Recharge Pakistan to address environmental, water challenges

KARACHI: Water management is one of the biggest issues that Pakistan has been facing in recent decades. At the moment, our water storage capacity is close to 10 per cent, which is very low compared to the world, where the average is about 40pc.

This was stated by Malik Amin Aslam, special assistant to the prime minister and federal minister for climate change, during a virtual dialogue organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) on Thursday.

The event participated by government officials and national and international experts was about ‘Recharge Pakistan’, a 30-year programme focusing on building the country’s resilience to climate change through ecosystem-based adaptations for integrated flood-risk management.

The ministry of climate change in collaboration with the ministry of water resources (Federal Flood Commission) and WWF-Pakistan will be implementing different nature-based initiatives related to floodwater management and climate change mitigation under this programme.

Highlighting the need for the programme, the minister said glaciers’ melting in the north coincided with monsoons in the southern part of the country, creating floods and super floods which damaged infrastructure and caused devastating economic losses.

“It’s unfortunate that this water is neither utilised properly nor adequately stored. Besides, the 14 wetlands on the left and right banks of the Indus, which are close to this mass of water, have been degraded due to pollution and other anthropogenic factors,” he told the audience, emphasising the need for using this water to restore wetlands and allow it to recharge groundwater aquifers which were being depleted.

The government, he pointed out, had decided to fund Recharge Pakistan this year and spend at least a billion rupees on two or three pilot sites.

“The programme will address imminent and emerging environmental challenges the country faces such as super floods, droughts, widespread rains, among others, and will focus on building climate resilience for the most vulnerable communities living along the Indus basin.”

According to a presentation on Recharge Pakistan shared during the event, the programme consists of three phases and each phase spans over a period of 10 years. It envisions better climate resilience, water and food security, and sustainable livelihoods through ecosystem-based adaptation by 2050.

More than 10 million people, which make up around five per cent of Pakistan’s population, will directly benefit from the project, while 20m people across 50 vulnerable districts of Pakistan will be indirect beneficiaries.

It will be implemented in selected sites, spanning over a stretch of 1,300km of the Indus, across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. These sites will be selected based on flood risks, climate projections, water storage, recharge potential, and needs of the communities.

Talking about the climate change risks Pakistan faces, Hammad Naqi Khan, director general at WWF-P said incidents of widespread rains and super floods had been increasing in intensity and frequency in the Indus basin, resulting in serious humanitarian and economic repercussions, over the past two decades.

“Integrated flood risk management is now a key national priority and this project proposes to undertake ecosystem-based adaptation measures that will store flood water in wetlands, floodplains and depressions at several priority sites,” he said.

It would lead to additional water reservoir capacity in the river systems to regulate water discharges during high floods and would promote local rainwater harvesting and development of small storages on rivers’ run-off during peak flows, he added.

The event concluded with a panel discussion, which was participated by chairman of Federal Flood Commission Ahmed Kamal, country director of International Water Management Institute Mohsin Hafeez and Global Policy Freshwater lead, WWF (International) Dean Muruven.

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