Wisdom of Life

Project 4

Study on Impacts of Climate Change on the Capacity of Mountain People to Respond to Disasters


04 Months

Donors / Sponsors:

European Commission – AKDN / FOCUSPakistan

Geographical Coverage :

Gilgit – Baltistan & Chitral (GBC)

Objectives of the Project:

  •       To study the impacts of climate change on agriculture, forestry and infrastructure in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan        Region
  •       To study the indigenous adaptation and mitigation strategies and mechanisms
  •       Suggest alternative strategies for adaptation and mitigation in the context of hazards risk reduction

Methodology :

A set of field based methodologies along with focused group questionnaire was developed. Following are the key components of the methodology for collection of required information:

  •       Collection and review of primary data
  •       Stakeholders identification and analysis
  •       Organize consultative sessions with stakeholders
  •       Field visits to the hazard and to be hazard sites
  •       Verification of the primary data through secondary data
  •       Identification of major hazard sites
  •       Meetings with local government departments
  •       Review of the local governance system

Impact Assessment Tools:

A range of tools were developed for impact assessment which determined the basis for findings as well as recommendations proposed through this study. Following are the components of the impact assessment tools:

  •       Prevalent climate trends
  •       Historical record of weather patterns
  •       Sensitivity analysis
  •       Reflections of the indigenous communities
  •       Climate hazard trends and ranking

Main categories of disasters in GBC:

In GBC, climate induced hazards in the form of unexpected monsoon rains and floods coupled with melting and outburst of glaciers along with landslides are mainly prevalent since the last 5 to 6 years. Deforestation has accelerated this process by triggering insect pests and disease problems on crops as well as livestock.

Most of the natural as well as human induced disasters may be effectively dealt with by developing specific adaptation and mitigation measures.

Outputs :

  •        Study on the impacts of climate change in terms of natural as well as  human induced disasters
  •       Study the indigenous adaptation and mitigation strategies and mechanisms with analysis of community vulnerabilities and capacities
  •       Recommendations of possible adaptation and mitigation measures at strategy and policy level.

Discussion and Conclusion :

Under the ongoing phenomena of climate change acrossPakistanand GBC in particular, we will have to face either long and intensive droughts or heavy floods. This is a reality and we have to face it because global warming is creating havoc around the globe. Therefore, we have to remain prepared for extreme climate changes. In this context, the Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) approach needs to be strengthened with involvement of all the relevant stakeholders. We have to admit that we cannot reverse the climate change projections alone unless the entire nation rather the whole global community seizes unsustainable living style, consumption patterns and production practices.

Unfortunately, this is not something we are going to witness in the immediate future. Suppose the global community implements the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol (KP) today to reduce greenhouse gases, which are responsible for warming the atmosphere, even then it will take 20 to 50 years for climate to come to a ‘normal’ state because trillions of tons of carbon in the atmosphere is being released, causing global warming. We have to wait until all this carbon is absorbed either by the oceans or soils.

 The hard reality is that there is no way rich nations of the West are going to abandon their immense greed for fossil fuel to run their cars and power plants, and there is no chance of the world population of 6 billion ever being reduced.

 The multiplying impact of increasing population, deforestation and changing lifestyle patterns coupled with the ongoing process of global warming are the proven facts which are going to significantly determine the fate of local communities in GBC. As a result of these phenomena, increasing incidents of disasters, food insecurity and energy scarcity have become the serious issues. The highest consumption of the forests, fossil fuels, the water resources as well as melting of glaciers due to all these effects has clearly challenged survival of communities. This has led to building up more pressure on available forests, food crops and water resources.

 The ongoing process of climate change and increasing mean temperature of the ecosystem if remained so unchecked, it would ultimately result into massive floods followed by droughts greatly impacting the natural resources. It will then create issues of the disaster management, food insecurity and water resources. The genesis lies in the approach that could lead us conserving the available natural resources by the involvement of communities both at the rural and urban level. That could only be done if we exploit the immense resources of renewable energy available in GBC.

 Deforestation is mainly linked with the climate change phenomena as it leads to droughts, fragility to mountains, catalyzing the melting of glaciers and incidents of landslides during rainy season consequently enhancing the incidents of disasters and decreasing the scope of livelihoods development particularly for mountain people. The only way to save forests in GBC requires building up the renewable sources of energy with main focus on development of hydropower sources. Only the Indus River System emanating from this part of the world has the potential to generate 60,000 megawatt of electricity (WAPDA, November 2010). The construction of small and large dams may solve not only energy problems but also help management the floods in sustainable and provide controlled irrigation water to reclaim the waste lands for agriculture development.

