Mother nature: Environment agency to keep eye on ‘change’ in the air

A climate change cell will be set up to research and guide farmers.

Hidayat Khan February 24, 2014
A climate change cell will be set up to research and guide farmers. PHOTO:FILE

PESHAWAR: To cope with the vulnerability of agriculture to climate changes, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government is going to launch a Climate Change Cell in the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

Climate experts say changes in weather patterns, rainfall trends and extreme temperatures, including natural calamities such as floods, have plagued the province’s agriculture for the last decade. However, farmers have failed to adapt to their surroundings.

Majority of farming is done on a small-scale despite the fact that the primary source of income of the province is agriculture. These small land owners have little access to technology and water, exposing them to changes in the climate.

Talking to The Express Tribune, K-P EPA Director General Dr Muhammad Bashir Khan said the provincial government is going to launch a climate change cell within the EPA for which it has started advertising for staff recruitment. “By setting up a cell, there will be a coordination mechanism between farmers and experts. We can inform them if there are any changes in the annual pattern of rainfall in the province,” Khan added.

One of the reasons of this change in Pakistan is the high rate of deforestation per year, the director general said. According to the data provided by EPA, from 1990 to 2000 Pakistan lost an average of 41,100 hectares of forest per year, which shows the average amount of deforestation is 1.63% per year. The data further revealed that from 2000 to 2005, the rate of deforestation increased by 2.02% per year while in total, Pakistan lost 24.7% percent of its forest from 1999 to 2005.

In K-P, there was 1.33 million hectares of forest cover in 1992 which reduced to 1.19 million hectares during 2004 and 2005. This indicates a decrease of 10.5% in 12 years. While the EPA does not have current data, the officials claim deforestation is fast increasing in the province due to forest land being used for agriculture and camp areas for refugees. At the same time, lack of plantation is not replacing the lost forest area.

Khan said before conducting workshops for farmers, the cell will first tour the province and research the pattern of climate change, change in the growth of crops resulting from that climate change, the increase and decrease in the temperature of the area, rainfall, and other factors. The cell will then go ahead to guide farmers.

We have signed agreements with foreign environment agencies and donors who will boost the financial and expert aspect of our cell, said the director general, adding one of the departments of the cell will be dedicated to only working with those international agencies.

“We need to change our crop pattern. For example, if rain arrives on time, we can plant sugarcane or tobacco since it is the most lucrative cash crop in the province,” Khan said, adding if, however, the rains are delayed, farmers can switch to other crops which are usually more drought tolerant and can produce high yields even in low rainfall.

Khan said no study on climate change has been conducted in the province so far which is why farmers stick to centuries-old patterns of farming. He informed the cell will conduct detailed research from the start and discuss with experts what farming techniques can be adopted in the given situations.

“There will be extreme climate changes in the future for which we have to prepare ourselves.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2014.


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