There is no proper climate change policy in Pakistan, experts conclude

There is no proper climate change policy in Pakistan, say experts. Policies are made here to get funding from international donors. 

“Climate change is a threat multiplier. There are other more critical threats but climate will multiply their impact,” said HEC chairman Dr Tariq Banuri on Friday. He was speaking at the inauguration session of a two-day conference on climate change — An Existential Challenge for Pakistan — organised by PIIA. “It is real, it is here and we caused it though we are quite sure that we also know how to fix it, but only if we cooperate,” said Dr Banuri, adding that the window for acting was short and closing fast. “There will be pain, nevertheless, we have to adapt. We also have to learn to prosper in a world defined by climate change,” he said. Bringing up the four horsemen and their horses of the Book of Revelation who symbolise the evils to come at the end of the world such as conquest, war, famine and death, he said that over the years things such as the industrial revolution, the manufacturing of pesticides, introduction of vaccines, etc, have pretty much warded off threats of famine, death, etc as more people today die of obesity than hunger and the incidence of premature deaths was also on the way out.

“But if we think that we have pushed back the four [horsemen] of the apocalypse, just know that climate change is bringing them back in,” he said. He also said that the government here was not serious about doing anything for climate change. “So there is really no such thing as climate policy here. No one knows what is happening as the policies here are not made to solve issues, they are made to see how to get funding from international donors,” he said. Prof Dr Noman Ahmed, the dean of the faculty of architecture at the NED University, started his presentation on ‘Citizens’ Concerns about Climate Change’ with a little story about him going to Lea Market for his research and casually asking a labourer there about the heatwave and its repercussions on people like him.

“He said that the heatwave was a good thing as it brought about several positive changes like so many people representing organisations he hadn’t even heard of offering cool water bottles to everyone,” he said finishing his story.

About some common concerns of the people about climate change in Pakistan, Dr Ahmed said that they wonder if there was a city plan and a climate change mitigation plan in place or if vulnerable communities, their assets and livelihoods were protected and whether there were institutional arrangements in place to deal with emergencies.

Talking about emergencies, he spoke about the tsunami risk through the Makran coast, tropical storms, cyclones through the Arabian Sea and oil leaks from ships due to poor port management and monitoring practices.

Some of the things proposed by him included initiation of pilot community-based risk reduction mechanisms and monitoring and coordination with all the key stakeholders such as the Pakistan Meteorological Department, National Disaster Management Authority, Provincial Disaster Manage­ment Authorities, the National Institute of Oceanography, universities, etc.

Published in Dawn, 4 May 2019

‘No country can ignore the impacts of climate change’

Day two of the conference on climate change titled ‘An Existential Challenge for Pakistan’ organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) comprised reading of several technical papers focusing on subjects including good governance and conservation, water resources and future projections.

Speaking about good governance and conservation in the context of climate change, architect and town planner Arif Hasan said that climate change had motivated the government here to set up many centralised organisations such as the National Disaster Management Authority and Provincial Disaster Management Authorities. However they did not really have the capacity to deal with disaster situations. Then there are also mitigation and management issues regarding infrastructure and land departments.

“During the 2010 floods, I worked in areas where the floods took place and the volume of water in earlier floods was far more though the disaster was bigger in 2010. It was because the land departments were not functioning well. There was no cleaning of canals, no desilting of drains, deforestation had also taken place with failure of the irrigation department in carrying out its normal functions,” he said. Mr Hasan pointed out:

Then between 1983 and 2010, there had been much construction on the flood plains with villages and even schools there while under the law there shouldn’t be any settlements there. Then in 2011, too, it was the same story.

About the heat island effect in Karachi where over a thousand people died when the temperature went up to 42 degrees Celsius for six days in 2015, he said that earlier the city had also witnessed higher temperatures of 48 degrees Celsius and still no one had died. “So what changed? Human settlements and the nature of these settlements changed. Research by Dr Noman Ahmed of NED University shows that those rushed to hospitals at the time came from high-rises in katchi abadis where there is little ventilation so there is a need for cheap methods of insulation and ventilation,” he said. He also said that Pakistan had spent lots of money in developing infrastructure but not much for maintenance.

Dr Mohammad Zia Hashmi, head of the water section of the Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) in Islamabad spoke about the ‘Impact of climate change on Pakistan’s water resources from the mountains to the sea’. Looking at the journey of water from the snowy and glacier-rich northern mountainous part of the country to the confluence of the Indus River with the Arabian Sea at the endangered Indus River delta, he said that basically everything was about water. “If we can think of water in a better way, we can handle climate change in a better way, too,” he said.