 The ongoing projects running by public, private and non-profit sector in GBC have great potential mainly in raising awareness and imparting training and education for evolution of the community based approach for resolving the issues related to the negative impacts of climate change and exploit the immense opportunities coming out due to climate changes. If on one hand, floods have caused havoc in GBC and down country then, on the other hand, these may be converted into the best opportunity for construction of dams for controlled irrigation and generation of electricity power as well as irrigate thousands of hectares of desert lands for agricultural development in the country.

 Climate change is a global reality and a phenomena going on since thousands of centuries. Nature has to stabilize itself through variability and the inbuilt mechanism of change management with lots of opportunities in the best interest of communities provided they are prepared to exploit and adapt with these. Therefore, we need to take the climate change phenomenon with both of its aspects including the positive and negative. By exploiting the positive aspects, we may either tremendously mitigate or adapt to the negative aspects. The communities of GBC need to follow the same approach instead of merely accepting climate change as the disaster phenomena.

 Sustainable, efficient and equitable management of water – the life line for survival of humans has never been as important as during the ongoing and expected climate changes where after melting of glaciers coupled with flash floods, GBC would have to face the challenge of serious droughts. Achieving important internationally agreed goals – in a sustainable manner – including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) requires that we do better than we have in the past. It requires that we institutionalize and act upon lessons learnt in the arena of both urban and rural water management and urban development. Capacities to make change happen in water are typically diffused between many different stakeholders including the different stakeholders in our cities. Therefore, increasingly coming to the forefront are the holistic approaches, methods and skills needed to enable successful cooperation and collaboration, including those communication techniques which enable stakeholders to improve their performance, exchange knowledge, views and preferences and act collectively with a feasible vision of the future, promoting effective implementation of water resources management.

Findings of the Study :

As a result of climate change, rainfall/precipitation has been decreasing over the past many years and there was a drought like situation up to the year 2005. However, due to an irregular pattern, this situation changed after 2005 and there has been unexpected increase in the rainfall patterns which ultimately resulted into flash floods coupled with heavy landslides devastating several human settlements, human health and the already dilapidated infrastructure. There has been gradual increase in average temperature since last many years. However due to changing rainfall patterns, the mean temperature started to decrease and atmospheric humidity to increase since the last 5 – 6 years. As a result of increase in mean temperature coupled with human and livestock interventions over the years, the glaciers also started to melt rapidly compared with the past many years. The rate of annual deforestation as being projected by the forest department has been 3 percent (NWFP Forest Department, October 2009). Contrary to official version, community is of the view that annual rate of deforestation is more than 10 percent. The major causes of deforestation are believed to be linked with increasing human population in GBC, uncontrolled grazing, enhanced requirement of timber and increased agriculture activity.

 The general atmosphere and local environment of GBC is due to rapidly change in negative ways due to influx of non-custom paid vehicles and increasing use of polythene bags scattered everywhere at public places in the region. As a result, the atmosphere as well as drinking water resources are getting polluted coupled with drainage of municipal waste water in the rivers. Although, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and relevant project of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) working but implementation of laws is not being enforced which is a public policy related issue.

 Because of the abovementioned climate changes, the scale and incidence of natural disasters have increased. The careless human interventions and unplanned activities in the present ecological system have catalyzed the occurrence of hazards. But as a whole the scale and intensity of human induced disasters have started to decrease because of greater awareness raising, environmental education and capacity building of the communities by NGOs which is a very positive sign for the disaster risk reduction efforts. The disaster reduction simulations being conducted by FOCUS in GBC proved to be highly useful for life saving and mitigation of the hazard risks. Following are the overall trends of climate change in GBC:

  •       Rainfall – Decreasing but Irregular since 2005 when it has started to increase
  •       Temperature – Gradually increasing since many years
  •       Melting of Glaciers – Overall Increasing
  •       Humidity – Gradually increasing causing agri-diseases
  •       De-forestation – Gradually increasing
  •       The scale and intensity of natural disasters increasing
  •       The scale and intensity of human induced disasters decreasing – mainly due to awareness raising
  •       Weak institutional mechanism that needs to be greatly strengthened – Lead Agency Role for FOCUS suggested.
  •       Mountain communities can’t handle the imminent disasters unless their capacity is built and required resources are made available.

