Sherry stresses need for drought preparedness, building resilience

In Pakistan, we see water stress and dry rivers all over the country due to prolonged heat waves

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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister of Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman stressed the need to set in motion the work on improving drought preparedness and building drought resilience.

The minister, in her message on the World Desertification and Drought Day being observed on Friday, said, “Droughts and desertification are critical issues worldwide. For the last two years, Pakistan has been amongst the top 23 countries facing a major drought emergency.”

By 2025, she said, droughts might affect estimated three-quarters of the world’s population. “Pakistan will certainly be in its crosshairs. Desertification is a global phenomenon caused by environmental and climatic factors and human activities but has left Pakistan scarred by its multiple impacts, including environmental degradation, loss of soil fertility, loss of biodiversity, and reduction in land productivity, which has exacerbated and amplified the vulnerability of fragile local communities.”

Sherry Rehman said, “Droughts aren’t some new phenomenon that we aren’t familiar with, they have always been a part of nature and human experience, however, with massive deforestation, and anthropogenic activities a noticeable change in climate conditions has accelerated the fallout.

“In Pakistan, we see water stress and dry rivers all over the country due to prolonged heat waves and delayed rains, poor distribution of water. This worsens especially because the country is predominantly arid.

“In addition, Pakistan’s per capita water availability has dropped from 5060 cubic meters per annum in 1951 to only 908 cubic meters now. UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) states that Pakistan will dry up by 2025 if no urgent action is taken today. Our livestock is critically affected by the rising heat and lack of water in already water-stressed areas of Sindh and South Punjab.

“The challenge is a big one. Pakistan has embarked on its Green Initiative programme set to plant 3.29 billion plants over an area of one million hectares. Currently, we have achieved the target of 1.5 billion plants, which has resulted in 250,000 green jobs in rural areas that continue to experience droughts and desertification.

“In Sindh, the Indus Delta, lifeline of many living near coastal areas, is depleting at an alarming rate. According to a US-Pakistan Centre report at the Mehran University, the Indus Delta has shrunk by a massive 92% from 13000 square km in 1833 to only 1000 sq km now. The new ambitious “Living Indus” initiative spearheaded by the UN and MOCC is currently underway and is working towards restoring the health of the Indus Basin.

“Pakistan has also launched an Ecosystem Restoration Initiative under the theme of “Nature-Based Solutions” to tackle critical issues like desertification, loss of fertility, and droughts.

“On this World Desertification and Drought Day, we need to set in motion the work on improving drought preparedness and building drought resilience. Pakistan is one of the countries on the frontlines of the climate emergency. We cannot stop droughts from happening but we can prepare for them by conserving our water. The country is striving to achieve the voluntary Land Degradation Neutrality Targets by 2030 and the aforementioned efforts will lead the way to achieve these targets.”

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