June 2020


Peerzada Salman 27 Jun 2020

KARACHI: Three more eminent speakers shed light on ‘Climate change, cities and violence in the time of Covid-19: perspectives from South Asia’ on the second day of the workshop organised online by The Climate Change and Urban Violence Global Eng­a­g­ement Net­work (CCUVN) at the Inst­itute of Business Admin­istration (IBA).

Dr Danesh Jayatilaka, chairman of the Centre for Migration Research and Development, Colombo was the first to address the participants.

His topic was underserved communities in Colombo and issues of relocating them. Referring to a project that he undertook, he said Colombo was the commercial capital of Sri Lanka; it’s a modern city, with a population of seven to eight hundred thousand. There were clusters of underserved communities, over a thousand or more but his research was in particular about communities that were affected by floods.

Most of them had migrated to Colombo from rural areas, from upcountry. Some had come for safety, some for employment, some for education, etc.

The rural-urban migration had been taking place since colonial times. The study looked at why these people were attached to the locations they came to.

Dr Jayatilaka said it was found that housing and employment were main attractions because the spots where they settled were close to employment places and transport facilities. Relational aspect was also factored in.

It was a plus because migrants and informal workers used a lot of social networks to connect and be attached to each other. The negative component of the model was unhappiness in the shape of shame, because these places had crime, drugs and gangsters. So they were concerned about their children, about their own safety. As a result, there was a tension between what was materially there and the negative aspect of it.

This sort of complexity, whether you want to stay or leave as resettling was taking place, raised the question regarding difficulty of how to address it. He added there were projects happening in Colombo and investments coming in; some of these projects are better than others.

Fatima Tassadiq, doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, gave a presentation on the impact of Orange Line metro train on local communities in Lahore, particularly looking at the neighbourhood of Kapurthala House and old Anarkali. She said land acquisition there began in 2014 — buildings were demolished and construction began.

Giving a detailed account of the process, she pointed out that the project caused the local community’s loss of ancestral homes, breakup of mohallas, gender impact, the loss in income, longer commutes and disruption in school years.

Rashee Mehra of the Indian Institute of Human Settlements talked about urban planning during a pandemic concentrating on a drive called ‘Main Bhi Dilli’ which started in 2018. The focus of the campaign was on informal livelihoods, gender and climate change.

She said Delhi was one of the most populated cities of the world. Research found that informal housing in Delhi (slums) occupy only 0.6 per cent of land. This was the kind of logic that they tried to understand and challenge.

Ms Mehra underlined that the coronavirus pandemic in the city brought what the campaign was saying all along. “We have to focus on informal livelihoods, on gender, on housing. The marginalised segments suddenly took centre stage in the last few months” because of the pandemic.

The government imposed a severe lockdown, consequently many migrants started walking 400 to 800km, and all of them suffered.

There was food and health insecurity. “How do we talk about health and sanitation in an informal settlement which does not have water?” Suddenly these directives of the government of hand washing or social distancing made them realise that the majority of citizens didn’t have access to such luxuries — to be able to wash hands became a luxury.

Therefore, now they examined what could a people’s urban plan look like? Responding to it, she said a people’s plan should have migrant housing, multiple community centres and street vendors.

The third and last day of the event, Friday, was not open to the public.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2020



Peerzada Salman 26 Jun 2020

KARACHI: The Climate Change and Urban Violence Global Engagement Network (CCUVN) at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) organised a three-day online workshop on ‘Climate change, cities and violence in the time of Covid-19: perspectives from South Asia’ from Wednesday evening.

Dr Farhana Sultana of Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, USA, was the first speaker of the event. She talked about a research project in Bangladesh which has often been identified as one of the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. The country is situated at the confluence of some of the largest rivers in the world, with the monsoons and poverty as multiple overlapping problems. One of the things happening in the deltaic city of Dhaka is that because of its location it faces water-related issues.

“Climate change is ultimately about water,” said Dr Sultana. “It gets heightened in Dhaka in terms of lack of planning, and this vulnerability that existed in urban spaces is coming to the fore. If there’s flooding from monsoons, it creates problems where space lacks infrastructure. This leads to waterlogging. Flooding becomes one of the ways impacting climate change. As a result, climate apartheid is being observed in the city. The middle class is poor. Their spaces lack sanitation and water supplies.

The rise of temperature also causes heat stress for the population, many of whom don’t have electricity, no proper ventilation etc. These marginalised spaces face different kinds of challenges — so urban spaces in Dhaka are fractured by class and spatiality.”

