Speakers stress need to raise awareness about climate change

Peshawar  -  Speakers at a seminar have stressed the importance of raising awareness, fostering understanding, and promoting informed decision- making about the multifaceted impacts and risks of climate change. “Climate change is one of the most critical global challenges of our time, affecting all living organisms and natural resources,” they added.

According to a press release issued here on Wednesday, the seminar was organized by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Pakistan in Dera Ismail Khan under its USAID-funded Water Management for Enhanced Productivity (WMfEP) project. Titled “Climate Change Risks and Impacts in Gomal Zam Dam Command Area,” the seminar emphasized the intricate relationship between climate change and agriculture.

Speakers said the agriculture sector in Pakistan is one of the major contributors to the country’s GDP, with approximately 20 per cent of the total GDP dependent on consistent water availability. Changes in water supply can impact crop yields and food production. They stressed the need for awareness campaigns and scientific studies to be conducted for agricultural areas, with results used for planning, preparedness, and adaptation measures.

On the occasion, Muhammad Nawaz, Development Specialist and Mission Environmental Officer, USAID Pakistan, said, “Climate change is now a reality. We must understand that weather patterns are changing drastically, and we are facing recurrent floods and droughts. This is a warning sign. We need to adopt these challenges and be resilient to climate shocks; every bigger disaster brings an even bigger opportunity.”

One of the goals of this seminar was to present the findings of a detailed scientific study simply conducted by IWMI to the local audience.

The seminar was attended by several institutions, including the district administration, disaster management authorities, Water and Power Development Authority, government departments (Agriculture, Irrigation), Gomal Zam Dam Command Area Development Project (GZDCADP) staff, academia, and most importantly, the farming community.

Dr Tausif Bhatti, Researcher, IWMI, presenting the findings of the scientific study, said that Pakistan regularly experiences some of the highest maximum temperatures in the world, with many regions experiencing temperatures of 38°C and above annually. When weather patterns converge to deliver prolonged heatwaves, serious human health impacts can emerge, he added.

Quoting the 2022 flash floods in the Gomal Zam Dam command area, Dr Bhatti said that it received high-intensity rainfall during August 2022. The post-flood analysis of satellite images in Google Earth Engine showed that one-third of GZDCA was potentially flooded on August 29, 2022.

The predictions for the near future are alarming and call for a resilient approach. There is an urgent need to assess adaptive capacity in GZDCA and enhance it to face future calamities in a better way, he stressed.

The study also provided specific planning and adaptation options to government departments, based on inundation maps of the 2022 flood, to improve flood protection and drainage infrastructure.

The suggestions made in the study for farming communities included plantation in furrows (better drainage of floods), high-efficiency irrigation systems (e.g., drip irrigation for drought), silage making (livestock feed in winter), tunnel farming (weather control), and choosing resilient seed varieties.

The study conducted by IWMI suggests that governments and local authorities need to develop policies that consider the impact of climate change on water resources and integrate them into development planning. Raising awareness among communities about the importance of water conservation and sustainable practices can contribute to a more resilient water future.