PESHAWAR: Changes in the pattern of rainfall and cold stress phenomenon have resulted in the loss of normal yields of food grains, including wheat and maize, and fruits in different districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in recent years.
A report by the Climate Change Centre, University of Agriculture, Peshawar, reveals that the climate change had serious repercussions for the farming sector of the food-deficit province. It added that the changing weather pattern was also taking a toll on livestock due to widespread diseases associated with abrupt changes in climate, while production had decreased due to the unavailability of fodder and balanced diet.
The study on ‘forecasting impact of climate change of key crops of 10 selected districts, KP’ was jointly conducted by Prof Mohammad Jamal Khan, Prof Hamayoon Khan and Dr Inamullah. It revealed that changes in the rainfall distribution and pattern along with rise in temperature had been perceived by farmers.
“Unfortunately, it has not been realised by the planners and researchers, whereas the livelihood of the farmers particularly small farmers is at risk and will further aggravate in future,” said the report.
University report warns livelihood of small farmers vulnerable
The study was conducted in northern, central and southern regions of the province. Abbottabad, Buner, Bannu, Nowshera, Mansehra, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Mardan, Shangla and Lakki Marwat districts were selected for field study.
The report revealed that with exception of Upper Dir and Shangla, wheat was affected by the climate change, whereas in the rain-fed areas, including central valley and southern districts, wheat hadn’t been even grown in the last two and three years due to the shortage of moisture and delay in rainfall.
It said maize crop was affected due to the shortage of water and rise in temperature in Lakki Marwat, Nowshera and Lower Dir.
Similarly, rice cultivation is affected throughout the province except in Upper Dir and Shangla, while the production of citrus, apples and peer is gradually decreasing due to climate change.
Another emerging issue is that sources of surface water especially springs have either dried or are drying and water table is decreasing throughout the province.
“The water table has been lowered to more than 200 feet in central and southern whereas it is continuously dropping elsewhere in the province,” it said.
The report recommended the development of new ‘germplasms’ of crops, fruits and vegetables to stand the extremes of climates.
Dr Hamayoon Khan, who headed the centre, said severe change in the pattern of rainfall had resulted in the loss of normal yield of different crops in the districts.
“Major reason of the changing pattern in rainfall is deforestation and as a result, the ratio of carbon in the air has also increased,” he said, adding that the issue could be handled through massive forestation.
The climate analysis of the last 20 years of KP conducted by the Peshawar Meteorological Station also showed 25 per cent decrease in rainfall in winter in Peshawar and 40 per cent increase in the summer rainfall along with increase in off season rain from April to mid May.
This analysis shows overall 10 per cent increase in day and night temperature of Peshawar.
According to the analysis, the annual rainfall in Peshawar, Kakul (Abbottabad), Dera Ismail Khan and Saidu Sharif (Swat) has increased during the last two decades while rainfall in Chitral has decreased.
The minimum temperature of Saidu Sharif has recorded 10-15 per cent increase in the summer season, while the maximum temperature in Kakul also shows 10 per cent increase.
Director of the Regional Meteorological Centre, Peshawar, Syed Mushtaq Ali Shah while commenting on the changes said the daytime temperature had increased in winter, while temperature in summer had slightly decreased affecting the yield of fruits in Peshawar and its surrounding areas.
“Deforestation, unplanned urbanisation, conversion of agriculture lands and suspension of dust particles in the air of big cities and towns are contributing to global warming,” he said. The director said temperature in some areas was increasing at the rate of approximately 0.5 degree Celsius per decade.
He said the annual mean rainfall in 1999-2008 in Chitral was recorded 450.9mm, which had decreased to 434.9mm in 2009-2018.
Pakistan has been declared the seventh most vulnerable country to climate changes in the world.
The climate experts say that the risks related to climate change could not be handled only by increasing forest covered area of the country. They stressed for adopting holistic approach to cope with the issue of global warming.
Dr Zulfiqar, a climate expert, who teaches at the University of Agriculture, anticipated that increase in rainfall would continue till 2030 but there would be no or less rains when crops needed.
He termed the trend of heat and cold stress very dangerous for crops in the region.
“Abrupt slump in temperature during summer affects both human beings and crops,” he said. The expert said deforestation and reforestation were going side by side in the country while harvesting of trees in rural areas had decreased because of supply of natural gas.
He said that forestation could increase rainfall and control air and land pollution but the issue of global warming could not be addressed only through forestation.
“We need land zoning, water management, construction of small dams and promotion of green building concept to cope with the climate change,” he said.
Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2019