Pakistan’s mountain farmers ‘helpless’ in face of erratic weather

By Saleem Shaikh 
Thu, 3 Oct 2013 01:03 PM
AlertNet Climate, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Farmer Bibi Baskiya describes the sudden cloudburst that damaged her maize crop just a few days from harvest time in Danyore, a village in Gilgit district in Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin area. TRF/Saleem Shaikh

DANYORE, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – One night was all it took for Bibi Baskiya’s fortunes to be reversed. In June the young farmer had sown maize on half an acre of land in Danyore, a scenic mountain village in northern Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province.

On Sept. 12 it was sunny and the skies were so clear that Baskiya watered her crop from a nearby spring, certain there would be no rain. But that night, her hopes of a good harvest were destroyed.

“A sudden rainstorm and heavy winds flattened 80 percent of the standing crop,” she said. The maize is now only good to be used as fodder for her cattle, and she will not recover the cost of cultivating it.

Baskiya is one of many farmers in this remote region whose livelihoods are threatened by the effects of erratic weather and climate change. Experts say measures are desperately needed to help them adapt to unreliable rainfall, but few – if any – are available so far.

“We farmers are really helpless before the inconsistent weather,” said Baskiya. “We are thinking to abandon growing maize and wheat, and cultivate cash crops like tomato and potato instead that are short-duration and less water-intensive.”

Maize is the most important summer crop after wheat in northern Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin (UIB). The grain is harvested to eat, while the stover (dried stalks and leaves) is used to feed livestock during the winter.

“Owing to erratic weather patterns, the area under the staple crops in most of Gilgit-Baltistan province in UIB has shrunk alarmingly, and vegetables are now being grown as cash crops,” said Asmat Ali, director of the province’s agriculture department.

An estimated 70 percent of the wheat consumed locally must now be imported from Punjab province in eastern Pakistan and Sindh in the south, Ali added.

LIGHTNING STRIKES

Cash crop farmers are also suffering the consequences of extreme weather.

Ali Da’ad, 50, a vegetable farmer in Danyore, said his potato and tomato crops have been struck by lightning several times.

“There has been a significant escalation in lightning activity and thunderstorms over the last 10 years, particularly during summer months,” Da’ad said.

The lightning has triggered fires, damaging crops and endangering populated areas. At the same time, rainfall is increasingly unpredictable, causing crops to fail.

“In Gilgit district, rains are no longer even and fall patchily during the summer months,” Da’ad explained. “Sometimes it is intense and sometimes not.”

Muhammad Iqbal, chairman of Local Support Organisation Danyore (LSO-D), a nongovernmental group working for rural development, said rains are unequal even within Danyore village. “When it rains in the eastern part of the village, the west remains without it,” he said.

DELAYED SNOW MELT

Gilgit-Baltistan is home to the world’s largest frozen water reservoir, which feeds the Indus river system – a lifeline for Pakistan’s agro-based economy.

Farmers in the province depend on melting snow from April onwards to replenish streams, enabling them to sow seasonal vegetables and maize from late May. But Da’ad said prolonged winter weather is causing the snows to melt later, making it difficult to plant crops in time.

Nek Parveen of LSO-D said this year streams filled 50 days later than expected.

“Women wheat farmers in Sultanabad village (adjacent to Danyore) suffered substantial financial losses early this April, as they had to prematurely harvest after farmers sensed (the crop’s) growth had halted,” Parveen said.

According to Ghulam Rasul, a scientist at the state-owned Pakistan Meteorology Department in Islamabad, rainfall in the province has become less frequent but more intense over the past 50 years.

The decrease in winter precipitation and snowfall due to rising temperatures in the area is affecting Pakistan’s hydrological cycle and hampering the country’s agricultural growth, Rasul said.

“Investing in farmers’ climate adaptation capacity building and knowledge development can help them cope with impacts of climatic variability on their crops,” said LSO-D’s Iqbal.

HARD TO REACH

Iqbal sees a need for the construction of small or medium-sized reservoirs in the foothills and plains, so that water from streams can be harvested for use during the dry season and the winter, both for farming and domestic purposes.

But there has been little progress in the province so far, where development agencies are hampered by the inaccessibility of much of the terrain, political inertia, and a volatile security situation due to conflict between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim sects.

Jamil Uddin, who manages programmes in the Gilgit region for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), said his organisation plans to introduce climate mitigation and adaptation measures for the province’s farmers.

“Our experiences show that information-sharing programmes for mountain farmers and communities about better, proven adaptation and mitigation measures can enable (them) to cope with the aftermath of rapidly occurring climatic variability,” he said.

The AKRSP hopes to bring climate-resilient crop varieties and water conservation technologies to farmers.

According to LSO-D’s Iqbal, transmitting weather forecasts via FM radio and free SMS texts on mobile phones would help farmers, who now rely on indigenous techniques that are increasingly inaccurate as weather patterns become harder to predict.

Iqbal emphasised that helping mountain farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change is vital to support the livelihoods of rural people and maintain an acceptable level of food security.

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Weblinkhttp://www.trust.org/item/20131003130344-27fjs/?source=hptop

Climate change hits Ctg, Mongla ports hard

Wednesday, 02 October 2013

By Syful Islam

Impacts of climate change are frequently disrupting operations in the country’s two seaports causing huge financial losses, port officials have said.

Bangladesh is among the countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change where storms, cyclones, flash floods, poor rainfall, droughts, and river bank erosion have become increasingly visible nowadays.

