Policy conference supports action on adaptation

   TwitCount
Photo credit: Ch M Mushtaa

Experts working across the Indus River Basin came together during a three-day policy conference 23–25 July 2014 in Islamabad to discuss the impacts of climate change on mountain people, and the challenges and opportunities for policy and action to help people adapt. The meeting came at the same time mountain provinces Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan were being ravaged by floods. 

The conference was organised under the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation programme (HICAP) and included 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 ICIMOD.

During the conference leadership panel, Farzana Yagoob, Minister for Women Development and Social Welfare for Azad Jammu and Kashmir, emphasised greater urgency for issues caused by climate change and for the suffering mountain people affected by destructive flooding.

Over the three day conference, attendees discussed various topics including climate projections, water availability, demand scenarios, food security, ecosystem-based adaptation, community vulnerability and the crucial need for timely communication. The focus was on how climate change science can be applied and made more useful for policy makers, practitioners and the people of the Upper Indus basin. 

“We have sufficient knowledge, now we need to implement that knowledge”, said Ifthikhar Ahmad of the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council. 

Syed Mahmood Nasir, inspector general of forests, stressed the importance of  consistency in policies for climate change adaptation for Pakistan.

Much attention was given to the crucial role of women as resource managers, in light of the high rates of male outmigration in mountain areas, leaving women as custodians of natural resources and agricultural productivity; however, women are unfortunately not yet 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”, Nusrat Nasab of FOCUS Pakistan said.

In a technical session on climate change and water availability, Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha, senior climate change specialist at ICIMOD, shared the serious impacts climate change will have on both upstream and downstream areas of Pakistan. Shrestha 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”, Shrestha said. “Therefore, there is an urgent need to share information and data, and strengthen monitoring systems to manage these events.” 

In a 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 indicates that not a single household faced environmental problems or shocks in isolation of other challenges.

In addition to sharing learning and knowledge between different areas, the conference sent a message that a need exists to develop local solutions using existing biodiversity and adaptation solutions which incorporate local people. 

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.
  • Put strong measures 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.
Photo credit: Ch M Mushtaa

Climate Smart Practices at Rawal Lake watershed

During a visit to Rawal Lake, conference participants observed various climate smart watershed management technologies at the Satrameel Sub-Watershed Research Station managed under the Climate Change, Alternative Energy, and Water Resources Institute of the National Agriculture Research Centre (CAEWRI-NARC), Islamabad. Scientists from the research station highlighted the effectiveness of technologies and their adoption trends and patterns in Pakistan. Technologies showcased were well tested and scaled up in a number of rural areas, helping people adapt to the impacts of climate change, and as a result, making communities more resilient. 

In a visit to the Arukus Model Watershed Community, leaders of local associations briefed participants on various technologies adopted in their villages, including plastic house technology for off-season vegetables, and multiple water management techniques, including rainwater harvesting. With various technologies and strong social mobilization, income per household saw an increase, supporting investments in health and education in the community.