February 2020




February 24, 2020

RIYADH: Finance officials from the world’s 20 biggest economies (G20) on Sunday referenced climate change in their final communique for the first time in US President Donald Trump’s administration, but stopped short of calling it a major risk to the economy.

The United States blocked including climate change on a list of downside risks to global growth that had won agreement by nearly all other G20 delegates, but ultimately agreed to permit a reference to the Financial Stability Board’s work examining the implications of climate change for financial stability.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin played down the importance of the language included, calling it a “purely factual” reference to work being done by the FSB. But several G20 sources said it marked progress toward greater recognition of the economic risks posed by climate change.

“I did not bend to pressure from the Europeans,” Mnuchin told reporters after the release of the communique, bristling at the characterization of one reporter.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan, hosting the meeting in Riyadh, told reporters that climate change remained a very important issue on the Saudi G20 presidency agenda and that there had been discussions related to “financial risks at large” linked to the issue.

Discussions related to “climate change and environmental protection” would continue at ministerial meetings and in technical groups throughout the year, he said.

One of the G20 sources said it was the first time a reference to climate change had been included in a G20 finance communique during Trump’s presidency, even though it was removed from the top of the joint statement.

US officials have resisted naming climate change as an economic risk since Trump took office in 2017. One of his first acts as president was to announce Washington’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Delegates worked out the compromise this weekend after Washington objected to a proposal to add “macroeconomic risk related to environmental stability” to a list of downside risks to global growth, two G20 diplomatic sources said.

The final version of the communique eliminated those words from the first paragraph, leaving the only mention of climate concerns in the context of the work being done by the FSB further down in the document.

That passage reads: “Mobilizing sustainable finance and strengthening financial inclusion are important for global growth and stability. The FSB is examining the financial stability implications of climate change.”

“We welcome private sector participation and transparency in these areas.”

G20 finance ministers and central bankers met in the Saudi capital on Saturday and Sunday to discuss top global economic challenges, including the spread of coronavirus.

Concerns about the economic impact of climate change have escalated in recent years and pressure is mounting on business to accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy ahead of United Nations climate talks in November.

A report issued last week forecast the world’s financial services sector risks losses of up to $1 trillion if it fails to respond quickly to climate change and is hit by policy shifts such as the introduction of a carbon tax.

The International Monetary Fund included climate-related disasters in a list of risks that could derail a “highly fragile” projected recovery in the global economy in 2020.

It estimated that a typical climate-related natural disaster reduced growth by an average of 0.4 percentage points in the affected country the year it occurred.

“We should not hide away from what is going on. The climate crisis is upon us,” IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva told a conference in Riyadh on Friday ahead of the G20 talks.

In a statement after the meetings ended, Georgieva called for concerted action “to scale up climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

The communique forecasts a modest pick-up in global growth this year and next, but cites downside risks to this outlook stemming from geopolitical and remaining trade tensions and policy uncertainty.



OUR CORRESPONDENT February 25, 2020

CHAGAI. Non-government organization Muslim Aid on Monday briefed people from all walks of life about a project launched to deal with natural disasters.

Speaking on the occasion, Muslim Aid Provincial Programme Coordinator Anwar Adil  and District Program Manager Syed Iqbal Shah told the participants  that under this project, people in remote areas would be provided facilities that are needed to cope up with natural disasters and they will be informed about their responsibilities during emergency.

He said the new project, including awareness programs, will ensure the safety of dams, constructions and maintenance of water reservoirs and the distribution of seeds. He said that the project would be implemented under the National Disaster and Response Management Fund in collaboration with Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the district administration.



AFP Updated February 28, 2020

LONDON: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaks to reporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the judgement on Thursday.—AFP

LONDON: Britain’s Court of Appeal on Thursday ruled in favour of environmental campaigners who oppose the building of a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport, Europe’s busiest.

The court said the UK government — which approved the Heathrow extension in 2018 after years of delays — had failed to take into account commitments to the Paris Agreement on limiting global warming.

In reaction, triumphant campaigners called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who in 2015 pledged to lie in front of bulldozers to stop Heathrow’s third runway for both environmental and aesthetic reasons — to finally cancel the project.

The legal action against the approval was brought by various London councils, environmental groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan. They lost at an original hearing in May.

Presenting a summary of the ruling, Judge Keith Lindblom said that two years ago, the government of prime minister Theresa May had given no explanation of how it took into account the 2015 Paris accord — which seeks to cap global warming to less than two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels — on building the new runway.

“The Paris Agreement ought to have been taken into account… and an explanation given as to how it was taken into account, but it was not,” Lord Justice Lindblom said.

The current Conservative government has decided not to appeal the ruling at London’s Supreme Court.

However, Johnson, who has in recent times appeared ambiguous over his once-staunch opposition to the project, may still have to make an official decision on scrapping it.

Notably, Heathrow airport — which is owned by a consortium led by Spanish construction giant Ferrovial — said it would appeal Thursday’s ruling.

Heathrow, west of Lon­don, wants to increase its total capacity to 130 million passengers per day, compared to about 78m currently.

“Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the prime minister’s vision of Global Britain,” the airport said on Thursday.

Following Thursday’s ruling, Sadiq Khan called on Johnson’s government “to abandon plans for Runway Three”. “I’m delighted by the decision handed out by the court of appeal,” the London mayor told reporters outside the court.

