ISLAMABAD: India’s continuing opposition against Pakistan at various international forums has claimed another victim after it torpedoed a $35 million Pakistani proposal to protect communities in the northern areas of the country which are vulnerable to floods from overflowing glacial lakes, officials said on Friday.
The Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) had submitted a $35 million project in the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.
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The project was aimed at addressing the mounting risk of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in Pakistan’s northern areas where average temperatures continue to rise and cause glaciers to melt at a much faster rate. It was among a list of projects lined up for GCF’s consideration at its fourth board meeting.
It was discussed at the fourteenth meeting of the GCF’s board held in Songdo, South Korea from October 12 to 14.
India, one of the board members of the body representing the Asia-Pacific region along with China and Saudi Arabia, opposed the project.
According to MoCC sources, India’s representative Dinesh Sharma -- a special secretary in India’s finance ministry — called the Pakistani project ‘flawed’.
Sharma told Indian daily Business Standard that the proposed project contained technical flaws. Aware of the hostile environment between the two neighbouring countries, Sharma was quick to say that nothing else should be inferred from their opposition.
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However, the Business Standard quoted two other board members expressing their disappointment. “Here (at climate negotiations) we don’t represent just our individual national interests, but we work as a group to protect developing country interests. India could have put more conditions but let it move ahead. Unfortunately, it is not budging.”
The MoCC sources said that when Pakistan’s proposals came up for discussion at the board, India raised objections against it, pointing out that the project’s success was predicated on there being no glacial outbursts during the five years of the project. However, given the history of frequent GLOFs in the region, this was unlikely.
“… the project is fundamentally shaky and our (GCF’s) reputation will be at risk,” India said.
The paper further said that surprised at the Indian rejection, the board asked if Sharma would be willing to consult with experts on the proposal to see if there was any way to amend it or resolve the impasse.
“I can’t think of any conditions on which it can be passed. Just to show that I don’t have a closed mind I can hear them but there is very low probability of learning something or adding something,” Sharma had replied.
At a closed door meeting later in the day between developing country board members also failed to convince India to change its stance.
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The board could not clear any project on Wednesday and postponed the decision.
However, one official of MoCC claimed that Pakistan’s project had been approved by the GCF. But when contacted, a subordinate of the MoCC Director General Environment Irfan Tariq said that the DG was not in a position to comment on the issue at the moment and asked to be contacted next week.
“Despite inadequate technical resources, the ministry managed to prepare the GLOF project for submitting to the GCF board last year,” the MoCC Deputy Director of Media and Communication Mohammad Saleem Shaikh told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2016.
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