Posted on 23 December 2020
Islamabad, 23 December
: To build coastal climate resilience, improve local livelihoods and address climate vulnerabilities of the coastal communities in the Indus Delta, WWF-Pakistan and Oxfam in Pakistan jointly organised a consultative and knowledge sharing workshop at a local hotel in Islamabad. The event focused on addressing climate change vulnerabilities, loss of nature-based livelihoods and reductions in freshwater flows related to challenges in the Indus Delta. The event was attended by senior government officials, representatives of non-government organizations, academia, civil society members, local communities and media.
During the workshop, speakers highlighted major challenges facing the Indus Delta, which include the impacts of climate change, reduced flow of freshwater, exploitation of natural resources, loss of local livelihoods and habitat degradation. They said that the Indus Delta is more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, which are putting communities and natural resources at higher risk. They proposed that local level plans can uplift communities and improve the coastal ecosystem by building climate resilience and adaptation.
Speaking on the occasion, Syed Shahnawaz Ali, Country Director, Oxfam in Pakistan, said that climate change has led to the deterioration of livelihoods of many small-scale farmers and fisherfolk in the coastal areas of Pakistan. Rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions are leaving them with lower harvests, and without enough food on their tables. Oxfam in Pakistan’s GROW Campaign amplifies the voices of these people, who grow our food and whose livelihood is dependent on coastal mangroves. He also said that Oxfam advocates policies and practices that would ensure that people living in poverty, especially women, claim power in land and water management, and climate change adaptation, so that they can grow and buy enough food to eat – now and in the future. In this way, Oxfam in Pakistan helps push for better policies on agriculture and the environment, to bring back control over food production from big agri-businesses to the hands of smallholder farmers. ‘We also pushed for a global climate deal that demands huge emissions cuts from developed countries, and for developing countries to provide necessary technology and finance, to support adaptation projects of rural communities that are most affected by climate change,’ he added.
According to Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes, WWF-Pakistan, the Indus Delta is a biodiversity hotspot, and home to the seventh largest mangrove forest in Asia. He informed that it is now at greater risk due to inadequate freshwater supply from the Indus River, climate change vulnerabilities, pollution and other anthropogenic pressures. He shared that seawater intrusion, coastal flooding, rise in temperature and other associated climatic factors are posing serious threats to the delta and local communities living in the area since generations. He warned that the coastal communities are facing the brunt of the impacts of climate change, including severe scarcity of freshwater and food security challenges. This fallout is also leading to biodiversity loss in the deltaic region. He urged adopting an integrated approach to promote climate resilient livelihoods, enhance freshwater storage systems and introduce alternative energy options.
Dr Tahir Rasheed, Regional Head (South), WWF-Pakistan, highlighted key outcomes of the initiative. He said that two sectoral Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPAs) and a Vulnerability Risk Assessment (VRA) have been developed, which will serve as guiding documents for policymakers in building resilience of natural resource-dependent communities of the Indus Delta.
Moreover, SHEROs, women from the coastal areas of Sindh, also shared their stories and experiences of supporting conservation of the mangrove forests and improving their livelihoods.
Abdul Rahim Soomro, Secretary Sindh Agriculture Department, shed light on the Sindh government’s initiatives for mangroves conservation in the coastal belt. He shared that in the 1990s the mangroves cover in the Indus Delta was around 86,000 hectares, which increased to 128,000 hectares in 2019. He appreciated the efforts of various organizations, particularly WWF-Pakistan and local communities, to help increase the forest cover. He also shared that there is an urgent need address the challenges of climate change and develop local plans, which are essential for the protection of the delta. ‘These local adaptation plans should be integrated into annual development plans,’ he added.
The workshop aimed at enhancing awareness among government officials on integrating climate adaptation measures, initiatives, and guidelines into government development plans and budgetary considerations. As the intensity and frequency of climate impacts have increased, adaptation to climate change and resilience have become imperative to ensure national development in Pakistan.
Dr Rafique Memon, Pro-Vice Chancellor University of Sindh, Thatta Campus; Rafi ul Haq, Consultant; Ali Mastoi, Director General, Sindh Fisheries Department; Nasir Ali Panhwer, environmentalist; Hamera Aisha, Manager Conservation, WWF-Pakistan and others spoke on the occasion.
WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with Oxfam in Pakistan has initiated a mangroves afforestation project in the Indus Delta. Through this project, over 70,000 mangrove saplings have been planted along the Sindh coast. Both organisations integrate climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience into their initiatives related to biodiversity conservation along with natural resources management in Pakistan. Additionally, the Climate SHEROs campaign is contributing to reducing the adverse impacts of climate change, especially on women whose livelihoods, food and residential security are at risk due to mangrove deforestation.