“I’ve always said that we’ve got serious consequences about the government’s plan to have a new runway at Heathrow because of the impact in the climate emergency, on the air quality, on noise pollution (and) on the quality of life of Londoners.”

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020




Ikram Junaidi Updated February 17, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The world is losing the battle to control carbon emissions, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday, adding that people should invest in green energy because of the high dividends.

“Green economy is good economy. I have personally invested in the Green Fund and it is growing more as compared to my other investments. So green economy is growing faster than others as it is future of the world,” he said at a session on sustainable development and climate change in Islamabad.

Mr Guterres suggested focusing on solar energy as it is cost effective when compared to the production of energy through fossil fuel and also because the continued production of fossil fuel energy in the future would be a mistake.

“We are still losing the battle regarding controlling carbon emissions but I hope that we will win it in the near future. Currently the melting of glaciers is a huge problem but we can not address it unless we stop the global warming. Can you imagine that recently temperature inAntarcticareached 25°C,” he asked rhetorically.

Replying to a question regarding possible tension between Indian andPakistandue to water issues, Mr Guterres said that both countries can agree to use water collectively.

“It can help both countries to build confidence. Moreover there is an agreement between two countries regarding water and the World Bank is ensuring it,” he said.

He said like all developing countries,Pakistanhas contributed little to the problem yet faces disproportionate vulnerability because of it. In the past decade,Pakistanhas lost some 10,000 lives to climate-related disasters, including 1,200 due to a heatwave inKarachiin 2015, he said.

Referring to the risk of locusts emergency in the country, he said that global warming is leading to global swarming.

Mr Guterres said he believes the biggest problem forPakistanis water. Talking about the water situation in the country, he said thatPakistanis one of the 15 most water-stressed countries in the world.

He also congratulated Pakistan on becoming co-chair of the Green Climate Fund and said he welcomes initiatives like the Billion-Tree Tsunami and the government’s Clean and GreenPakistanmovement, adding that he was “extremely well-impressed” when he heard that the country had decided to abolish plastic bags in the capital.

Giving a stark warning about the climate emergency, he said: “We are in a battle for our lives. Our sustainable future is at stake.”

Mr Guterres also talked about sustainable development, saying he was pleased to note that “Pakistanhas embraced the sustainable development goals (SDGs) from the start.”

“Back in 2016,Pakistanwas among the first nations to integrate the SDGs into its national development agenda, and recognise them. In 2018,Pakistanlaunched the national SDG framework to prioritise and localise the goals throughout the country.”

Replying to a question regarding violation of human rights in India-held Kashmir, he said that the UN cares greatly about human rights and human rights should be respected inKashmir.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020



By Mishael Qadeer Published: February 17, 2020

KARACHI: Climate change affects everyone and everything – women and men, flora, fauna and all living beings – but women are affected differently due to the gender roles they inhabit. Even then, says journalist Zofeen Ebrahim, the impact on women varies between rural and urban settings.

As it concluded on Sunday, the Lahooti Melo, held at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, hosted a panel discussion on the role of women in climate change, titled ‘Women Victors, Not Climate Victims,” on Sunday.

Moderated by rights activist Dr Arfana Mallah, the speakers maintained that the role of women in climate action cannot be ignored, as they are active agents of change towards sustainable futures, with consistent sustainable practices incorporated into their daily lives.

“In the past few years, women have really found their voices and recognised the fact that they play vital roles in society, with sustainable practices and climate change being no exception,” observed Ebrahim.

Shabina Faraz, an environmental journalist who aims to make climate issues accessible to the masses, asserted that climate change is an immediate and local problem and cannot be put off as an elite issue. “Pakistani women are at the frontline of climate-friendly practices, continually contributing positively to the environment without ever having gotten any education, both generally and especially on the subject,” she said, adding that rural women were adapting to climate change and mitigating it, without any scientific knowledge or training.

In her view, the impact of climate change is not simply that of the immediate environment changes, but also the negative social practices emerging as a result of climate catastrophes.

The ramifications of environmental catastrophes in some cases have meant that women are now faced with child marriages more than ever before, she pointed out. Displaced families adopt a mind-set that leads them to believe that their daughters would be safer and more settled once they have a provider and protector in the form of a husband. They neglect the trauma, psychological and physical harm that a young girl can face when put in a situation like that, she maintained.

Dr Mallah mentioned the women of a Badin village who have been collecting trash, reducing and up-cycling it and turning it into toys which they later sell. “These women have no real climate motives but it cannot be ignored that they are positive contributors towards sustainability,” she remarked.

Meanwhile, Nazo Dharejo, a land-owner, shed light on social changes that have led to women increasingly doing the farm-work, whereas men contribute to the extent of loading the harvested crop onto trucks for transport.

According to her, all the work, from sowing and ploughing to reaping the crop is done by female farmers, who are also simultaneously expected to take care of all domestic chores. With increasingly difficult climate conditions, these burdens are made worse.

“I find most women in my service are under immense mental duress,” stated Dharejo, maintaining that the shortage of water has meant smaller crop yields, negatively impacting everyone from the landowner to the farmer as incomes drop.

Discussing the impact of migration, Faraz highlighted the increasing number of landslides occurring in rural mountainous areas, which have levelled homes and changed the whole terrain of areas.