Following is the crux of proposed recommendations evolved as outcome of current study:

  •    Current study may be taken into account as baseline for similar studies in future as relevant information is hardly available in the documented form for such an extensive subject specifically in the context of GBC.
  •    Livestock is one of the important sectors in the backdrop of climate change impacts in GBC that has been usually ignored while developing adaptation and mitigation strategies. Therefore, it may be given priority while talking about impacts on livelihoods.
  •    Due to increasing humidity coupled with high temperatures, GBC is due to be affected by new insect pests and disease problems which have just started. This phenomenon may cause food security issues. Therefore, it may be dealt with before hand including this into the category of slow economic disaster.
  •    Food crops’ productivity is due to decrease because of the climate change impacts. The Agricultural Departments in GBC, Karakorum Agricultural Research Institute Northern Areas (KARINA) and Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) may be linked with a renewed mandate for on-farm capacity building of farmers in improved production of food, fruit, vegetables and cereal crops.
  •    There is tremendous scope and need for strengthening the existing weak linkages among relevant stakeholders to deal with climate change issues in the context of DRR.
  •    The lead agency working on Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR) may establish a demonstration model for adaptation and mitigation in a valley to deal with climate change impacts. To step forward, Booni may be selected in Chitral, Sandi in Ghizer and Kumrah in Baltistan.
  •    The nature and impacts of damage caused by floods in GBC has almost the same pattern. To cope with, major emphasis may be laid on construction of GR based stone / cemented walls check dams and establishment of vegetation patches for protection of lives and properties of the mountain people.
  •    The training modules based on disaster reduction and management simulation exercises may be prepared for replication of the best practices across GBC.
  •    Based upon resources, the magnitude of stockpiles may be increased in the priority areas.
  •    The wild plant species with the characteristics of soil compaction may be identified, researched and promoted in mountain ecosystem of GBC as the best mitigation measure for control of erosion.
  •    Encroachments along water bodies and near fragile rock system may be regularly monitored to avoid disasters in future.
  •    Human induced disasters could be more effectively managed than climate change induced. Therefore, this aspect needs mass awareness through mobilization of media so that mountain people are careful during selection of sites for development of infrastructure.
  •    It may be made mandatory for each project / development agency in GBC for introduction of CBDRR and early warning and preparedness approach due to sensitivity of the impacts of climate change.
  •    Instead of opposing the goats for damaging forest vegetation, goat / herd management best practices may be followed.
  •    Mountain people have the capacity to withstand the negative impacts of climate change to some degree. However, they need extensive training, education and early warning and preparedness systems in place due to rapidly increasing impacts in the form of disasters.
  •    The proposed lead agency may focus on development of projects in GBC in the context of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reducing Emissions from De-forestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) as a long-term strategy. Merely focusing on DRR as a short-term approach don’t seem to work effectively addressing negative impacts of climate change unless the issues are taken into account in an integrated way.
  •    In collaboration with Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) alternative sources of energy may be further explored and hydropower projects may be developed on priority basis as one of the means to stop deforestation and dependence of communities on firewood.
  •    GBC has great potential of water resources for at least another 100 years. Therefore, large dams may not be opposed due to our increasing energy issues, management of floods and irrigation requirements.
  •    The mitigation and adaptation measures for conservation of glaciers as lifeline for GBC may be further researched and promoted by the involvement communities and media.
  •    Mass awareness programs may be started for the local communities for conservation of their traditional and nature compatible living style while enjoying benefits of the modern lifestyle at the same time in such a way that their natural resources are protected.
  •    Government, community and CSOs need to join hands for collectively addressing the issues of de-forestation, melting of glaciers, environmental pollution, increasing consumerism among society, changing cropping patterns, soil and water erosion and increasing encroachments. This needs organized efforts for strengthening institutional linkages and improved coordination among the stakeholders.
  •    Responsible tourism / eco-tourism is the best approach for conservation of natural resources at one hand and promotion of community livelihood opportunities on the other hand. This must be further developed in the context of the best case studies from around the world.
  •    Environment, population and poverty are closely linked. Therefore, each aspect of this triangle need to be equally taken care of if we intend to manage the climate change impacts.
  •    The Community Based Adaptation (CBA) approach prevalent among indigenous people of GBC may be further investigated and documented to replicate and learn the lessons.
Conserving Natural Resource Base and Promoting Human Development through Sharing Knowledge, Exchanging Practices and Co-creating Future