On the second day of a two-day session on climate change in South Asia, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries shed light on common vulnerabilities but failed to launch any joint strategies to cope with their respective disasters.
The countries, however, agreed to work together in the field of disaster response mechanisms to evolve effective regional frameworks of action.
Friday’s session was hosted by the Natural Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Oxfam Asia.
All members present predicted that the region may face many more natural catastrophes in the future due to the Hindu Kush mountain range. The region extends 3,500 kilometres over all or part of eight countries, from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east.
“The dilemma of disaster is increasing with every passing year,” said Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chief Dr Zaffar Iqbal Qadir.
Qadir agreed with his guests who categorised the mountain range as one of the most disaster prone regions in the world.
Participants pointed to the issue of heavy floods that displace millions of people each year in South Asia as an issue that needed to be addressed, adding that member countries should recommend that states chalk out a mechanism to share data about possible floods, cyclones and seismic activities that could result in future tragedy.
They also urged their individual governments to make policies to focus on climate changes in the region.
Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs in Nepal Pradip K Koirala told The Express Tribune that because his country is surrounded by huge mountains; the land is prone to calamities.
“We (South Asians) are reciprocal [when it comes to natural disasters]. So all states’ top authorities should stand united to deal with natural disasters and involve themselves in disaster risk reduction activities.”
Similar views were expressed by Additional Secretary, of the Ministry of Disaster Management of Sri Lanka Siththy Marina Mohamed. “The Saarc region has to take the challenges of climate change to make our communities resilient to the disasters.”
Briefing the media after the two-day deliberations, Qadir said that Pakistan is exposed to all kinds of natural disasters due to the fact that it experiences all seasons and almost all kinds of terrains.
“We know that disasters have no boundaries. When the earthquake hit seven years ago and the tsunami hit eight years ago, boundaries proved immaterial and people across the Line of Control in Kashmir and the territorial limits of Sri Lanka and India suffered,” he said. “When there are no borders for disasters, why shouldn’t we think beyond borders and work jointly to save more and more lives?”
The participants pledged to develop a website on climate-related issues with the cooperation of private organisations, by engaging civil society activists from all countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2012.