These areas largely consist of women, the elderly, and children due to the men having migrated to urban cities for work, leaving the women to engage in disaster management while also caring for their families and working to provide sustenance, she explained. In some cases, she said, these women found their houses buried in the ground, yet they still braved through difficult conditions.

Dr Gulnaz Anjum, a social psychologist and researcher, pointed out that the effects of climate change have also led to increased violence against women because of greater psychological burdens. She added that women in urban areas face more violence as compared to those in rural areas, due to the lack of a community network.

The speakers also emphasised the lack of representation of women in legislative bodies, adding that their contributions were ignored with the justification that climate change was not a women’s issue. As a result, female perspectives are left out of the discussion.

“We must have intersectional discussions on the issue so that we do not neglect the gender perspective in the field,” insisted Samreen Khan Ghauri, an environmental documentary maker. Globally, women are recognised as a high risk group for climate change, with their sexual and reproductive health being greatly impacted, she said; however, national narratives have largely ignored them with regards to the issue.

Faraz further highlighted how the media and the government neglected to record women’s achievements, giving the illusion that most climate-related work is being done by men alone. “We have also excluded women from decision-making processes,” she claimed. “If women are not included, the policies generated will never be female friendly.”

The speakers underlined the need to put women at the core of the conversation, pointing out that they are tied to natural resources, providing and gathering firewood, grass and water, among many other activities that centre on the environment.

“It is important to remember that climate change is a problem that affects every being present in the living environment,” concluded Dr Mallah. “The conversation, then, is not about whether one group is more or less affected by it, but assessing how and why different groups are affected and what can be done to mitigate these effects.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2020.



By RECORDER REPORT on February 23, 2020

Nine people were killed and five other sustained injuries when a marble block in Salarzai area of District Buner broken suddenly, confirms the officials of the Rescue 1122. The labours were busy in marble excavations when heavy rock of marble suddenly broke down leaving workers trapped under the rubble.

After the incident police and rescue officials rushed to the site and launched rescue operation. Local people also joined the relief operation. The rescue team has recovered nine bodies and five injured persons that were rushed to hospital for first-aid. According to doctor the conditions of four injured were critical while one has minor injuries. All the four critically injured have been shifted to Peshawar in the ambulances of Rescue 1122.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



OUR CORRESPONDENT February 23, 2020

The provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation & Settlement Authority (PARRSA) has completed 44 projects in Buner and Swat districts.

The PDMA in a statement on Saturday said that the project would benefit as many as 28,000 families of remote areas of the two districts. The projects were carried out on the demands of the community as their water supply channels were disrupted due to the natural calamities and people had to walk for kilometers to fetch water for the daily utilities, the statement said.

At least 14 projects were carried out in Buner and 30 in Swat. The projects were sponsored by the USAID which were handed over to relevant department after completion.




AFP Updated February 10, 2020

SYDNEY: Weakening tro­pical cyclone “Damien” battered northwestern Aust­ralia’s Pilbara region on Sunday, as storms brought heavy rains and flooding to the country’s bushfire-ravaged east.

The cyclone was downgraded to a Category One storm on Sunday after making landfall late Saturday as a Category Three, when it brought winds of 195 kilometres per hour at its peak and forced residents to hunker down indoors under a code red emergency warning.

The Bureau of Meteoro­logy said “Damien” was weakening as it moved southeast through the sparsely populated Pilbara on Sunday, bringing winds of up to 100 kilometres an hour and heavy rainfall that was expected to cause flooding.

“Tropical Cyclone Damien will continue to weaken as it moves further inland,” the bureau said.

The storm reportedly dow­n­ed trees, ripped roofs off sheds and knocked out pow­er in the small coastal towns of Dampier and Karratha.

Meanwhile, Australia’s east coast has been lashed with days of rainfall that has caused flash flooding in New South Wales and Queensland.

Flood warnings were issued for more than a dozen rivers across the two states, including in Sydney, home to about five million people and the country’s biggest city, which has been drenched by heavy rainfall.

New South Wales police said they had rescued dozens of motorists who were trapped after driving their cars into floodwaters, as well as a teenager who spent two hours in waist-deep water after falling into a river in the Hunter Valley region.

Emergency services said they also received hundreds of calls for assistance as trees, boulders and power poles fell onto cars and homes, and power went out in some areas.

The heavy rain comes after months of bushfires, with the downpours dousing blazes that have burned out of control for months and raising hopes for an end to the unprecedented crisis.

One major fire — a 500,000-hectare blaze south of Sydney — was declared out late Saturday as a result of the rains while several drought-stricken areas also received downpours.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 12, 2020

Soil Scientists, researchers, academia and scholars call to cope with challenges together, as Pakistan is losing soil fertility, the most precious natural assets, due to lack of policies and lack of research. They were speaking at the three-day 18th International Congress of Soil Science-2020 began on Tuesday at Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam, under the theme “Wise soil management ensures better environment and livelihood.”

The congress jointly organized by Soil Science Society of Pakistan and Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam, attracted soil scientists, researchers, scholars, experts and academia across the world and country.

Abdul Bari Pitafi, Minister for Livestock and Fisheries sharing his views as a Chief Guest of the Event he said that soil is not only cultivable source for producing crops, but is natural asset on which all creatures and ecosystem build bio-diversity and life is dependent on earth which is the main source of livelihood. The minister highlighted the importance of Agriculture and Livestock and added that all sources of the food depend on this larger sector which feeds the population and as well as livestock and wildlife of the country.

