While many are still critical of the reality of climate change and global warming, facts indicate that more than 2 million people have been killed by natural disasters since 1980, while statistics predict that an additional 100 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty within the next decade. The world is already witnessing drastic changes in the form of frequent wildfires, longer periods of droughts, and an increase in the intensity and frequency of natural disasters. In the midst of it all, Pakistan remains the most affected, with the projected temperature increase expected to be higher than the global average. With the livelihoods of millions of people at risk, urgent measures should be initiated to provide instant relief while long-term strategies need to be devised in order to mitigate future catastrophes.
While the government and concerned authorities remain in their deep slumber, wholesome initiatives such as the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) Pakistan project has shown immense potential when it comes to coping with the effects of climate change, especially in rural areas and villages. It is not often that one comes across such an innovative idea — the AKAH Pakistan project combines satellite images, mapping technologies and the local knowledge of villagers to help build climate-proof settlements in disaster-prone areas of Pakistan. This collective and inclusive approach has not only helped more than one million people across the country but has also trained about 50,000 residents living in mountainous regions on how to better protect their villages from natural disasters. Through capacity training and community building, the project helps locals to develop “resilient, sustainable communities capable of living in dignity”. What is even more astounding is that AKAH Pakistan also focuses highly on the involvement of women, who constitute approximately half of the response volunteers, in order to empower them.
It is not surprising that the initiative recently won the gold prize at the World Habitat Awards. What is unfortunate, however, is the fact that the government remains oblivious of such projects that have been taking place for years. Such projects need to be expanded and supported by local authorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2020.