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Textbook for climate policy

Exploring the intricate tapestry of climate change in Sindh, ‘Earthly Matters’ offers an extensive analysis

By Gulsher Panhwer |
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PUBLISHED February 04, 2024

In Pakistan climate change has gained currency only recently. As debate on climate change and its repercussions continue, it has become one of the most talked about topics from government level to media and the civil society.

However, there are n’t many well- informed writers who can educate the public and policy makers on climate change with depth and clarity, and in Sindh, there are even fewer people who are capable of doing so efficiently.

Nasir Ali Panhwar has been writing on the issues related to climate change and environment as early as 2000. His book “Earthly Matters” published by Elsa Publication, Hyderabad, focuses on climate change and highlights the factors aggravating the situation locally, nationally and globally. While the cover of the book shows the climate change map, natural resources, ecosystem, biodiversity and species under threat from the effects of climate change, the foreword has been penned by Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, a climate change specialist focusing on low-carbon and resilient development, international climate finance, and just transition for an equitable world.

As a complement to the foreword, prolific writer Zubeida Mustafa has termed the book timely and useful for readers and other stakeholders. The book comprises Panhwar’s articles on social, developmental, climate change, and environmental issues, that he contributed to leading English dailies of Pakistan.

This book is a must read for the layman, students, policy makers, development practitioners as well as people from all walks of life as each one of them must understand that climate change is real threat affecting everyone. Delving deep into the climate-induced degradation of our natural environment, the author suggests the possible and doable way forward.

Divided into chapters on biodiversity, climate change, coastal ecosystem, delta and disasters, dry lands, energy and urbanisation, rivers, sustainable development water and wetlands, rural development and agriculture, the book carries valuable data on different socio-economic issues that are directly or indirectly related to climate change.

Using facts and figures, Panhwar links issues such as gender discrimination, poverty, migration, population pressure with climate change, especially in the arid region of Sindh, that covers an area of approximately 68,000 km and comprises Thar, Nara and Kohistan.

To the policy makers, Panhwar suggests that instead of spending billions on drought after a calamity hits, the government and other stakeholders should improve early warning systems on drought and work on improving pre- drought planning and preparation.

Earthly Matters is a treasure trove of information on mangrove and deltas, with Panhwar’s discussion on the consequences of deterioration of delta, when thousands of the acres of the land in Thatta and Badin Districts are being consumed by sea water and salinity.

In the chapter on disasters, he points out the faulty design of Tidal Link of the Left Bank Outfall Drain, also known as LBOD, which is located in the catchment area of the old Nara river, which is a left bank delta channel of River Indus. The LBOD was washed away in the floods resulting in inundation of fertile land with toxic drainage water. Panhwar explains that this is how climate change induced disasters are aggravated by man-made mistakes in implementing unfeasible and defective schemes despite the objection from the locals.

Referring to the floods in 2010 and 2011, the author identifies climate change and poor management of the systems for large scale damage in the wake of floods and other natural calamities.

On the one hand Sindh’s arid zone faces periodical moderate and severe droughts and on the other, while on the floods wreak havoc on people’s lives and livelihood, let alone the damage to precarious public infrastructure.

Despite having one of the best irrigation and flood protection infrastructure, built by the British, Panhwar laments that we have not been able to maintain, nor expand irrigation and flood-control infrastructure. Water theft, encroachment on water ways, poor repair and maintenance of irrigation and flood protection infrastructures and wastage of water has made drought and floods a regular recurrence in Sindh with devastating impacts on the socio-economic fabric and environment of the province.

Panhwar speculates that Sindh located at the tail end of the country is being affected or is made to be affected by drought and floods. The phenomenon of urban flooding has emerged in recent times with disastrous effects on what used to be a relatively safe and secure urban environment previously.

Panhwar points out that under the 1991 Water Apportionment Accord, 10MAF water supply is the requirement downstream Kotri. But in reality, the volume of the water released downstream Kotri is negligible, resulting in sea intrusion, undergrowth of mangrove and depletion of biodiversity and livelihood sources of the locals.

The book highlights that due to lack of knowledge or vested interests, a huge lobby still considers the release of water downstream Kotri a wastage. The argument is based argument on the flawed perception that construction of large dams upstream would prevent floods and also stored water will be available during shortage period. However, it is overlooked that major floods largely occur after a gap of a decade for instance 2010 and 2022 and that the heavy rains of 2011 that led to floods was an exception, and were spread on wider swaths of land. Moreover, it was not riverine specific flood.

Removal of encroachment on water ways, revamping of irrigation and flood protection infrastructure, better management of water, checking wastage of the water, release of the required 10 MAF water downstream Kotri, making drought declaration timely, shifting to cleaner renewable energy sources on large scale are among the simple and practical solutions suggested by the author in regard to tackling climate change induced floods and other climate events.

These and certain other necessary steps would not only keep natural disasters in check and control, but also would help in the revival of biodiversity, monitor and control sea erosion, and protect the livelihood sources of the communities of coastal and desert areas, thereby ensuring their food security. As a result, these endeavours will help in attaining sustainable development goals.


Gulsher Panhwer is a freelance contributor and can be reached at gulsherp@yahoo.com

All facts and information are the sole responsibility of the writer