He urged the youth to change their behavior for agricultural profession and to develop their ideas and adopt sustainable agriculture practices for safe food instead of wasting time in search of jobs in medical and engineering professions. He added that agriculture and livestock are neglected sectors, which needs to be given priority for the development and prosperity of the nation and the government is also planning to develop policies for this agro sector which is main source of livelihood and food security of the country.

He said there is need of hour to link employment with agro-based economy. “We have to maintain soil at all levels to live safe, conserve biodiversity, maintain ecosystem, on which life of humans depend,” the minister said.

Prof Dr Mujeebuddin Memon Sahrai, Vice Chancellor SAU, highlighted the importance of soil which is the most valuable natural resources for human existence. He added that this soil is the basic medium of survival of human being, animals, flora and all other living species; hence the soil may be called the soul of infinite life. He appreciated the efforts of the Soil Science Department and Pakistan Soil Science Society for organizing this international congress at Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam.

Qasim Siraj Soomro, MPA from desert area Tharparkar district said and encouraging future scientists to develop their research priority areas for arid zone crop cultivation and soil management practices and help the desert community to rehabilitate their soil through good agriculture practices to ensure food security in the desert area of Thar Pakistan. He suggested to have, comparative studies on soil of different areas, including Thar desert, Indus delta, Reverine Belt, Arid and Irrigated area of Pakistan so the policy makers can get benefits for comprehensive planning for arid zone.

The MPA said in fact SAU is playing inspiring role but they should plan the innovative ideas legislators of Thar desert for soil management, water resource management and development of arid zone.

Prof Muhammad Kaleem Abbasi, president Soil Science Society of Pakistan and vice chancellor Azad and Jamon Kashmir University in his welcome address said that soil scientists and researchers have come here to present their ideas and understanding to save soil, produce healthy food crops to meet the needs of ever growing population of the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 12, 2020

Global energy-related CO2 emissions “flattened” in 2019 following two years of increases owing to greater use of renewables and an accelerating shift from coal to gas, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday. Electricity generation produced around 33 billion tonnes of CO2 last year, defying forecasts that emissions from power would continue their upward trend. The IEA said that emissions from coal – the most polluting fossil fuel – fell nearly 200 million tonnes, around 1.3 percent from 2018 levels. This was largely offset by increases in emissions from oil and natural gas, however.

Overall, developed nations saw their emissions fall 370 million tonnes (3.2 percent annually), while emissions from non-advanced economies grew by close to 400 million tonnes in 2019. Nearly 80 percent of that increase came from Asia, despite slowing growth in major emitters China and India.

“We now need to work hard to make sure that 2019 is remembered as a definitive peak in global emissions, not just another pause in growth,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

“We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all.”

The Paris climate deal calls on nations to slash emissions to limit global temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The landmark 2015 accord also enjoins governments to aim for a lower temperature cap of 1.5C. The United Nations says that global emissions must fall by more than 7.6 percent annually through 2030 to keep 1.5C in play.

Last year saw some major emitters cut their energy-related emissions significantly. CO2 emissions in the United States for example fell by 140 million tonnes and are now at their lowest levels since 2000.

The fall was partly due to a 15 percent decline in coal usage during a year that saw natural gas prices plumb record lows. The European Union, led by Germany, saw emissions fall five percent, driven by a one-quarter fall in coal-fired output.

However emissions rose across much of Asia, with coal demand continuing to account for more than half of energy use there, the IEA said.

Glen Peters, research director at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research, said weak growth in China and a particularly heavy monsoon season in India likely helped lower 2019’s overall emissions. “I think we need another year or two to see if things are really changing,” he told AFP. “When there is a little weak economy, a few unusual factors, it is hard to isolate what is good progress and what is just luck from the unusual factors.”

Michael Mann, director of Penn State University’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, said that Tuesday’s IEA report was “a little bit of good news at what might seem a bleak time climate-wise. “This suggests that we are indeed starting to bend the emissions curve down, but flat-lining isn’t good enough,” he told AFP. “We need to bring emissions down by about 10 percent a year for the next decade if there is any hope of keeping warming below the 1.5C danger threshold,” said Mann.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2020



Bureau Report February 13, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Federal Ministry of Climate Change has claimed that it has approved annual working plan for 2020 worth US $14 million for carrying on activities regarding the glacial lake outburst floods in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.

In a rejoinder, issued to clarify a new item regarding delay in the project that appeared in this newspaper on Monday, the ministry said that maximum funds were allocated for the local communities that were facing threats of climate change and glacial lack floods outburst.

“The budget allocations have been made after extensive deliberations of ministry of climate change with the local stakeholders and their controlling governments,” it said.

Regarding delay in the project, the ministry said that the delay occurred owing to a faulty and non-transparent project implementation model that UNDP Pakistan was directed to change and which was then duly rectified for credible and timely delivery.

The project is of unprecedented importance that will enhance Pakistan’s readiness for tackling glacial lake outburst floods, especially in 16 most climate vulnerable valleys in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It will create 40 state-of-the-art GLOF and glacial monitoring stations for early warning and boost the community preparedness for adapting to climate triggered GLOFs.

