forecast extra stress
The national weather forecasters believe that the next
half-century will bring about an additional stress over
"already resource-stressed country" through monsoon
circulation, higher surface temperatures and the increase in
frequency and magnitude of rainfall events.
They also see diminishing Himalayan glaciers that reduce the
flows in the Indus Basin in the net 30 years, making the fresh
water availability highly vulnerable. However, higher glacial
melt may increase frequency and severity of floods in the
Pakistan's Met Services Director Anjum Bari Farooqi said these
changes could result in major impacts on the country's
ecosystems and biodiversity; hydrology and water resources,
agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mountains and coastal lands
and human health and settlements.
His predictions about the 'things to come' in next 40 to 50
years were contained in a paper compiled by him and Pakistan's
Chief Meteorologist Azmat Hayat Khan, read his paper at the
second day of the three-day workshop for scientists
researching measures to combat the adverse effects of global
Farooqi, however, said that countries like Pakistan where
impacts of climate change were likely to be severe need to
develop and implement incremental adaptation strategies and
measures to combat the situation, adding the foremost amongst
those were steps to increase income levels, education and
technical skills, and also disaster preparedness.
He told a select gathering of scientists that Pakistan will
start loosing mangrove forests, a breeding ground for 90
percent and source of fuel wood and food to the inhabitants
around that area.
The compilers of the study were not certain what effect the
anticipated changes will have on climate sensitive crops like
rice, cereals, agriculture and spices, nevertheless they
thought that these will continue to adapt changing
They, however, thought the agricultural productivity was
likely to suffer from high temperatures, severe drought, flood
conditions, and soil degradations, threatening food security
of many countries in the region.
Aquaculture productivity will also undergo dramatic changes
because of changes in the temperature of water. They also
foresaw submergence of 'vast Asian coastlines' leading to a
recession of flat sandy beaches due to rise in the level of
Similarly, they anticipated enhanced risk of loss of life and
property in the coastal low-lying areas in cyclone-prone areas
like Southeast Sindh.
Warmer and wetter conditions would increase the potential for
a high incidence of heat-related and infectious vector-borne
diseases such as "malaria and dengue".
The two scientist spoke of rapid decrease of glacier cover
along the eastern slopes of Himalayan reporting that the
Gangotri glacier was retreating 98 feet per year and all
central and eastern Himalayan glaciers may disappear by 2035.
"As the glacial cover has decreased, so have the downstream
flow volumes. Analysis of precipitation and inflow data shows
a direct relationship indicating that, in dry years inflows
are reduced despite the fact that temperatures were higher in
This finding appeared to contradict projections of the
inter-governmental panel on climate change that warmer
temperatures will cause glacial contributions to downstream
flow regimes to increase in the short term," the paper said.
However, historical stream flow data indicates that this
increased flow phase has already passed, and that the basins
have entered a potentially long-term trend of declining flows.
The continuation of this trend would exacerbate water shortage
that were already apparent across the country during recent
Increased temperature with or without any change in
precipitation, over the last few decades is causing glacier
melting leading to higher rates of sliding and sediment loads
in the upper watershed.
Water quality would suffer from the projected impacts of
climate change. Poor water quality effectively diminishes the
availability of potable water, and increases the costs
associated with rendering water suitable for use.
Changes in water quantity and water quality are inextricably
linked. Lower water levels tend to lead to higher pollutant
concentrations, whereas high flow events and flooding increase
turbidity and the flushing of contaminants into the water
Warmer air temperatures would result in increased
surface-water temperatures, decreased duration of ice cover,
and in some cases, lower water levels. These changes may
contribute to decreased concentrations of dissolved oxygen,
high concentrations of nutrients such as phosphorus, and
summer taste and odour problems.
River flows are expected to become more variable in the
future, with more flash floods and lower minimum flows. Both
types of hydrological extreme have been shown to negatively
affect water quality.
In conclusion, the study recommended that the developing
countries of Asia like Pakistan, where impacts of climate
change were likely to be felt most severely because of
resource and infrastructure constraints, "need to develop and
implement incremental adaptation strategies and policies to
exploit no-regret measures and stressing the importance of
considering climate change in planning, designing and
implementing development activities".
Their first recommendation was a macro strategy involving
rapid, sustainable and equitable development that would
increase income levels, education and technical skills,
improve public food distribution, disaster preparedness and
management and health care systems and reduce vulnerability.
The second was a micro strategy involving the management of
sectors most sensitive to the climate change. "This means
developing new institutions or modifying existing ones to
promote adaptation to climate change. It would also involve
modifying climate-sensitive infrastructures already planned or
implemented or other long-term decisions that are sensitive to
climate", they suggested.
Continued monitoring and analysis of variability and trends in
key climatic elements is the need of hour. Weather forecasting
systems in the region must be improved and implement reforms
on land-use planning. New techniques for confident projection
of regional climate change and its variability, including
extreme events must be applied.
Co-ordination of climate change adaptation activities among
countries in the region may be enhanced and non-governmental
organisations (NGOs), community and the public must be kept
aware of developments on risks of climate change and involve
them in planning, adaptation, and mitigation strategies.