WWF, NIOP studies show seawater intrusion in 30-yr invade 1km inland

KARACHI: Studies by World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Pakistan) and National Institute of Oceanography Pakistan (NIOP) show seawater intrusion in the past 30 years has encroached over 1 kilometer inland. Indus River Delta may see a rise of up to 10 millimeters per year in the future. Other studies predict an eventual rise of up to 6.5 feet, naturally displacing local communities. The flat topography of the Sindh coast makes the area very susceptible to sea level rise and its harmful impacts.Professionals, policymakers and community representatives in Thatta Sindh at the Inception Workshop for ‘Climate Resilient Communities in Coastal Lying Areas of Sindh project’ organised by Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan (AKPBSP) were of the view interventions planned as part of the project would create awareness about the impact of climate change on the lives of local people living in the coastal areas of Pakistan and equip them with necessary knowledge and skills to cope with disasters related to climate change. Ms Saleema Salim Programme Manager Sindh AKPBSP said, “In Sindh, the precipitation pattern does not allow for accurate flood predictions and therefore adaptation measures are an absolute necessity.”Federal Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid recently revealed Pakistan ranked 135th in carbon dioxide emissions and being the sixth most populous country in the world, scarce resources were being burdened with an annual deforestation rate of 4 to 6 percent. Human induced hazards such as deforestation and increase in population aggravate the existing predicament by causing soil erosion and resource scarcity, particularly in rural areas where wood is primarily used as fuel for cooking and/or heating. Trees store carbon dioxide as they grow and clearing or burning wood releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, directly contributing to climate change. Carbon emissions in Pakistan continue to increase at an alarming annual rate of 8 to10 percent.The workshop highlighted the threat climate change posed in Pakistan where lack of awareness put an increased risk on each citizen. Coastal areas such as Thatta in particular suffer the most. Hotter summers result in raised sea level, posing a serious threat to coastal areas. Sea level has risen about seven inches in the last 100 years, which is more than in the previous 2,000 years combined. Sea level could rise another 19 inches by the year 2050. According to World Health Organization factsheet, many of the major killers such as diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are highly climate-sensitive and are expected to worsen as the climate changes. More significantly, diarrhoea, dysentery and respiratory infections, among others, result from floods and water logging. Damaged transport infrastructure keeps people from accessing the nearest clinics and hospitals and obstructs emergency services from reaching people. More significantly, population displacement as a result of flooding could increase tensions and potentially the risks of conflict. Senator Karim Khowaja stressed on the importance of preparing the built environment, which was vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. He said, “Millions of acres of land in Badin and Thatta has eroded due to the movement of water downstream.” He pointed at the impact climate change was having on the food chain of the region by saying, “Rice and wheat was in abundance in Sindh in the 1920s, when workers from Middle Eastern countries used to come here to work on our farmlands. Now the province starves as nothing to eat remains.” 

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