Regarding released of funds by donor to the ministry, it clarified that no fund was received by the ministry directly. Furthermore, there is no bank account related to the project opened by the ministry so far. Thus, there is no question of receiving funds from the project donor agency directly.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2020



Rome February 16, 2020

Farmers around the world are shifting what they used to grow and breed to cope with rising temperatures and erratic weather, international researchers have said, revealing that climate change could expand farmland globally by almost a third.

The study, published in the science journal PLOS One, pointed out that Pakistan’s mountain farmers were rearing fish; Kenya’s livestock herders have turned to planting chilli peppers and Sicilians were growing tropical fruits, which could be “positive aspect: of the global warming.

The researchers examined which new areas may become suitable for growing 12 key crops including rice, sugar, wheat, oil palm, cassava and soy. In a few more decades, they said, potatoes from the Russian tundra and corn from once-frigid areas of Canada could be added to the list.

Climate change could expand farmland globally by almost a third, as vast swathes of land previously unsuited to agriculture open up to farmers on a hotter planet. “In a warming world, Canada’s Not may become our breadbasket of the future,” the scientists wrote.

In Canada, there is potential to at least double the country’s farmland to 2 million square kilometers, thus doubling food production, said study co-author Krishna Bahadur KC, an adjunct professor at Canada’s University of Guelph. “This is the positive aspect,” he said.

Farming on the land identified in the study-more than half of which lies in Canada and Russia, with the rest including the mountains of Central Asia and North America’s Rocky mountains-could help feed the planet’s growing population. But, they warned, opening up new “ agricultural frontiers” would also bring significant environmental threats, including a risk of increased planet-warming emissions from soils.

Some of these frontier areas have the most carbon-rich soils, said Ronald Vargas, secretary of the Glabal Soils Partnership and a land management officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “As soon as you start (farming) you will see emissions. So global warming will shoot up,” he said.

Vargas pointed to a map showing that Russia and Canada hold about a third of  the world’s organic carbon stock found in the top layer of fertile soil. Within a decade, half of that carbon could be released into the atmosphere if the land is cultivated, he warned.

Today, one in nine people go to bed hungry, and the United Nations has said food production needs to increase by about 50% by 2050, when the global population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion. Despite growing demand for food, environmental experts who were not involved in the study told the Thomson Reuters Foundation enlarging farmland could further accelerate climate change.

If agriculture were allowed to extend into all areas identified, “there would be little chance” of meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7F) above pre-industrial levels, the study said.

That, in turn, would generate “even more climate change for poor people in the developing world” who have done little to cause global warming, said Margarita Astralaga, head of the environment and climate division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Instead the answer lies with better management of existing arable land, including raising productivity in Africa she said.




The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent February 05, 2020

HYDERABAD: Sindh Minister for Mines and Mineral Development Mir Shabbir Ali Bijarani has called for cutting-edge research to face natural catastrophes following climate change in the country and to find a solution to these problems.

He said this while speaking to students at a graduation ceremony of US-Pakistan Centre for Advan­ced Studies in Water (USPCAS-W) in Mehran University of Engin­eering and Technology Jamshoro (MUET) held on Tuesday.

“The water centre of Mehran University has [won] laurels at both national and international levels because the entire team of the varsity is well qualified,” he said and lauded services of the centre to achieve the target of clean water mentioned in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

USAID mission director for Pakistan Julie Koenen said Pakis­tan was undergoing economic and social challenges like other countries in the world while there was a major problem of pure drinking water in the country.

She asked faculty members of the varsity and students to coordinate with the US top educational institutions to resolve these burning issues.

She said the US and Pakistani citizens retained good relations with each other.

She hoped that those teachers and students of the centre who came back from the US would impart high-tech knowledge and research that would definitely benefit all countrymen in future.

“If water crisis is resolved, it will safeguard hundreds of thousands of lives. Teachers and students of the centre need more work on potable water, sewage, environment and other water-related matters,” she said.

She said that although USAID provided a budget to the centre for five years and that phase was completed successfully, as per the accord, the US would continue joint educational activities and research with the centre and other universities.

“The centre is now being recognised internationally while both teachers and students ought to knuckle down joint efforts and researches,” USPCAS-W director Dr Steve Burian said.

He stressed that students must create better atmosphere for their aspiring colleagues.

He said that it was not a relationship of only five years with teachers and students of the centre, but it would last for life because the centre was like a family. He congratulated all students for earning degrees and their parents.

MUET Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mohammad Aslam Uqaili said that more than 300 students secured masters degrees in water and environment from the centre during the span of five years while nine PhD degrees were awarded.

He said that over 150 students made full use of an exchange programme and studied at the University of Utah (US) for six months while 15 Pakistan scholars were doing PhD from that university and other US institutions.

Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) Islamabad executive director Dr Fateh Mohammad Marri, MUET pro-vice chancellor Dr Tauha Hussain Ali, registrar Dr Abdul Waheed Umrani and MUET USPCAS-W project director Dr Bakhshal Lashari also spoke.

Hamza, Falak Naz and Moham­mad Shoaib were declared the best graduates in environmental engineering, water resources man­age­ment and integration and water resources management, respectively, and awarded appreciation certificates while seven PhD and 69 masters degrees were conferred on successful students.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2020



By Jahanzeb Tahir Published: February 6, 2020

KARACHI: As the world continues to debate whether climate change is real or not, those most affected by it are struggling to deal with the very real consequences.

