Policy Conference Produces Recommendations to Support Action On Adaptation

24 Jul 2015, Islamabad, Pakistan

   TwitCount

Political leaders, scientists, and people from the Indus basin stress the need for knowledge sharing and the promotion of local solutions in policy conference on climate change adaptation in Pakistan

At a time when the mountain provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan are again being ravaged by floods, experts working across the Indus River Basin came together during a three-day policy conference in Islamabad to discuss and share their knowledge on a highly relevant issue: the impacts of climate change on mountain people and the challenges and opportunities for policy and action to help people adapt to these changes. The conference ’Action for Adaptation: Bringing climate change science to policy makers’ was jointly organized by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research Pakistan, the Ministry of Climate Change, the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), WWF Pakistan, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

Guests of Honour Farzana Yaqoob, Minister for Social Welfare and Women’s Development of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Haji Muhammad Wakeel, Minister for Forest, Wildlife and Environment of Gilgit Baltistan, discussed the challenges and opportunities for translating knowledge into policy and action with high-level technical experts and policy makers during a high-level leadership panel. A strong message emerged from the panel discussion: leaders and people must take the impacts of climate change on mountain people seriously, and the political leadership and organizations need to work with communities to develop solutions for adaptation.

Photo credit: Ch M Mushtaa

“This is the time to actually do something”, said the Honourable Minister for Women Development and Social Welfare for Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Farzana Yaqoob, stressing the need for greater recognition of the urgency of issues caused by climate change and the suffering of mountain people in the face of floods that wash away infrastructure and cause wide-scale destruction. 

Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) Dr David Molden said that people tend to create artificial barriers – between different academic disciplines; between scientists, practitioners and policymakers; between the mountains and the plains; and between different countries and regions –that make communication and knowledge sharing difficult. The solution, said Dr Molden, is to view boundaries in a different way. “Instead of viewing boundaries as barriers separating people, we need to view them as meeting places to develop solutions”, he said.

The conference on Action for Adaptation was one such meeting place. More than 160 researchers, policy makers, journalists, students, and practitioners from across Pakistan, as well as abroad, working on issues related to climate change and adaptation in the Indus River basin participated in dynamic discussions at the conference, which spanned topics from climate projections and water availability to food security, ecosystem-based adaptation, and community vulnerability.

Photo credit: Ch M Mushtaa

Underlying the discussions was a focus on how science and knowledge on climate change can be used by, and made useful for, those that have to take decisions and action for adaptation, particularly the people of the Upper Indus basin, practitioners, and policy makers. Ifthikhar Ahmad of the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council said, “We have sufficient knowledge – now we need to implement that knowledge.” Inspector General of Forests Syed Mahmood Nasir noted that consistency in policies for climate change adaptation is very important for Pakistan.

Research shared in a technical session on climate change and water availability revealed the serious impacts climate change will have on both upstream and downstream areas of Pakistan. Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Senior Climate Change Specialist at ICIMOD, said the change in rainfall and temperature in the Indus Basin will have large consequences for agricultural productivity and, as a result, for the region’s economy and people’s lives. “With high climate variability, there are more chances of extreme events, both in terms of droughts and floods”, he said. “Therefore, there is an urgent need to share information and data, and strengthen monitoring systems to manage these events.” 

There was a large focus throughout the conference on the crucial role of women as resource managers, particularly with respect to high rates of male outmigration in mountain areas, which leaves women as the custodians of natural resources and agricultural productivity. Unfortunately, however, women are yet to be seen as equal partners in decision making. “Women, although they play a key role in agriculture and the household, have been marginalized and given an invisible status in decision-making forums”, said Nusrat Nasab of FOCUS Pakistan. 

The conference gave a strong message that in addition to sharing learning and knowledge between different areas, there is a need to develop local solutions that make use of already existing biodiversity and adaptation solutions, and that work with and learn from local people. 

In the session on community vulnerability, adaptation, and gender there was a clear message that climate change impacts should not be seen in isolation, and that any action for adaptation needs to take into account the different issues mountain communities are facing. “Insecurity breeds insecurity”, said Abid Suleri of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), highlighting that vulnerability in one area often leads to vulnerability in another. Data shared by ICIMOD supports this, showing that not a single household faced environmental problems or shocks in isolation of other challenges.

The conference produced several strong recommendations for action for adaptation in Pakistan:

  • Provide adequate funds and give mandates to provincial and local institutions to implement climate change adaptation strategies. 
  • Implement flood zoning and impose a strict ban on settlements next to vulnerable waterways.
  • Strong measures should be put into place to protect the existing environment through mechanisms like REDD+ and the control of construction and tree-cutting which damages ecosystems.
  • Institutions and governments need to prepare for more extreme events and a higher incidence of floods and droughts as a result of climate change.
  • Women must be given an equal role in decision-making forums to reflect their key role as resource managers.
  • Actions and strategies for adaptation must be context-specific and must take into account multiple sources of vulnerability.

During a visit to Rawal Watershed and Lake tomorrow (25th July), conference participants will see participatory watershed management in practice and observe how communities are working together with the Capital Development Authority, the Water Resources Institute of the National Agricultural Research Centre Islamabad (CAEWRI-NARC), and Arukus to sustainably manage local water resources for irrigation and to conserve the diverse Rawal Lake ecosystem.

For more information, contact:

Nand Kishor Agrawal 
Programme Coordinator - HICAP Initiative
Adaptation to Change, ICIMOD
Tel : +977-1-5003222 Ext 117

Email: nandkishor.agrawal@icimod.org

Ms Nira Gurung
Senior Communications Officer, ICIMOD
Tel +977-1-5003222
, Ext 115

Email: nira.gurung@icimod.org