January 30, Karachi – Oxfam in Pakistan in collaboration with IUCN Pakistan organized a dialogue on Climate Change in Sindh to support the government’s efforts in managing climate change. The policy debate covered the extent and quantum of efforts required to counter climate change and identified the gaps in the current setup. The dialogue focused on the risks and threats faced by the most sensitive areas to climate change in Sindh i.e. mangroves, fisheries, women development and climate migration.
While addressing the participants, Oxfam in Pakistan’s Country Director Mohammed Qazilbash said, “In Sindh sea intrusion is destroying arable land while mangroves that have long sheltered marine life and provided livelihoods to coastal communities are being cut down. These mangroves are under threat due to deforestation and climate change, leaving women, children and other vulnerable groups disproportionately affected. Protecting the mangroves as an adaptation to climate change, will strengthen sustainable livelihoods along the coast and dampen massive migration from the Sindh coast to other parts of Pakistan and across borders.”
Oxfam launched its report on “Climate Induced Migration in Pakistan” and screened an accompanying documentary, on climate migration, during the event. The report suggested that Pakistan’s government needs adopt a climate change financing framework and to integrate climate change in budgeting and planning to ensure a more meaningful and result-oriented approach for the allocation of resources for climate change.
In his address, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan said he was encouraged that Oxfam had picked up the debate on coastal sustainability and numerous other coastal issues, and joined hands to host the event with IUCN. He reminded those assembled that the impacts of climate change along the country’s coast cannot be overstated. Rising sea levels coupled with land degradation due to saltwater intrusion pose a significant threat to the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities. He mentioned that as Oxfam’s own assessment notes, this leads to food, income and residential insecurity, and subsequently to climate-induced migration.
According to the 2018 Long-Term Climate Risk Index Pakistan is the 7th most affected country by the impacts of weather-related events, as calculated through data available between 1997 to 2016. Annual averages during this period show a death toll of 523.1 lives lost per year and a yearly economic loss of USD 3 816.82 million. During this 20-year period, Pakistan also saw 141 extreme weather-related events. In 2016 alone, there were 566 climate induced casualties in Pakistan while the country suffered a loss of USD 47.313 million.
Pakistan saw 1,800 people displaced due to disasters in 2017. The International Organization for Migration calculates the net migration rate in Pakistan between 2015-2020 at 1.7 migrants per 1,000 people. From statistics last updated in 2015, women constitute 48.9% of the migrating populace. Most of these migrants come from a low-income bracket and leave behind ownership of agricultural land, which is often their only source of livelihood, when they migrate from rural to urban settings.
Former Senator (R) Mr. Javed Jabbar stressed the importance of all sectors of the government, civil society and NGOs working together to combat the negative impacts of climate change. He stated that even after we establish climate change policies, we must ensure that those policies are implemented. We need to establish mechanisms that guarantee that the issues raised at this event are not only included in the climate change policy, but are executed as well.
The event was attended by elected MPAs, government officials of agriculture, fisheries, climate change, water resource experts, parliamentarians, media, civil society, fisherfolk and members of Sindh’s coastal communities. Women fisherfolk presented a charter of demands on climate change at the dialogue. The speakers emphasized the need to establish and strengthen provincial institutions on climate change and to ensure sufficient government spending on climate change related actions.
The Sindh Government is working towards a gender sensitive response to the climate change by improving women healthcare and ensuring food security. NGOs also need to play their role in equipping women to combat climate change by increasing awareness.