Muhammad Zahid Rifat
PAKISTAN ranks amongst the top ten countries of the world which are most vulnerable to climate change. Increasingly frequent and more intensive floods, heat waves and cyclonic activities which have resulted in substantial financial, material and human losses over the recent years. Quite alarmingly, the Global Climate Change Risk Index 2017 has ranked Pakistan as the 7th most vulnerable country affected by climate change while on the other hand, Pakistan is ranked at 135th place among the Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emitting countries in the same index.
Temperature has already gone past 43 degrees in Karachi this season where more than 60 people including young and old have already died and more are becoming victims of persistent heat wave. It is matter of bitter record that more than 1200 people had lost their lives due to the unprecedented heat weave in Karachi only couple of years back in 2015.
Climate change is perceived as of the major challenges to humanity due to its devastating effects on human lives, economic growth and prosperity.
It has been projected by the experts that by 2050, temperature globally will rise by 2-3 centigrade due to concentrations of Greenhouses Gases (GHG), resulting in decrease in glacial areas ranging from 20 per cent to 28 per cent by 2050. Rise in temperature, melting of glaciers and increased population accompanied by somewhat unprecedented urbanization will disrupt economic activities in the country. Population in an unabated and unchecked manner will obviously continue increasing demand for food and increased air and water pollution will be degrading the available land resources. This will result in an uneven distribution of share of resources among the masses at the global, regional awell as national levels with respect to access to food and a secure lioving environment.
Natural resources are being speedily deleted at an alarming rate causing loss of biodiversity and deforestation. Change in land use has significantly contributed towards climate change and destruction of local environment. The underground and surface water is being polluted due to the use of pesticides and fertilizers at large in the agriculture sector. On the other hand, burning of crops residues are also resulting in heavy smog formation which disrupts air and road travel in the plain areas for weeks together. As a matter of fact, Pakistan has been facing the worst effects of climate change in the preceding decade because of its geographic location.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has undertaken a number of studies and assessments which show that last five floods between 2010 to 2014 have resulted in huge monetary losses of over 18 billion dollars, affected large number of 38.12 million people and damaged around 3.45 million houses and 10.63 million acres of crops
Building resilience and adaptation to climate is thus becoming indispensible for Pakistan. Fotunately, environmentally sound technologies are gaining a high priority in sustainable development strategy, dialogue and implementation frameworks.
Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) is one of the important steps towards identifying and assessing climate change adaptation challenges for Pakistan in order to align its adaptation needs and opportunities and objectives of its sustainable development. Furthermore, in order to mitigate the impact of climate change, the federal government has taken number of different initiatives, one of them is Green Pakistan . Under this programme, 100 million trees are planned to be planted across the country in five years.
The subject of environment has already been transferred to the provinces but climate which holds a wider scope is with the federal government. Different projects under the Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme are under implementation in various parts of the country. These include Revival of Forestry Resources in Pakistan, Revival of Wildlife Resources in Pakistan and Strengthening Zoological Survey of Pakistan There are also projects like development of reverse linkages with MARMARA Research Centre Turkey which are likely to enhance our capacities to predict disasters like floods and earthquakes. Turkey will also be providing enhanced support and capacity in seismic research and development
During financial year 2018-19, number of measures are planned to be initiated expeditiously for developing policies and procedures to keep the disastrous effects of climate change to the barest minimum possible. These measures, according to the information available from official sources concerned, are as follow:
Transformation of existing environmental policies into practice by implementing a programme -based approach and to identify gaps and issues, activities and action plan to overcome the environmental issues. A realistic approach in the management of ecosystem will be carried out with the special emphasis on imperative ecosystem segments such as protection of biodiversity, water conservation and soil erosion protection, carbon sequestration and biodiversity ,etc.
Supply of drinkable water and sanitation services in Pakistan require special attention as presently a large number of households do not have access to enough potable or shallow water and there is lack of proper sanitation also. Poor sanitation leads to sickness as well as negative impact on ecosystem. Accordingly , a strategy to improve sanitation and to expand access to clean drinkable water , particularly in the rural areas ,is being implemented by the federal government with the help of provincial governments. Due to acute water scarcity in the country, waste water treatment is imperative for the continuous and affluent supply of water for agriculture. Despite having the potential and capacity of our industry for designing and fabricating water water/sewage treatment plants locally, only a meager portion of industrial waste water is being treated and reused. As such, a Wastewater Treatment Programme for treatment and recycling of industrial effluents is planned to be initiated in the country in collaboration with the provincial governments.
For increasing much-needed forestry cover and enhancement natural resources, a strategy to develop forest cover along with conservation and restoration of the natural resources of the country is also planned to be implemented through applied approach of ownership. A strategy will also be designed to prepare the locals to manage forest areas and wild lands around their residences. This will also include provision of alternate energy resources to the residents of foest cover areas such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) at affordable price.
Furthermore, as the shortage of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) promotes the use of cheaper gasoline, the automakers will be given stringent specifications to develop and market zero carbon emission vehicles. The new auto policy will hopefully enable the federal government to keep a vigilant eye on the producers, while a vehicle certification policy is also under active consideration which will not allow polluting vehicles on the roads.
Adaptation and mitigation are two main strategies for addressing the climate related issues. Since Pakistan has experienced several adverse climate impacts over the years and adaptation to these impacts is necessary for ensuring socio-economic development, Ministry of Climate Change has taken many initiatives in the area of climate change adaptation and mitigation in accordance with the National Policy. These initiatives are as given hereunder:-
a) To ensure effective implementation of the National Climate Change Policy and its Framework.
b) Ministry of Climate Change has completed the process of signing and ratification of Paris Agreement by the Federal Government.
c) Pakistan Climate Change Council and Pakistan Climate Change Authority in the process of being established to address the issues of climate change and meet Pakistan’s obligations under international conventions relating to climate change.
d) Ministry of Climate Change with the support of Climate Technology Centre is carrying out Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) in the country. The objective behindthis activity is to enable Pakistan to cobduct TNA process and produce implementable Technology Action Plan (TAP) in line with the current policies.
e) Programme “Strengthening Pakistan’s National Policy Frameworks to Facilitate Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Consumption and Production “ is underway with the support of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).The progamme aims to provide support in creating and strengthening environment for resource efficiency and SCP National Action Plan covering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its linkages with Climate Change.
f) Preparation of Pakistan’s Second National Communication on Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emissions is in progress.
g) Biennial Update Report (BUR) is an extended report on National Communications, which describes the status of GHG emissions and mitigation measures taken by the countries. Ministry of Climate Change has accordingly started preparatory work on Pakistan’s first BUR. More about Pakistan’s compliance with the International Framework for Climate Change for some other time in view of the length of this piece, please.