Dr Mohammad Mansha, director, Earth Sciences, Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, had several climate predictions such as floods, droughts, cyclones, about which he said that they were expected to increase in frequency and severity in the coming decades.

Speaking about priorities in the face of climate change, Dr Shahbaz Mehmood, head of the Climatology and Environment Section at GCISC, said that Pakistan for almost the last decade had consistently been ranked among the top 10 countries most affected by climate change. “The major climate change-related concerns of Pakistan include increased risk of extreme climate events, increased monsoon variability, food insecurity, health risks and rising sea levels. He also said that the mean annual temperature over Pakistan has increased with a greater increase in Sindh and Balochistan.

Adil Najam (pictured above) dean, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University, USA, spoke about ‘Pakistan in the age of adaptation’. “Because the world has been unwilling and unable to respond to the great threat of global climate change in time with appropriate measures of mitigation, we are now condemned to live in what I call the ‘Age of Adaptation’,” he said. “Adaptation after all, is essential. Ignoring the impacts of climate change is no longer a luxury that any country can afford, least of all, Pakistan,” he added.

Retired General Tariq Waseem Ghazi; chairman emeritus, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority Jamshed Azim Hashmi; former member Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Javed Iqleem and PIIA’s chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan also spoke.

Published in Dawn, 5 May 2019

 ‘We are responsible for the adverse global climate change’

We have poisoned our atmosphere by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide which accumulates in the atmosphere has raised average temperatures worldwide.

This warning was sounded by Dr Tariq Banuri, chairman, Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, Islamabad, in his keynote address, delivered at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Friday at the beginning of a two-day conference on climate change, titled, “Climate change: an existential challenge for Pakistan”.

In his highly erudite discourse, he said the indiscriminate pumping of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere had raised the temperature in Pakistan by 0.6 degrees centigrade, as in other places around the globe too. Besides, he said, climate change was a threat multiplier.

“The poison that we’ve introduced will take centuries to end. So, for all practical purposes, we may conclude that that climate change is there to stay,” said Dr Banuri.

Another factor which, he said, what was creating an environmental was the crisis of burgeoning population and this population expansion, he said, had caused a water shortage.

Dr Banuri said that the only way to control the environmental rot was: cooperate. What he meant was that all concerned agencies and individuals would have to cooperate to beat the crisis.

He said that we must get it straight that the climate change is real, the change is already happening, and the change is here to stay.

He said that there was 99 percent probability that we had caused the climate change.

There were, however, positive portents too, he said. The crippling famines that were common towards the early 19th century were not there anymore. The world was now feeding itself.

Average life expectancy had increased. Child mortality rate had gone down considerably, people’s standards of living had improved. However, he said, we risked the return of all these curses with the unbridled climate change.

The existential threat, he said, stemmed from prosperity, disasters, energy shortages, finance and trade.

Talking about Pakistan’s climate policy, he cited the policy of the NCCP (National Climate Change Policy, which, unfortunately, he said, had shown no results.

He cited the Pakistan Climate Change Act 2017, and he said that no council or authority in this regard had been formed. He said that for all practical purposes, a climate policy did not really exist.

He said that we must emulate the Chinese example, whereas up until 2000 the Chinese were not in this business at all, by 2005, they were exporting nuclear reactors and solar energy equipment with the result that they had gathered enough capital to further fuel their economic development. He called upon Pakistan to follow this example.

In his talk titled, ‘Some common concerns of Karachi’s citizens’, Dr Noman Ahmed, professor and dean, Faculty of Architecture, NED University of Engineering and Technology, mentioned that the heatwave of 2017 that claimed 65 lives and said that among the various reasons for these was unplanned densification of inner city areas, illegal land division without any governmental control, water inappropriately managed and distributed, natural creeks and storm drains being clogged with tons and tons of garbage, and no devolution, densification of inner city squatters and shrinking of spaces, and no urban planning policy.

Water outlets in Boating Basin and China Creek, he said were flooded with raw sewage from Katchi Abadis in the vicinity. Earlier, Dr Masuma Hassan, chairperson, PIIA, in her welcome address, said:

We have convened this conference because climate change is considered to be the greatest threat to our planet in the 21st Century. While many governments may have dragged their feet, people have mobilised against it. Young people have gone on school strikes and taken to the streets to draw attention to the disasters of climate change.

She cited the case of Greta Thunberg whose activism had led her to address the highest for a on the issue, the World Economic Forum, the European parliament, and the United Nations.

Published in the News International

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Filed under Climate Change, Discussion, Karachi, Pakistan, Policymaking

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