High time to intensify droughts mitigation responses | By Dr Muhammad Mumtaz

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High time to intensify droughts mitigation responses

THE United Nations (UN) has recently rated Pakistan in the list of those 23 countries that are facing drought emergency.

Droughts reportedly have caused global economic losses of approximately USD 124 billion from 1998 to 2017.

Beside this, more than 160 million children are exposed to severe and prolonged droughts in the world.

As such, droughts are a real threat that the world is experiencing.Droughts have emerged as one of the most damaging natural hazards in the world.

They have posed multi-fold impacts. On one hand, they have devastating impacts on economic and adversely effecting social and ecosystem.

On the other hand, these droughts are triggering local and international migrations and conflicts.

There must be an understanding of driving factors of droughts to appropriately mitigate their adverse impacts.

Whereas the primary causes of droughts are natural however climate change reinforces their severity, frequency and duration.

Other notable factors are deforestation, governance challenges in water management and soil degradation are also major drivers for strongly exacerbating the impacts of droughts.

Global efforts are being taken to counter the negative consequences of droughts. Developed countries possess reasonable resources and strategies to cope with droughts.

Developing countries like Pakistan that is already experiencing severe impacts of climate change and regular droughts must look in it and devise proactive and sustainable strategies.

For such strategies, consideration to the local context and adaptability practices are important.

For this, navigating adaptive strategies at local scale are important measures to address the challenge.

However, there must be a proper mechanism to forecast and present true picture of droughts so that local communities can equip themselves well in time and confront the challenge accordingly.

It is imperative to establish sophisticated early warning systems for droughts. These systems can warn to citizen about the upcoming droughts and the systems can help indicate risks of a drought, improving preparedness and decreasing risks associated with such events.

These warning systems are particularly important for agriculture and water resource management as sources of water may dwindle during a drought.

Therefore, effective systems are crucial in dealing with climate change and risks associated with droughts.

These systems are helpful in preparing local community and utilizing their traditional knowledge.

Local communities are at the forefront to face the brunt of droughts severities. Locals have their own strategies to deal with such challenges.

It is therefore highly desirable to help local communities in advancing their strategies to cope with the challenge of droughts.

Moreover, local traditional knowledge and practices must be considered as policy options. Evidence based planning and policy actions are key to counter such challenges.

Droughts related policies and action plans must be devised based on quantitative data/information in the context of local requirements where local community approach in droughts preparedness and mitigations must be promoted.

As droughts are linked with other sectors such as water and agriculture etc, so there should be integrative policies and action plans.

Pakistan must step up its governance actions considering its climate change profile and its relations with the rising trajectory of droughts.

Pakistan needs to establish its drought policy and mobilize its institutional response particularly through local actions.

However, there is need to enhance capabilities of local institutions especially local community that are the real victim of droughts.

There is need to train and equip local community for adaptation to the critical situation of droughts.

Massive scale capacity building should be launched through engaging multi-stakeholders such as the UN agencies and local non-governmental organizations working in the area letting people understand about droughts, impacts and their role to effectively deal with it.

Land restoration has been identified as one of most comprehensive solutions to tackle droughts and this must be promoted within the local communities.

Local successful actions must be encouraged and massively be shared through local governmental institutions so that others may replicate the same practices and the process of local transformation can be ensured.

Local Agricultural Extension Departments (LAEDs) have crucial role in awareness raising and timely dissemination of local actions.

It is therefore strongly suggested that local government institutions, especially LAEDs, must be mobilized to collaboratively work with local community and in coordination with other relevant institutions.

To systematically operationalise these actions, there is need to dedicate a reasonable drought budget.

The UN report has suggested to provide funding to the developing countries so that they can effectively curb the challenge of droughts.

This can be a good option especially for short term response. However, this provision of funds to the developing world is not a permanent solution so there must be a proper system for drought finance at local scale.

For such severe crises, there is need to mobilize the resources particularly at local level to prepare the local community to tackle the challenge locally.

It is therefore suggested every country especially the ones identified in the UN list must allocate a specific budget to manage drought challenge through employing innovative governance measures.

The fight against this critical challenge can only be won through proper planning and effective governance mechanisms.

These include building local capacities and enhance institutional learning at local level.

Moreover, concerted efforts from sub-national and national governments are required to address this complex issue.

This entails that polycentric governance is the right approach that must be adopted where the governments from all levels and local community work together towards strategic planning and policies in order to comprehensively mitigate the challenge of droughts.

—The writer is working as Assistant Professor, at Department of Public Administration, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.