Experts discuss challenges climate change poses to urban environments in online workshop

She said within all of that, there is multiple intersectionality by gender. Poor women who live in settlements, even those who live in households, face effects of climate change. Gender inequities have exacerbated the problems, further aggravated by the Covid-19 epidemic. “You can’t wash hands unless you have water. There’s heightened need for water in homes and women are largely responsible for managing water at homes.” It’s a dual whammy of climate change and coronavirus. Climate change is already creating new forms of injustices. It’s not a single issue topic. There’s no easy solution. What’s imperative is that we must first understand that it exists and investigate the inter-linkages and how they operate in marginalised spaces.

Dr Nichola Khan of University of Brighton, UK, gave a presentation on Sindh in general and Karachi in particular with reference to gender violence and climate change. She said gender violence is exacerbated in situations such as lockdown and climate change. Karachi has endured violence for decades during which women carried many additional burdens — killings, disappearance of husbands, rape and domestic violence.

Dr Khan said in 2010 Human Rights Watch said that 50 per cent of honour killings in Pakistan took place in Sindh. Activists long fought for changes. Even in peacetime violence is endemic.

She argued that climate change mostly affects people in the global South and affects women disproportionately. Poverty in rural areas is six times more than in urban areas.

Highlighting the issue of migration, she touched upon migration with reference to the drought that forced many from Tharparkar region to leave their homes, and finally talking about air pollution and its impact on the Covid-19 situation. She remarked, “Structural racism, sexism and climate change are the big political issues of our time,” and they must be tackled jointly.

Dr Imran S. Khalid of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad, said flooding has historically been a regular component of South Asian landscape. Deve­lopment vis-à-vis building dams and barrages and not letting rivers flow as they used to and population growth have contributed to problems related to flooding. Backing up his point with the results of a research project, he said the focus of that project was on two districts, Dera Ghazi Khan and Jhang; the latter is at the confluence of Jhelum and Chenab rivers, and the former is along the Indus River. A lot of areas that get flooded have come to be known as canal colonies.

Dr Khalid said since our focus is on constructing dams and barrages, our response to flood managing too is structured, so we have dykes or embankments set up alongside urban areas that keep floodwater within a particular area. An embankment right next to Jhang city gets breached every time floods hit. That embankment is to protect Trimmu Barrage and Jhang city. But when flooding happens, it allows the water to recede from one side. When the water is let go from one side, it affects villages and communities from miles on end.

After the three main speeches, the rest of the online participants were allowed to take part in an open discusion.

Earlier, Nausheen Anwar welcomed the guests and Amiera Sawas introduced the speakers.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020



Jamal Shahid 12 Jun 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2020 sketched a dismal picture when it quoted international studies saying Pakistan has lost 0.53pc per unit GDP, suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion and witnessed 152 extreme weather events from 1999 to 2018.

The Economic Survey shared data from the Global Climate Risk Index annual report for 2020.

It also quoted German Watch, which ranked Pakistan globally in the top 10 countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years owing to its geographical location.

The survey said according to another analysis by Asian Development Bank, the socioeconomic costs of environmental degradation were considerable with climate adaptation needs ranging between $7 billion and $14 billion per year.

However, the survey said the government was cognizant of the situation and taking measures at policy, management and operational levels to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change in the country.

Pakistan suffered economic losses worth $3.8bn and witnessed 152 extreme weather events from 1999 to 2018, survey quotes international studies

“By launching the Ecosystem Restoration Initiative (ESRI), the government intends to facilitate the transition towards environmentally resilient Pakistan by mainstreaming adaptation and mitigation through ecologically targeted programmes. Afforestation, biodiversity conservation and attaining Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) are some of the initiatives besides the approval of National Electric Vehicle Policy targeting a 30pc shift to electric by 2030, and the world’s “first zero emissions” metro line project launched in the city of Karachi.” The “Clean-Green Cities Index” has been initiated in 20 cities to trigger a shift towards improved waste management and sanitation are some of the other objectives.”

According to the Economic Survey, studies were undertaken using the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) model that showed that wheat production in the arid areas of Pakistan was likely to suffer to the tune of 17pc.

It is feared that the aggregate impact of climatic parameters such as changes in temperature and rainfall, exerted an overall negative impact on cereal crop yields, given that the management practices and use of technology remain unchanged.

Modeling of climate change scenarios for Pakistan show that if agriculture and water management in the Indus River Basin continue in a business as usual mode, increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation will pose serious threats to the future livelihoods of farmers and to the Pakistani agricultural sector.

Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources: The Economic Survey has said that in the Karakoram region, the especially northeastern part of Northern Pakistan, which contains the major proportion of the Pakistani glaciers, there is evidence that most of the glaciers are either advancing or stable.

Recently Khurdopin glacier and the Shisper glacier surged down the hill at extremely fast rates, causing a blockade to a flowing stream, forming a temporary lake with an outburst risk.

On the other hand, some areas, especially in the Hindukush mountain range (Chitral and western Gilgit), the Chitaboo Glacier in Chitral has retreated rapidly in recent years due to global warming.

