Ecosystems degradation threatening water, food security: Climate experts

Zubair Qureshi

The climate experts speaking at a webinar opined that the provincial and the federal governments have failed to protect habitats despite all policies, action plans and allocation of funds and ecosystems’ degradation is threatening water and food security.

The online seminar titled Ecosystem restoration for water and Food Security for All” was organized by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) and DTN.

They said the core reasons for the degradation of ecosystems they cited were the unchecked deforestation, use of land change and overexploitation of natural resources including subsurface water.

Aquifers are depleting causing severe threat to water security as “we have already reached below the required water per capita.”

The unsustainable adaptation mechanisms have led us to a dangerous situation.

We are among the top five countries most vulnerable to disasters and climate change impact that would immensely affect water and food security.

The panel of experts included Senior Scientist and Technical Advisor Ashiq Ahmed Khan, PFAN Country Director Saima Qadir, former Federal Planning Commission chief for water sector and Chair Development Finance Nasee Gillani, Water Security expert Dr. Zainab Ahmad, Food Security and Climate Change expert Aftab Alam Khan, Global Change Impact Study Centre expert Arif Goheer, environmental expert and activist Seema Taher (Karachi), adventure tourism expert Tahir Imran Khan (Lahore), Nighat Advocate Husnain (UK), Water and Cliamte Change expert Dr. Zaigham Khan, Balochistan University professor Dr. Zahoor Bazai, and Saaim Khan from Fauji Fertilizers Corporation (Lahore).

Climate advocacy expert and Executive Director Devcom-Pakistan Munir Ahmed said, “Pakistan’s all eleven ecosystems are under severe threats because of the negligence and inefficient management by the governments.

There is no sufficient check on deforestation that has declined to much less than two percent.

The 10 billion tree tsunami project is focusing more on plantation of saplings while timber and housing mafias are free to their will for changing the land-use and chopping off trees. Illegal hunting of migratory birds remained unchecked.
Biodiversity habitats are in shambles.

There is no integrated and inclusive strategy for ecosystem restoration.
It speaks of the priority of government while hosting the international event of World Environment day on June 5.”

Saima Qadir said Over 4.7 million hectare of forest lost annually from the global map. Ecosystem loss is destroying natural habits and biodiversity, and carbon sinks found in forests at a critical tipping point for climate change.

In addition to mitigating Greenhouse Gases, maintaining biodiversity through restoring ecosystems is equally important for sustaining life on earth.

Covid-19 has been disastrous for ecosystem loss and its restoration means repairing billions of hectares of land so people could have access to food, clean water, and jobs.

She said the rapid loss has left with us only six years instead of ten to control and manage the loss of ecosystems in Pakistan.

Naseer Gillani said Pakistan Food Security has not been allocated specific investment with respect to restoration of Ecosystems.

The UN Decade calls for 3.5 million hectares of land back to its original productivity but we had not announced to reverse soil degradation projects.

On the other hand, immense change of land-use is taking place unnoticed. Ground water management is totally missing while 39 Canal Commands are withdrawing more water than recharge hence water table is lowering reducing the storage and increasing the cost of pumping out.

Ground water over-mining is resulting in saline water intrusion thus making the ground water use hazardous.

He mentioned that soil salinity is on increase due to less availability of canal water.
The construction of Mohmand Dam will bring insignificant increase in irrigated agriculture only 17000 acres at an official cost of Rs. 304 billion that practically would rise up to minimum Rs750 billion.

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