KARACHI: Highlighting serious risks to coastal communities due to climate change, a position paper launched on Thursday at a local hotel calls upon the government to immediately start mapping of coastal land, determine zones of risk, exposure and vulnerability and link mapping with profiling of the people and assets in the ‘risk zones’ for formulating policies and frameworks for resilience building.

It identifies Thatta and Badin as two major hazard-prone districts of Sindh while Karachi as an area that posed the most critical challenge in terms of building coastal resilience.

The paper, Building Resilience Framework for Pakistan’s Coastal Areas, has been prepared by the Friends of Indus Forum (FIF). The World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) under its climate change adaptation project had collaborated in the paper’s launch.

The paper cites findings of the 2010 report of the Task Force Report on Climate Change prepared by the Planning Commission of Pakistan and says that the coastal areas are vulnerable for two reasons: rise in sea level and increased frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones. On the former phenomenon, it refers to the studies conducted by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and points out that the sea level along the coast of Pakistan has been rising approximately at 1.2 mm per year, in agreement with the average global rise of 1.5 mm per year since 1960.

“There are concerns that coastal zones and marine ecosystems, in particular the Indus delta, could be damaged from increased saline water intrusion due to sea level rise and increased storm events. The NIO research indicates that ground subsidence rates in the Indus deltaic region due to lock of sediment flux and excessive ground water extraction are probably in the range 2-4 mm per year.

“Ground subsidence has already resulted in the seawater intrusion upstream of the delta extending up to 80km in the coastal areas of Thatta, Hyderabad and Badin districts,” it says.

The paper provides a timeline of major disasters in recent years, including the cyclone in 1964/65, heavy rainfall in 1973, floods during 1988, torrential rainfall in 1994, the cyclone in 1999, an earthquake in 2001 and floods in 2003.

“The most critical challenge posed in terms of coastal resilience for Pakistan can be found within the teeming megacity of Karachi. The commercial and industrial hub of Pakistan with a population estimated to be in the region of about 20m, Karachi exhibits significant ‘vulnerabilities’ both in terms of ‘people’ and ‘assets’.

“As for communities located in the immediate risk zone, the most significant human settlements both in terms of their exposure and vulnerability are the fishing communities residing in villages dotted along the Karachi coast,” it says, adding that a key area of concern for Karachi city planners could be the major residential, business and recreation areas being constructed along the waterfront land.

On impediments to resilience building, the paper says that currently no umbrella legislation exists, which protects coastal and marine resources in general or any specific area of ecological significance.

“Besides, there is no effective ‘institutional and legislative space’ for coordination and decision making among the various coastal and land-based agencies. There are serious inadequacies in research documentation, accurately profiling the ‘communities’ and ‘state of the coastal ecosystems,” said Farhan Anwar, author of the report, while giving a presentation on his work.

According to Mr Anwar, coastal erosion, degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems and habitats, declining water quality, pollution, over-exploitation of coastal resources and low level of institutional and legislative capability for integrated coastal area management are some major issues being faced along Balochistan coast.

Earlier sharing his views, MPA Haji Shafi Jamot opposed the selling of coastal land and islands for any commercial venture and urged the government to withdraw the Zulfikarabad project.

Minister for Environment and Coastal Development Dr Sikander Mandhro, Mohammad Ali Shah of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, MPA Haji Shafi Jamot, Ali Dehlavi of WWF-P, Ghulam Qadir Shah of International Union for Conservation of Nature, Nasir Ali Panhwar of FIF and Naseer Memon of Strengthening Participatory Organisation also spoke.

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