The survey said Pakistan has been consistently ranked as one of the most affected countries by climate change.

The population is facing natural hazard challenges like floods, droughts and cyclones.

The policymakers, scientists, developers, engineers and many others around the world are using geographic information system (GIS) technology to better understand this complex situation and offer tangible solutions in different climate change scenarios.

To improve the forest cover, the government has launched Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme to combat adverse effects of global warming. This umbrella project covers all the provinces including AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan with provincial budgetary share.

All segments of society such as students, youth, and farmers have been actively involved in this mega afforestation activity.

The government maintains that the coronavirus outbreak is a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people globally, impacting the global economy, including Pakistan’s.

In the current situation, the government has a dual challenge; to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate the socioeconomic losses to protect the most vulnerable.

This is the first time in hundred years that the world is facing a rapidly spreading fatal virus for which there is no authentic prevention/treatment to overcome the pandemic.

Under the current crisis, top priority of the government is to protect the vulnerable segments of society.

Meanwhile, the government is taking different measures to effectively tackle climate change challenges, such as improving technological responses by setting in place early warning systems and information systems to enhance disaster preparedness climate change resilience, and by improving forest management and biodiversity conservation.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2020



Reuters Updated 09 Jun 2020

ISLAMABAD: Late last month, residents of the tiny village of Hassanabad, in Hunza district, noticed floodwaters quickly rising in the stream that runs near their homes, carrying water from the towering Shishper glacier.

“The flows became so high that they eroded the land and reached 10 feet from my family’s home. We evacuated,” said Ghulam Qadir, a resident of the village.

The ensuing flood, carrying huge boulders from the melting glacier, demolished the cherry, apricot and walnut orchards many families depend on, and left homes cracked, 16 families in tents and local irrigation and hydropower systems damaged.

The flood water broke all the retaining walls that were built last year in order to protect the village,” Qadir told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone. “Now there is a ravine right next to our houses and we live in dread of another flood.”

As many as 3,000 lakes have been formed causing worries among 7m people living downstream

The area is one of 24 valleys in northern Pakistan scheduled to receive warning systems, between 2018 and 2022, for glacial lake outburst floods using $37 million in funding from the Green Climate Fund.

But work has been delayed as a result of differences between the partners, the UN Development Programme-Pakistan and the federal Ministry of Climate Change, as well as by a change of government and now the coronavirus, said Ayaz Joudat, national programme director for the project.

“The delay is partly due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and partly because UNDP-Pakistan would not finalise the letter of agreement signed with the Ministry of Climate Change, which would give us oversight over hiring of staff and other matters, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

That delay, however, was recently resolved, he said, and hiring now will begin at the end of June, with an aim of installing the first early warning systems on glaciers by September.

Amanullah Khan, UNDP-Pakistan’s assistant country director, agreed the delayed project was now “up and running”.

With more than 7,000, Pakistan has more glaciers than anywhere except the polar regions.

But climate change is “eating away Himalayan glaciers at a dramatic rate”, a study published last year in the journal Science Advances noted.

As glacier ice melts, it can collect in large glacial lakes, which are at risk of bursting their banks and creating deadly flash floods downstream, in places like Hassanabad.

More than 3,000 of those lakes had formed as of 2018, with 33 of them considered hazardous and more than 7 million people at risk downstream, according to UNDP.

In an effort to reduce the risks, pilot funding from the UN Adaptation Fund from 2011-2016 paid for two lake outburst warning systems, flood protection walls and community preparedness efforts in Chitral district and in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

The new project aims to install similar systems in 15 districts in northern Pakistan, and to build other infrastructure to reduce risks, including flood walls in villages like Hassanabad.

Danger ahead

Shehzad Baig, assistant director of the Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority in Hunza, said the recent flood in Hassanabad was spurred not by a typical glacial lake outburst but by rapid glacier melt.

That melting is likely to pick up over the summer months, he said, noting that “June to September will be dangerous”, particularly after a winter of heavy snowfall.

Baig, who flew over the Shishper glacier on a helicopter recently for a look, said the ice still lacked an early warning monitor for outburst floods, though as a first step the Meteorological Department had installed an automatic weather station last June.

A UNDP-Pakistan team came last year to study the glacier and there was talk of an (automated) early warning system that was to be installed but no action was taken, he said.

In late May, the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority warned that the Gilgit-Baltistan region had received a third more snowfall than normal over the winter, which could raise flood risks.

Residents of Hassanabad said the planned work on a warning system can’t come soon enough, as summer heat raises the threat level.

“We don’t care about all this bureaucratic red tape. We just want better protective walls for our village and a proper early warning system,” Qadir said.

This coming summer there will be more flooding and people will suffer.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2020