With the rise in sea levels and the intrusion of the sea onto land, entire communities living in the coastal areas have been forced to uproot themselves. Living like gypsies in search of livelihood, the fishing communities are finding it difficult to obtain a steady source of income.

Keti Bandar, one such area in Thatta district, appears isolated from other conurbations. Once a beautiful harbour that dealt with the export of goods fit for a king, it is now barren, marshy land.

Abdul Majeed, a fisherman, lived a few kilometres from the beach in Keti Bandar. Though it was the sea that provided him his bread and butter, the very same sea threatened to wipe away his house too.

One afternoon, the fisherman went for a stroll along the shore to assess the threat, trying to ascertain how long it would be before the waves enveloped his property. While he could see the water draw closer with every passing hour, it was still far from his house.

He was wrong, though. That evening, the waves reached his village.

“I woke up to the sound of the waves hitting our house,” remembered Majeed. “The water level was rising every minute. Carrying our children above our heads, my wife and I escaped to safety. From a distance, we watched our house, our village getting swallowed by the sea.”

As wave after wave came crashing down, the streets that connected the village to the rest of the coast disappeared. A donkey cart caught in the current became entangled with a road sign. Crockery, firewood, clothes – goods from their households floated by as they watched. As darkness fell, the sea took possession of their belongings.

To this day, the sound of rushing water, gusts of wind and the cracking of their muddy homes haunts Majeed.

“When the water receded a few hours later, we went back, unable to comprehend what had happened,” he narrated. “The water was still knee-high. Everything left behind by the tides lay scattered. There was sand everywhere and we could taste the salt in the air.”

That day, Majeed realised that his village was no longer a safe place for his family. Scavenging what they could, he and his family migrated to another village. He was followed by his neighbours, with the rest of the village following close behind.

According to environmentalists and residents of the area, who speak on the basis of conventional knowledge, the main reason for the sea’s intrusion is the decline in flow of river water. This is exacerbated by dams, which cause the water level to drop further.

Residents believe that the government only builds dams for political point-scoring, nothing else. They also decry the unequal distribution of water, in line with the 1991 Water Accord.

There are 12 barrages in the Indus eco-region. The Indus river does not drain directly into the Arabian Sea; instead, it branches off into 17 creeks.

For the coastal region of Sindh, the water is drawn from Kotri Barrage, the lowest barrage on the river, and discharged into Keenjhar Lake. For industrial, irrigation and municipal purposes, Sindh and Balochistan receive water from the Hub river. The Hub Dam, around 50 kilometres from Karachi, has a catchment area that extends across the two provinces, covering over 8,000 square kilometres.

The two provinces have an agreement regarding the distribution of water, with as much as 60 per cent of the flow diverted to Sindh while the remainder runs to Lasbela Canal in Balochistan. But the distribution of the water has caused the sea to intrude into the creeks.

According to S Ahmed, a researcher, the amount of river water that used to drain into the sea significantly decreased between 1998 and 2004. The annual flow downstream of Kotri Barrage fell from 77.3 million acre feet to 39.2 million acre feet.

The consequences for the Indus Delta and its inhabitants in districts such as Thatta, Badin and Hyderabad have been devastating, as the seawater takes over agricultural land and destroys the fields. The intrusion by the sea also leaves the groundwater unfit to drink.

Majeed, forced to move to a third village, is barely making ends meet. While a few of his neighbours were able to shift from fishing to livestock and agriculture for their source of income, he has not been as lucky.

“My father used to work for the revenue department,” he explains. “We had land before, but now they are gone. We had lush fields of wheat and rice – they are all gone.” As a result, he is struggling to feed and educate his five children.

Now, he is struggling to make an income from fishing. “Sometimes it is there, sometimes it’s not. We catch it when we catch it, and if we don’t, we go hungry. Without any other business, it is difficult to get by,” he says. For him, and those around him, being jobless is the biggest issue – three out of four in the village are unemployed, according to him.

Majeed is still thankful to politicians like the late Pakistan Peoples Party leader Benazir Bhutto, claiming that it was because of her that they had received basic facilities such as electricity. But his worries about his future remain.

“We feel the danger of being drowned,” he says. “In 20 or 25 years, this village too will belong to the sea.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2020.



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: February 7, 2020

KARACHI: The protection of cultural, religious and archeological heritage at Karunjhar Range is the first priority before exploring the mining potential of materials such as granite, china clay, iron ore, fuller’s earth and gold, stated Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Thursday.

The statement was made during a meeting of the Mines and Mineral Department discussing issues regarding Karunjhar Range in Tharparkar.

During the meeting, it was revealed that there were 10 billion tonnes of granite deposits available in the range, apart from vast reserves of several other minerals including iron ore and gold. The chief minister maintained that if these deposits were tapped, they would bring prosperity to the province, particularly in the local area. “However, before unlocking these reserves, we must safeguard and protect the cultural, religious and archeological heritage in the range,” he added.

“The Indian government has been making billions of dollars from mining activities across the border, by exploiting resources and selling granite all over the world. Sindh can follow this course, if all protected areas are safeguarded,” claimed Shah.

