Upper Indus basin: Common solutions to climate change risks stressed

Local and international bodies hold joint conference to weigh in on issues.

Our Correspondent July 23, 2015
Local and international bodies hold joint conference to weigh in on issues of climate change. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Climate change is a slow process which threatens the balance of ecosystems and impacts the lives of millions in the region. The crisis can however, be used to bring people together to develop common solutions that look beyond political and national boundaries and share ideas for policy makers, scientist and practitioners.

These were the views expressed at the three-day ‘Action for Adaptation in the Indus River Basin’ conference, jointly organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the Ministry of National Food Security & Research, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), The Ministry of Climate Change, World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature Pakistan and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

ICIMOD Director General Dr David James Molden said climate change and socioeconomic changes in the region threaten ecosystem balance in the region, and impact the lives of millions, both in the mountains and downstream.

“We can use this crisis to bring people together to develop common solutions. We should forget boundaries and share ideas for policy makers, besides focusing on resilience especially for women, mountains are shared resources between different countries, the communication gap between scientists, policymakers and practitioners is a major challenge,” Molden said.

Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General (Forests) Ministry of Climate Change said that mountains were precious treasures for Pakistan. He said the government has devised a revolutionary forest policy for 2015 which will help protect forests and increase the area under forest cover. He added that after the 2010 floods in Pakistan, the Ramseur Advisory Committee gave recommendations to benefit from the flood and for ecological restoration. He said the committee’s recommendation should be considered seriously in managing floods. He underlined that the UN REDD+ facility can be used as an effective tool to curb deforestation in Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country. “To win the REDD+ facility was a very difficult task, and now Pakistan is among those states which are at the take-off stage,” Nasir said in a statement.

SDPI Executive Director Abid Qayyum Suleri said that the real challenge is to ensure effective governance systems which stop natural calamities turning into human disasters. He suggested a three prong strategy including proactive, reactive and transformative adaption measures, in addition to taking climate change issues as collective responsibilities and stressed supportive governance for the implementation of laws in Pakistan. He further added that climate change is a reality and there exist 42 agencies for crisis management.

Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Development, AJK Cabinet, Farzana Yaqoob stressed for a paradigm shift in the priorities of society. She said that a massive campaign was needed for creating awareness of climate change risks, and that the younger generation should play a role in this regard on social media. She also demanded funding from the federal government for appropriate engineering before starting hydro projects to minimize environmental risks from climate change.

G-B Forest, Wildlife and Environment Minister Haji Muhammad Wakeel stressed the need for regularising timber cutting from natural forests to protect local flora and fauna. He also extended his support for the new forest policy, which is to be announced soon.

National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) Chairman Dr Iftikhar Ahmed said that funding was needed for research, awareness and technological innovations to minimise environmental risks. He said the government must take initiatives to protect the environment and biodiversity through policy. He said Pakistan was the only country in the region where scientific research in the agricultural sector was rare.

Later,participants unanimously agreed that NARC land should only be utilised for scientific research, and that trees must be protected, whether private or public property.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2015.

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