Experts for proactive multi-pronged strategy to counter growing risks of drought

ISLAMABAD-Experts at a consultative workshop on Friday called for a proactive multi-pronged strategy to counter growing risks of drought causing serious impacts on agriculture, livelihoods and health of local communities mostly at risk of natural calamity due to exacerbating global warming and climate change.  
The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) organized a consultative workshop on Early Drought Warning System (EDWS) for Pakistan here to engage experts, academia, public departments and relevant agencies for multi-stakeholder dialogue.  
Director General, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) Mahr Sahibzada Khan in his welcome remarks highlighted the rising vulnerability of the region and the country due to shift in rainfall and precipitation patterns influenced by environmental degradation.   
Director Water, Food and Ecosystems, Dr Mohsin Hafeez presented a detailed outline of the Institute’s endeavours in terms of enhancing the country’s climate and water resilience including capacity building, training of quarters concerned, research on core issues and solutions devised to address the issues due to global warming impacts on the region in the areas of water management and governance. 
Research Group Leader Water Risk to Development and Resilience, IWMI Dr Giriraj Amaranth via online addressed the workshop. 
He opined that there was a need to look at countries from sub-national and regional levels for proactive and enhanced drought resilience measures. 
He also underscored the need to ensure that SAARC region was promoting integrated drought management, future efforts to develop decisions support information products and the lack of impact assessment needs to be looked into. 
During the second session, Deputy Director PMD’s National Drought Monitoring Centre (NDMC) Dr Shahzada Adnan informed that the PMD has seven dedicated early warning centers for different natural hazards that issued short, medium, and long term forecasts comprising 126 Met observatories and 86 automatic weather stations. 
He underlined that decision-making was important in the forecast process to avoid misleading weather projection indices.
He said the country had winter, monsoon and heatwave periods, whereas its data of weather over the last seventy years was alarming as precipitation was increasing in central areas and northern parts that possessed over 7,000 glaciers. The country, last year witnessed 150 glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) events in the northern area, particularly Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) areas. 
“Annual deficiency of rainfall is causing drought in southern areas. However, if winter rainfall suppresses in the South then we will have drought in the region. Moreover, failure of monsoon in the southeastern part namely Sindh province will cause drought,” he added.
Dr Adnan noted that the famous drought of 2000-2002 caused 1.3 million population affected and billions of dollars were lost in infrastructure and other losses as some 58 districts had affected whereas almost 147 districts were highly vulnerable due to drought.
He regretted that the NDMC had issued three drought alerts issued in April 2018 but none of the agencies moved and media also reported late August. “In 2021, we predicted three alerts in different months but nothing was done. It again impacted 3.28 million masses whereas the media only focused on heat waves,” he added.
He suggested that real-time monitoring, improvement in methodologies, and joint research were necessary at the regional level at the regional level whereas at the national level strengthening the observational network, and media training to understand the climate risk and communicate the climate risk, he said.
CEO, National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF), Bilal Anwar said from a climate change perspective early warning was a very difficult job as there had been failures globally in this area and it was necessary to understand such issues in their depth. 
“We need to equip and make ourselves capable to understand information related to drought and climate events. Drought had a slow onset and diverse impacts causing long-term effects on the affected population,” he added.
Anwar said the NDRMF was an organisation that was well placed in addressing the drought issue as it had three pillars of disaster management including drought monitoring and early warning system (EWS), vulnerability and risk assessment, preparedness and mitigation and response. 
The NDRMF supported 27 water conservation structures in Balochistan, 7 EWS in KP, GB, and Balochistan and it also implemented plantations of 1,000 ha across Pakistan.
He said it was easier to mobilise donors and funding for floods but difficult for drought however mobilisation had started in this regard.
The second session was followed by a detailed panel discussion participated six groups including an online who participated in the discussions. 
In his vote of thanks, the Chairman Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) Dr Muhammad Ashraf said the country that was unable to manage its natural resources was facing droughts and water scarcity issues.
“If floodwater is managed drought can be overcome. The entire Indus Plain was barren before the colonial era whereas the establishment of water-supplying channels created the impetus to revive it. Nature had never been unfair to any country or region rather provides all kinds of resources to all,” he added. 
He noted that floods and droughts used to affect the whole ecosystem, whereas drought was a slow poison and it affected gradually.
“We need to be proactive to manage natural resources, and shift over green infrastructure,” he added.

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