Meanwhile, mines and minerals secretary Zulfiqar Shah informed those present that the range covered Dhingano Forest, Karunjhar Forest, Sadurus Forest, Karujhar Hills and a wildlife sanctuary. He explained that the wildlife sanctuary existed over an area of 200,000 acres, where the creek and wildlife area covered 84,090 acres.

Furthermore, the Karunjhar Hills cover 21,100 acres and the forest areas cover 18,704 acres. Additionally, there are 28 dam sites covering 17,930 acres and 20 archaeological sites spread over an area of 1,601 acres. According to this, the protected areas were spread over 49,186 acres, while the mineral lease area had 31,480 acres, of which 8,128 acres were protected.

Shah directed that all heritage and potential tourism sites should be excluded from the mining area and their sustainability safeguarded, adding that all forest land should also be safeguarded.

He further maintained that the license and permits for granite mining in the Karunjar area should be granted on the condition that industries will be set up within the limits of the Tharparkar district, in order to ensure value addition, employment generation and positive social benefits in the area.

Shah has also instructed the mines and mineral department to draft a policy under which at least a third of the mining permits are reserved for residents of the area. He ordered the department to prepare a profile of the Karunjhar Range, its mineral reserves and the facilities the government needs to offer to potential investors.

The department has been asked to consult area residents as well as all other stakeholders, and present a detailed briefing to the cabinet.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2020.



8 Feb 2020The New York Times International EditionBY HELEN SULLIVAN

Rescue effort in Australia underscores how climate change threatens habitat

Early on the morning of Dec. 27, Phoebe Meagher, a wildlife conservation officer at the Taronga Zoo, set off on a rescue mission with colleagues from the zoo and academics from the University of New South Wales. Several platypuses were trapped in quickly shrinking bodies of water in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the Australian Capital Territory, and wildfires were fast approaching.

“I don’t care what the zoo says, she’s mine,” Robert Dockerill, a senior keeper at Taronga Zoo, said of Annie, whom he raised by hand.

There was a window of a few days before the park would be entirely closed off to the public, and two weeks until the bodies of water would be completely dry. A five-hour drive took the team to what had once been a lake. Now, it was mostly deep, sucking mud. The air was hot and smoky. “Initially we thought we weren’t going to be trapping until the evening,” Dr. Meagher said.

Platypuses are nocturnal, usually waking up around sunset. But these platypuses were already active, which, while concerning, meant the team could see where they were.

“There was hardly any water there,” Dr. Meagher said. “So they couldn’t duck down and hide and be cryptic, like they usually are.”

Platypuses are difficult to catch; they are fast, slippery swimmers and desperately shy.

The males also have a sharp, venomous spur behind one of their hind feet. The venom is not lethal to humans, but there is no antidote, and the pain can last months.

The scientists dragged a net through the remaining water in four areas of the reserve. With the help of a small aluminum boat and a pool scooper, they caught two males and five females. The animals were placed into cotton pillowcases, then given health checks — while suspended upside down by their tails — and driven to the zoo in Sydney, where they will probably remain for months, until enough rain has fallen to replenish the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve’s supplies.

One of the biggest issues facing the zoo was that other reserves were asking them to rescue their platypuses, too, but Taronga didn’t yet have the space. “I don’t think drought and bushfires are going away,” Dr. Meagher said. “We have to prepare for these types of climatic disasters moving forward more and more.” She was spending her days asking, “How do we have the resources to be able to say, ‘All right, let’s go rescue 50 platypus’?”

The International Union for Conser vation of Nature lists the platypus as near-threatened. In January, a study by scientists from the University of New South Wales and the University of Melbourne estimated that climate change could lead the number of platypuses to decline by as much as 73 percent in the next 50 years. Last October, scientists from the University of New South Wales published a study in Global Ecology and Conservation showing that for the last decade there had been no records of platypuses in 41 percent of their previous range.

December was Australia’s hottest and driest December on record; 2019 was its hottest and driest year on record; and the country has been experiencing a severe drought for three years, a key factor in why the continuing wildfires have been so severe. Platypuses are found mainly along the east coast of Australia, which has been the area worst impacted by the fires. The eastern states are also home to 80 percent of Australia’s human population.

In January, Aussie Ark, an animal welfare organization, discovered two dead platypuses in dried-up waterways. The group relocated four others and took five more into their care. Platypuses are also threatened by pollution, land clearing and predation from invasive species, including foxes and feral dogs and cats — especially when platypuses choose to travel over land to seek out new bodies of water. (They can retract the webbing on their feet to walk with their claws.)

In the 19th century, tens of thousands of platypuses were killed for their thick pelts, which were turned into slippers or rugs.

Gilad Bino, a researcher at the University of New South Wales and the lead author on the January platypus study, said that old newspapers and studies described seeing “a dozen platypus in a pool, and using words that we would never use now, like ‘platypus migration’.” Today there are nothing like those numbers. Australia has the worst mammal extinction rates in the world.

In 2018, scientists at Monash University estimated that some platypuses could be ingesting half a human dose of antidepressants from aquatic insects in streams near Melbourne, which have been shown to have high levels of these and other drugs.

An Aboriginal dreamtime story about the platypus (one indigenous name for the animal is Dharragarra) explains its origin as the product of a courtship between a water rat and a duck. Platypuses have fur, bills, webbed feet and a beaver-like tail, and they lay eggs.

