping of the people of these areas.
The 2013 South Asian Monsoon has left a trail of death and destruction from the southern coast o fSri Lanka, through Uttarakhand, India into Pakistan. Experts say that real time data and information sharing among the affected countries could reduce the dangers posed by the rains. – http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/08/when-disaster-rains-talk/