Climate change is a recurring phenomenon that has been looming over humanity. More affecting than the perpetrator states, climate-induced destruction is the fate of third-world countries. Directly tied to fuel-based growth, climate change expose states to different levels of vulnerability.
One such state is Pakistan. On the brink of infrastructural, livestock, human, and material resources devastation, Pakistan is facing one of the worst natural calamities. In such a situation we have to discuss the role that the world forum and environmental institutions need to play to avoid such a situation soon.
- An insight into climate-induced disaster in Pakistan
Pakistan is facing climate change and its consequences are worse than others. In the wake of recent events and economic setbacks, the natural disasters have only intensified the economic shocks, halted infrastructural development, and set Pakistan many years in the past.
we can develop a hypothesis that Pakistan needs a great amount of work done for environmental protection.
This year in Pakistan spring season was not pleasant as it usually used to be. At the start of spring from mid-March, Pakistan and its citizens witnessed the sudden shift from extreme cold to scorching heat in a matter of days. It was alarming to witness the 40°C in spring this year which used to occur in the peak summers couple of years before.
On March 15, the Pakistan Metrological department issued a statement concerning the heatwave. The warning showed that the expected rise of 07-08°C above normal dry temperature. The month of March and April was also recorded to be dry with a decrease of more than 62% of the usual rainfall during the season.
This sudden and unexpected heatwave put great stress on the water reservoirs, crops, and orchards as explained by Amanullah Khan, Pakistan’s Assistant Resident Representative at UNDP during his interview with Al-Jazeera.
This heat wave being hard on water reservoirs, crops and orchards was also a great test for human lives. During this heatwave, almost 90 lives were lost in Pakistan depicting the dark image of Climate change.
Since Pakistan is home to many glaciers in the world, these extreme, untimely, and unexpected heat waves led to many glaciers melting. For example, after the April heatwave, In May Shisper glacier in the Northern area of Hunza experienced a Glacial Lake burst. This lake outburst set the foundation for a massive flood affecting the nearby areas.
As a preventive measure for rising temperature, Pakistan Metrological Department & Ministry of Climate Change issued glacial lake flood alerts in April. Locally Gilgit Baltistan Disaster Management Authority declared an emergency in the same month for Glacial floods.
UNDP Pakistan in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate change took immediate action to avoid the damage. The prompt action and preventive measures led to the evacuation of families before any disaster struck. There was no recorded loss of life.
According to Pakistan’s Meteorological Department in 2022, there have been reported 16 glacial lake outburst incidents in northern Gilgit-Baltistan. These Glacial melts were limited to just five or six in the past. This is the result of the rise in temperature and climate change.
Monsoon & Floods
Pakistan since June has been experiencing monsoon rains. These monsoon rains have drenched the country in one of the worst floodings since 2010. This flooding has been exacerbated by the glacier melt of almost Pakistan’s 7,000 glaciers because of extreme heat.
According to the statement given by the UN Secretary-General, Pakistan is facing “a monsoon on steroids”. Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority study informs that the floods have displaced more than 33 million people. These floods have damaged the infrastructure of more than 1 million houses and killed at least 1,500 people till now.
Other than this it also has destroyed 390 bridges and 12,718 kilometers of roads mostly in the areas of Sindh, Balochistan, and Northern areas cutting from one area to another. The flash flood also cost around 700,000 livestock and 2 million acres of crops.
In terms of climate change, the ministry mentioned that the province of Sindh and Balochistan mainly received rainfall by 5-6% more than in the previous 3 decades.
According to the Pakistan’s Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal, the country submerged in floods and environmental havoc has suffered the loss of $10bn in terms of infrastructure and livestock. The coming times can be challenging in terms of water drainage, food shortage, and infrastructural development as Pakistan is already in economic turmoil.
- Responsibility of International Environmental Institutions
Pakistan is a producer of less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions but in terms of facing the climate change consequences it is in the top 10, and the international environmental institution holds some responsibility for it.
Being in Political turmoil, economic crisis, and inflation what role such institutions should play to avoid the disasters like these. Here are some listed down pointers that could serve as preventative measures in Pakistan’s fight against natural calamities and climate change.
Awareness of Climate Change
Awareness of climate change is needed to form better planning and management when it comes to natural calamities. More than citizens, the policymakers of Pakistan need more awareness. Therefore, the environmental consciousness of individuals, organizations, policymakers, and multinationals is an indicator of how they respond to natural calamities.