Officials of the Chittagong port, in a recent report said that being located at the coast of the Bay of Bengal the port is exposed to cyclones and storm surges and highly vulnerable to tidal surges.

“Most of the disastrous events the port experienced are related to climate change and there has been phenomenal increase in their frequency, severity and unpredictability in the recent times.

“The most severe impacts have been visualised in terms of sea level rise leading to submergence of port areas,” Syed Farhad Uddin Ahmed, secretary of the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) wrote to the Shipping Ministry recently.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a report in 2007 said a one-metre rise in sea levels may swamp 17 per cent of Bangladesh’s low-lying areas and displace 20 million people by 2050. The IPCC in its Fifth Assessment Report, released on September 27, projected that by 2100 the sea-level might rise by 28-98 centimetres.

The World Bank Group in June this year said among the South Asian nations Bangladesh will be most affected by an expected 2° Celsius temperature rise in the next decades.

It said if temperature is up by 2.5 ° Celsius, the flood areas in Bangladesh could increase by as much as 29 per cent.

Mr Ahmed said occasionally the port operational works suffer badly and sustains damages and losses.

He told the FE that the canals and low-lying areas of the port area are being submerged even in high tide disrupting activities.

Citing some examples Mr Ahmed said during the cyclone Mahasen, the activities in Chittagong port were halted for 9 hours. The port operations remained suspended for over three days during the cyclone of 1991.

Port operations were also disrupted during major cyclones like Sidr and Aila which stuck Bangladesh’s coasts in 2007 and 2009.

Director of Mongla Port Authority Hawlader Zakir Hossain told the FE the port’s advantage is that it is located some 130 kilometres from the seashore.

“But natural disaster often disrupts activities of the port in one way or another. The cyclones Sidr and Aila had halted the port operations as those hit the nearest area with fierce velocity,” he said.

Sources said the CPA in 1992 had formulated cyclone guidelines to help contain the effects of such disasters and keep the port operational immediately after any major cyclone strikes. The cyclone disaster preparedness and post cyclone rehabilitation plan, initiated by the port is a useful tool for disaster management.

The SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Secretariat is preparing a plan of action for disaster management which the CPA thinks will help establish a regional disaster management system to reduce risks.

Most of Bangladesh’s export-import activities take place through the country’s two seaports.

http://fe-bd.com/index.php?ref=MjBfMTBfMDJfMTNfMV8yXzE4NTUwMg==

Pakistan’s crop yields hit by erratic rainfall

Saleem Shaikh
Scidev.net
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. 

Weblink: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy6ETXTDO8U
Alternative weblink: http://www.scidev.net/south-asia/environment/multimedia/erratic-weather-threatens-livelihoods-in-pakistan-1.html

Pakistan’s crop yields hit by erratic rainfall. Photo credit: Saleem Shaikh

Pakistan’s Punjab builds model villages to withstand disasters

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 22 Aug 2013

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.

PRIVATE-SECTOR INVOLVEMENT

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.

CLIMATE-RESILIENT CONSTRUCTION

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

Weblinkhttp://www.trust.org/item/20130822095211-5o2mi/

Aid lacking in flood-hit Pakistan, fresh rains due

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 21 Aug 2013

A family carries their belongings as they wade through floodwaters in Dera Allah Yar, in the Jaffarabad district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Aug. 6, 2013. REUTERS/Amir Hussain

 

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.

FOOD FEARS

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.

CATASTROPHE LOOMS?

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.

‘DESPONDENT’ SURVIVORS

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.

Weblink: http://www.trust.org/item/20130821100743-izs0m/

Northeast Pakistan hit by ‘surprise’ floods, as monsoon rains intensify

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 1 Aug 2013

A mud house surrounded by floodwater in flood-hit Narowal district, Punjab province. PHOTO/Punjab PDMA

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.

METEOROLOGISTS ‘STARTLED’

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.

MONSOON SHIFTS

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.

GOVERNMENT EFFORTS

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.

Weblinkhttp://www.trust.org/item/20130801085120-sk59n/

Ladakh Invites New Scarcities

Athar Parvaiz

LADAKH, India, Sep 24 2013 (IPS) – The Ladakh of today is a different world from the one Skarma Namgiyal remembers as a child. Back then, he had taken for granted the breathtaking beauty of its landscape, the purity of the cold mountain air, and the sweet taste of water in its streams.

Today, at 47 years of age, this resident of Tukcha village in Leh district in the north of Kashmir cannot believe they are digging borewells for water, using water to flush toilets in their homes in place of the dry toilets they had been accustomed to, and having to cope with sewage flowing right up to their houses.

Climate change, booming tourism and modern practices are wreaking havoc in this high altitude cold desert in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. The average elevation in Ladakh is 11,000 ft above sea level and temperatures swing between minus 35 degrees Celsius in winters to 35 degrees in summer. Annual rainfall in the region is less than four inches.

Earlier, water from the melting glaciers would be enough to cater to the needs of the locals, Namgiyal tells IPS. But with less snowfall and warmer summers, some of the glaciers have vanished altogether while others too are fast melting.

“Look at Khardongla,” says Namgiyal’s neighbour Tsering Kushu. “It used to be a huge glacier. It is not there anymore.”

More at: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/09/ladakh-invites-new-scarcities/

Himalayas need many disaster warning systems

 

Athar Parvaiz

This summer’s flash floods spread across the Himalayas –in India, Pakistan and Nepal – have underscored the urgent need to install early warning systems

http://www.thethirdpole.net/himalayas-needs-many-disaster-warning-systems/