The only other egg-laying mammal is the echidna, also endemic to Australia. Young platypuses live with their mothers for up to four months, suckling on milk released through pores on the mother’s chest. They evolved 120 million years ago and offer insight into the link between mammals and reptiles.

Platypuses may be of value for human medicine. Their milk contains a unique antibacterial protein that could lead to new, superbug-resistant antibiotics, according to scientists at Deakin University in Australia. Their venom might help fight Type 2 diabetes; in 2016, scientists at Flinders University and the University of Adelaide discovered that platypus venom contained a long-lasting hormone that promotes the release of insulin.

Robert Dockerill, a senior keeper at the Taronga Zoo, describes platypuses as “Dr. Frankenstein’s first attempt.”

He likes to joke that platypuses and echidnas are the only animals that can make custard, because they produce both eggs and milk. Forty years ago, he said, he watched platypuses swimming at his great-uncle’s farm in Armidale, on the North Coast of New South Wales. The town has been hit particularly hard by the drought. Then, in January, rain washed soil and ash from the bushfires into the Macleay River, causing thousands of fish to die.

As he spoke, Mr. Dockerill stood in front of a tank at the Taronga Zoo that held one of the rescued platypuses, a male. “He’s pretty much done nothing but eat since he got here,” he said. “Tail volume index” suggests the health of a platypus because they store fat in their tails. When the male had come in, he had an index of four, five being the worst. He was now almost a one.

The room housing the platypuses was dark, so that they would be active, thinking it was nighttime. Their tanks, decorated with fresh eucalyptus branches and fern fronds, glowed faintly. The rescued platypus dived through the leaves, wriggling its head as it searched the small pebbles in the tank floor for food. Platypuses use their bills to detect the electric fields emitted by their prey, which consist mostly of invertebrates. They are particularly fond of “yabbies,” small blue freshwater crayfish.

Yet another threat faced by platypuses are yabby traps, also known as Opera House traps because of their shape. Platypuses need to surface in order to breathe, but the traps keep them underwater, and they drown. Opera House traps are illegal in Victoria, parts of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

As the rescued male dived, a steady stream of bubbles emerged from his body. The effect, actually caused by air trapped in their fur, gave rise to an early misconception about platypuses, that they “breathed through their butts,” Mr. Dockerill said.

The male climbed onto a platform and changed positions like a swimsuit model posing for a photograph — at one point pressing his belly against the glass. In a nearby tank, Annie the platypus, a longtime Taronga resident, rolled onto her back, scratching herself with a webbed foot.

Mr. Dockerill raised Annie by hand after she was brought into the zoo with injuries inflicted by a dog. “I don’t care what the zoo says, she’s mine,” he said, smiling.

Often, he gives her a scratch in the mornings, but that day he could not visit any of the zoo’s platypuses; he had already worked with the wild ones, which were under quarantine, which meant he was, too.

Through a private door leading away from the public exhibit, and up narrow metal stairs were two more tanks — and the opening above the rescued male’s tank, into which Mr. Dockerill scattered live beetle larvae and fly pupae. The other tanks each held a rescued female and several bright blue yabbies, which appeared to wait nervously on branches of eucalyptus floating in the water. Suddenly, one of the females caught a yabby and proceeded to roll and shake it to death, like a tiny, furry crocodile.

Richard Kingsford, an aquatic ecologist at the University of New South Wales and another author of the recent study documenting the decline in platypus numbers, also grew up watching platypuses in the river, in his case the Abercrombie River, west of Sydney.

He described their courtship ritual. “They seem to do this weird tumble turning, where they sort of go around in circles within the water, chasing each other,” he said. During the ritual, the male and female nip at each other’s tails.

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Man-made dams, and the diversion of water to irrigated agriculture, have had a significant impact on biodiversity, Dr. Kingsford said.

A few days ago, fires flared up again in the Australian Capital Territory, moving closer to Tidbinbilla. Rangers began catching and relocating other species, including brush-tailed rock wallabies, Northern Corroboree frogs and bettongs (also known as rat-kangaroos), the Canberra Times reported. On Jan. 31, the government declared a state of emergency in the territory.

Dr. Bino, the lead author on the paper published in January, said that the current trajectory — “if we continue to clear land and not improve the habitat, and if you’re assuming that demand for fresh water is going to increase over time, and then you add climate change” — will only further the disappearance of the platypus.

As local populations fragment and grow ever smaller, he said, “it becomes quite easy for us to drive a species to extinction.”



AFP February 9, 2020

SYDNEY: Tropical cyclone Damien lashed northwestern Australia’s resource-rich Pilbara region on Saturday, downing trees and forcing locals to heed a code red emergency warning and hunker down indoors.

The category three storm brought winds of 195 kilometres per hour (121 miles per hour), sending debris into the air, knocking over trees and — in a few instances — ripping roofs off sheds and other outbuildings.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Damien had brought “very destructive winds”, “very heavy rainfall” and could yet spark dangerous storm surges.

Power was reportedly knocked out around the towns of Dampier and Karratha, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage to homes or businesses.

The sparsely populated area — home to several of Australia’s largest iron ore producers — experiences cyclones regularly.

Many locals stocked up on essentials and locked down their homes as the storm approached.

Mines and ports cleared out non-essential staff.

But Damien did not strengthen to a category four storm on the five-point scale as had been feared.