According to a study done, the awareness about climate change is very low in the local government of Pakistan. Only 6% of the survey respondents were aware of climate change in Pakistan. It depicts ignorance and illiteracy regarding climate change. The government on its behalf has constructed policies regarding natural calamities but the issue is the awareness and literacy regarding the urgency of the situation.
In this situation, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should increase its operations in Pakistan urgently, which is slim when compared to the urgency of climate change. To take the educational and public awareness campaign regarding climate change and its consequences UNFCCC has a great responsibility to help the government of Pakistan raises awareness through on-ground operations, and video series and ensure public participation in programs and information on the issue in a country that has contracted very less for environmental degradation.
Training and guidance for Governmental Institutions
Pakistan in the contemporary era and situation is in a dire need of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) situation. Even though present for two decades its stills not flourishing as it should be according to the survey conducted by NIAP (National Information Assurance Partnership). The Government officials steer the nations toward a better future in a situation where they are not aware of the impact of something as big as natural calamities, the public suffers as Pakistan did especially in this year alone.
In such a situation, the role of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) should be directed towards Pakistan. UNEP’s work focus on the environmental dimension of sustainable development, working in seven different thematic areas: climate change, disasters and conflicts, ecosystem management, environmental governance, chemicals and waste, resource efficiency and the environment under review.
It works with different actors and states official through conferences and multilateral program to assess the global, regional, and national environmental situation. It then helps states to develop international and national environmental institutions to construct instruments for wise management. Seeing the flash flood recently we can say that Pakistan is in the dire need of this pre-planned management in case any calamity hits. UNEP is responsible for the creation of programs that lead the climate change actions and aware state officials of how to effectively deal with the situation to avoid any damage, especially to human life.
UNEP’s role in Pakistan is minimal, for years it is not as strong as it should be when Pakistan is in the top 10 countries vulnerable to climate change. Being aware of the preventive measure, especially at the governmental level can save much damage as it did during the Shisper glacier lake burst.
Direction for pre-planned strategies about environmental dangers
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), an initiative by World Meteorological Organization, is working to provide scientific research on climate change in collaboration with UNEP. One of the leading organizations, it set the foundation of climate change policies and actions to alleviate the effect. IPCC research happens on five grounds: Physical Science Source, Impacts, Alteration, Exposure, and Alleviation of Climate Change.
It is on the task to provide scientific evaluation reports on the impacts of climate change, the risk it poses in the future, how to adapt to the changing climate and mitigation options.
Since Pakistan is a vulnerable state to climate change and the research is little to very less. We need properly researched assessments to inform the horrors of climate change, how we should adapt to the changes that follow in temperature and seasonal changes and what efforts should be done to reduce natural calamities. This is what Pakistan needs the most, proper guidance that can save the country from further destruction and IPCC is the leading organization that could ensure thr same, especially at the governmental level.
Task enforcements and data analysis
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the mapping of the result of rapid decision-making is somehow nonexistent when it comes to data analysis of climate change. For example, in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan there is a low score of inspection and enforcement same as Punjab and other provinces.
Only a limited number of inspections are being undertaken in the present as it was in the past, without any betterment. There is no task enforcement and staff to perform the uninterpreted and authentic assessments. It happens rarely that sanctions and fines are imposed if an inspection shows a breach of the environmental conditions of the NOC.
The picture that it depicts is of a comprehensive legislative framework that is needed with effective administrative units. The challenge however lies in the very core of EIA, the quality of assessment reports and data analysis, the limited participation and the low level of monitoring and follow-up.
Two constraining factors for task enforcement are the lack of administrative environmental agencies and the limited decision-making by officials.
The concern is that Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is incapable and does not have the funds to compensate such experts to forward these efforts. They need to rely on volunteers, with mixed results. Therefore, International Environmental institutions like Green Climate Fund (GCF) should be the pioneer to save the third world and developing countries and equip themselves to mitigate the climate’s mayhem and natural disasters so the devastation could be minimized in the coming years.
Pakistan is in the dire need of effective management and leadership in the wake of natural calamities, climate change, economic shock, and political turmoil. It needs the help of the inside; the people, local institutions, and government as well as the outside international environmental organization and leading countries to fight the devastation and rebuild itself.
The international environmental organization has the responsibility to direct and help nations emerge from disasters and with countries participating less in climate change but facing the most consequences like Pakistan. These organizations need them to serve the people. It’s their underlying role to help Pakistan, mitigate and adapt the climate change and avoid the misery caused. As well as equip the officials for better assessment to avoid future devastation induced by the environment.