EDITORIAL: While Pakistan is still reeling from the effects of last year’s devastating floods, the UN has issued a renewed warning that the twin pressures of global warming and melting of glaciers, critical source of inflows into the Indus River, is threatened by the twin pressures of global warming and environmental degradation.

Consequently, flows are likely to first increase to a certain point, known as ‘peak water’, a level at which melt-water from the glaciers would reach its maximum.

After that flows would decline. This could happen as early as in the next three decades. What that means for the agricultural economy of this county is unremitting disaster. Pakistan is already among the 10 most water-scarce countries, and also facing food insecurity.

The UN reckons that in the Indus Basin the sea level rises and increases in the frequency and severity of coastal storms caused by global warming would exacerbate sea intrusion into the delta and coastal ground water, severely impacting livelihoods and sustainability of coastal ecosystems. Karachi could witness a sea level rise of as much as 15 cm in just 20 years’ time, putting large tracts of populated land and millions of inhabitants in peril.

The government surely is aware of these impending dangers, but if it has a mitigation and adaptation plan that is not known. The UN team in Pakistan has come up with its plan, the Living Indus Initiative (LII), which is focused on restoring the ecological health of Indus River basin and consolidation projects aimed at building communities’ resilience with sustainable livelihoods.

The LII is to be led by the government supported by the UN, donors, private sector and civil society at an estimated cost of $ 17 billion. Highly desirable as the imitative is, where exactly this sum is to come from has not been mentioned. Besides, the proposed projects are limited in scope, while climate change is impacting lives of the people all across the country.

The recovery bill from the last year’s ruinous floods alone amounted to $ 16.3 billion. At the international conference in Geneva last January, donors pledged to provide around $ 9 billion.

How ironic it is that although Pakistan is responsible for less than one percent of the world’s planet-warming gases, this South Asian country is extremely vulnerable to inevitable effects of global warming. It, therefore, needs a lot more climate finance assistance for capacity building to deal with the imminent threats. That won’t be a favour but a responsibility of the world’s major polluters, wealthy industrialised nations.

A breakthrough was made at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, where it was decided to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit by climate disaster. Implementation remains to be seen.

On its part, Pakistan ought to prepare a comprehensive mitigation and adaptation strategy. In that it can benefit from the example of Bangladesh which has made considerable progress by incorporating its climate resilience and adaptation goals into its long-term development plan.

Its key policy features include renewable energy projects, carbon emissions trading, modernisation of power grids and transmission infrastructure, afforestation, environment-friendly transport, and empowering of local governments to take effective measures against natural disasters. The time to act is now rather than wait till some imaginary point in future.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU May 20, 2023 11:42am
We should have already declared a climate emergency and focused on a plan on how to safeguard our water resources, agriculture, employment, and the health of people in the near future. But reality tells us that 30 years from now, history will look back at Pakistan and its leaders and narrate how a small group of greedy leaders devastated the lives of 220 million people, and how they exploited the system and nation to make money on the miseries of people affected by climate change and food shortages, and eventually how they ran to US and EU and were eagerly welcomed with loads of illegal money.
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