Consultative workshop: ‘Invest in water harvesting to shield from climate extremes’

32% of Pak’s total area is semi-arid while around 61% is categorised as arid to hyper-arid.

Waqas Naeem July 19, 2013
32% of Pak’s total area is semi-arid while around 61% is categorised as arid to hyper-arid. PHOTO: FILE


Investments in water harvesting and water management are needed to protect Pakistan’s semi-arid regions from climate extremes.

These views were expressed by Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) Remote Sensing and Computer Division Director Azmat Hayat Khan on Wednesday. Khan was speaking at a consultative workshop on “Climate Resilient Economic Development in Semi-Arid Regions,” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Khan said 32 per cent of Pakistan’s total area is semi-arid while around 61 per cent of the country is categorised as arid to hyper-arid. Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a water-deficit country and needs to manage its water availability, he added.

He cited a study on rainfall patterns in South Asia conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany to suggest that Pakistan’s semi-arid areas are highly vulnerable to extreme rainfall.

Another study done by the PMD, published in the Journal of Hydrology earlier in 2013, shows that rainfall is shifting away from catchment areas to semi-arid regions, said Khan.

“New areas which have emerged in West Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that are vulnerable to floods require more attention,” he added.

He said heavy rains in semi-arid areas, away from the catchments, would mean more floods and more run-off water which will further cause soil degradation and prevent recharging of water table.

Water harvesting projects and dams are essential to protect the semi-arid areas from climate change effects, he added.

SDPI in collaboration with the Overseas Development Institute, UK is looking to carry out research across Asia and Africa regarding climate resilient economic development in semi-arid regions.

The research programme is expected to enhance climate resilience of economic development in six developing countries in ways that deliver rising prosperity, environmental sustainability and social equity, said Kashif Salik, an SDPI research associate working on the programme proposal for Pakistan.

Salik said the workshop was an attempt to solicit opinions from stakeholders about the programme’s four thematic areas, namely macroeconomic impact of climate change, sectoral perspective, decision makers’ point of view and public policy interventions.

Participants were divided into groups to brainstorm the current impact of climate change in Pakistan on resources, supply chains and markets and offered suggestions about crafting economic policies to build resilience against climate change.

They stressed on the need for livelihood diversification for vulnerable communities and more research and development to help understand the cost of environmental degradation.

Salik said SDPI would be looking at some case studies, such as the economic effects of climate change on the textile industry in Faisalabad, as it prepares the proposal for the semi-arid region research.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.