Extreme floods and droughts will continue to hit Pakistan: new survey

June 6, 2015 Off By Web Desk

KARACHI: The new Pakistan Economic Survey 2014-15 says climate change affects people and the environment in many ways. Some of these impacts, like hurricanes and severe heat waves could be life threatening. Other factors like spreading weeds will be less serious. The global community is now acknowledging that climate change will be the most destructive element of nature in the coming century. Pakistan is a very small contributor to the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, but the country will be mostly impacted by the negative effects of climate change.

According to the survey, events like increased glacier melt, and extreme floods and droughts, etc. are already hitting the country and will continue to do so in future. Considerable increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events coupled with erratic monsoon rains causing frequent and intense floods and droughts are going to be the main concern. The projected recession of Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan glaciers due to global warming and carbon soot deposits from trans- boundary pollution sources will threaten water inflows into Indus River System (IRS).

Overall changes in the weather system may cause decrease in the already scanty forest cover due to rapid change in climatic conditions to allow natural migration of adversely affected plant species. Intrusion of saline water in the Indus delta will also adversely affect coastal agriculture, mangroves and breeding grounds of fish.

Pakistan’s geographical location and socioeconomic fragility had made it at the top of the list of countries that are most vulnerable to the environmental, social and economic ramifications of climate change (German watch, 2011).Lack of resources and capabilities to adapt to the changes will worsen the situation. Climate change increases the variability of monsoon rains and enhances the frequency and severity of extreme events such as floods and droughts. The extreme conditions of the weather in Pakistan like the floods of 2010, 2011 and 2012, worst drought during 1999-2003, two cyclones in one month in Karachi/Gwadar coasts in 2008 and increased incidence of landslides, GLOFS (Glacial Lake Outburst Floods) in the northern areas of Pakistan bear testimony to the ugly face of climate change.

Under the 10 years National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) institutional capacity building is being enhanced to combat disasters in first phase of this plan, surveillance and forecasting capacity is being enhanced by replacing and installing weather surveillance radars at various places of the country. Strategy to achieve the objectives of environment protection is to include the following elements: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the center-piece of development efforts of the Government of Pakistan. The achievement of sustainable environmental targets (Goal-7) needs active persuasion at all levels.

An action plan for implementation of National Climate Change policy has been finalized and requires adequate sharing of responsibilities at all levels for its implementation. In the wake of the 18th Amendment, environmental regulation of the country is reviewed in consultation with federal and provincial environmental protection agencies, civil society and private sector. This will help in better implementation of policies and rules.

Involvement of private sector and NGOs in specific relation to Public Private Partnership for effective and efficient conversation and management of natural resources. The MDG target for access to sanitation is 90 percent by 2015. Pakistan’s forest cover and protected area had remained more or less constant over the last decade. The country’s forest cover and protected areas are unlikely to change in the coming years too because of the climatic conditions and population pressures. Pakistan has surpassed its target of converting 0.920 million of vehicles on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) with more than 2.8 million vehicles reported to be running on CNG. Pakistan is on track to meet the target for land protection for the conservation of wildlife as a percentage of total land area.

However, there is a lag in equity based indicators of forest cover, sulphur content in high speed diesel, proportion of population with access to sanitation and energy efficiency. The government has instructed oil refineries to reduce the sulfur content in high speed diesel from current levels of 1% to 0.5% or less to meet Euro standard specifications. This would require significant investment by refineries, and it is not clear if this target can be achieved. Lack of awareness about environmental issues as well as gross violation of government regulations pose serious challenges in overcoming this lag.

[In the list of environmentally vulnerable countries, Pakistan is ranked among the top few. Urbanization of the country has made serious changes to the ecosystem of the urban and rural areas of the country. The biodiversity of the country is under threat due to the massive depletion of natural resources. The Government of Pakistan recognized the need to conserve biodiversity and is now committed to several international protocols and conventions. Pakistan has also set sight on the goals of sustainable development through vision 2025. Avoiding environmental degradation will ensure food, water and environmental securities in the future.