EDITORIAL: Perhaps the most important part of caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar’s speech – when he addressed the “Living Indus Initiative” on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai – was inviting scholars, poets, literary people, even architects to take part in the climate change debate through their work.

Pakistan is now the world’s 8th most vulnerable country to effects of climate change, having been in the top-10 for a rather long time, and the caretaker PM is right that it is “basically a water challenge” that needs to be addressed immediately. And the best way to do that is by adapting the Indus Basin to impacts of climate because “majority of the population is linked to this river”.

Living Indus is an ambitious initiative aimed at restoring the ecological health of the river within Pakistan’s borders. Indeed, just as Pakistan has suffered the worst effects of global climate change, it has also turned from a comfortably water abundant country to a dangerously water scarce one. And while one trend has definitely pushed the other, our water problems weren’t initially only climate-related.

Instead, this particular downtrend began and strengthened because of shortsightedness of the state itself, with successive administrations ignoring it even as entire rivers dried up and the ecology suffered. Now, the water shortage adds to the perils of climate change just as the changing climate causes droughts, among other things, that make the scarcity worse.

Living Indus is a timely intervention, no doubt, since it stems from extensive consultation with stakeholders, resulting in a set of 25 “living interventions that emphasise nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based adaptation approaches”.

It focuses on “restoring a healthy Indus for today and tomorrow”, which is essential, but the big problem is going to be the $11-17 billion it needs in investment to do it. It is very unfortunate that even when we can find solutions to our most pressing problems, the funds needed for them will still have to come from outside the country.

That is why the caretaker PM spent his time at COP28 reminding other countries of all the pledges they made at the time of last year’s devastating floods. They made the headlines with their tall claims and promises, but left Pakistan to deal with its own problems once the cameras turned away from them.

That was a big mistake, because Pakistan’s climate problems aren’t Pakistan’s problems alone. It’s not just that we contribute very little to global carbon emissions at the heart of the climate crisis, which makes it unfair for us to suffer so much from them.

It is, rather, also that letting Pakistan take the fall because of climate degradation caused by bigger, more advanced countries will eventually set a cataclysmic cycle in motion that will, without a doubt, snowball across the entire world.

Recharge Pakistan is the flagship project under the Living Indus framework, with international finance of approximately $78 million, and it is central to all efforts to reduce the impact of flooding as well as droughts.

If successfully implemented, it will not only benefit millions of Pakistanis but also serve as a model for climate innovation across the world. Since funding has already been secured for this first concrete step towards materialising the Living Indus initiative, hopefully it will provide the right kind of momentum for it.

Human civilisations have flourished around rivers since time immemorial. We are already guilty of compromising and wasting one of our most precious natural resources – our rivers. And now that efforts are finally afoot to deal with this existential threat, the state needs to show the responsibility and leadership needed to truly recharge Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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KU Dec 07, 2023 11:41am
Climate change is upon us, there is no time for scholars, poets, literary people, or architects nor their ability to present a true picture of our fate in the wake of climate change. It is perhaps more important to invite meteorologists to present monthly data past and present on the changing weather patterns and forecast water scarcity and food insecurity in the face of climate change, and plan accordingly.
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Tariq Qurashi Dec 07, 2023 12:02pm
If floods and droughts are to become a way of life, then we need to prepare for them. We should have enough food stored to last one crop failure or possibly even two. Our infrastructure such as houses, bridges, roads railway tracks etc. should all be built to specifications that can withstand severe floods. I have noticed that houses are being built using the same materials and in the same locations from where they were washed away. Houses should be built on pillars or high ground.
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TimetoMoVVeOn Dec 09, 2023 08:25pm
@KU, Good point bro, not a word on Scientists or physicists but Poets (LOL). If given climate change money to Pak, it will be writing poetry. and hopefully that will stop the earth from heating
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