ISLAMABAD: The task force on climate change on Tuesday decided to coordinate across sectors to bring a policy in line with urgent priorities.

A meeting of the task force, held in pursuance of the prime minister’s directive on May 16 at the PM House with Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman in the chair, was convened to take stock of immediate preparedness and response measures, prepare an action plan on precautionary measures, devise a comprehensive public communication strategy and take cognizance of water shortages in agriculture and other sectors.

“PM’s task force on climate change will endeavour to present immediate, midterm and long term measures by cooperating with provinces,” said the minister.

While chairing the meeting, Ms Rehman said Pakistan was currently faced with the warmest months on record since 1961 and the Met Office has predicted that the heatwave would continue till June.

Meeting told to take cognisance of water shortage in agriculture, other sectors

“It is necessary that we expedite our efforts in an attempt to devise a comprehensive communication strategy and precautionary mitigating measures to tackle this menace. Our country is already water-stressed and lack of water may lead us to water scarcity by 2025.”

One of the significant decisions taken in the meeting was establishing central control rooms to ensure effective coordination with all emergency response units in order to expedite the flow of information regarding heatwave. The task force directed the provincial governments to provide information on the number of emergency response centres within each province for the Ministry of Climate Change to proactively disseminate information to the general public.

The minister stated: “The biggest issue Pakistan faces right now is absence of adequate data or statistics. To this end, a centralised control room will be established where provincial governments will provide statistics and data on the number of people treated at the emergency response centres, any causalities, number of livestock mortalities, etc. Such a forum would ensure better service delivery along with increased efficiency.”

Being an agrarian country, a well-functioning irrigation system is needed. The task force directed the Ministry of National Food Security to provide a comprehensive report on the current irrigation needs along with livestock-related challenges and remedies.

Provincial governments were also requested to provide information on water levels and water shortages to the Ministry of Water Resources on a daily basis.

Focusing on measures to ensure water conservation and availability, Ms Rehman questioned the provincial chief secretaries on the current situation in their respective regions. Taking the example of Sindh, she said: “There needs to be equitable distribution of water resources else Sindh would bear the brunt of the carelessness of other provinces. The operationalisation of the desalination plants should be the main focus of the provincial administration. This process is being used throughout the world, the delay in Sindh is alarming.”

To further bridge the communication gaps and coordination issues, the Ministry of Climate Change would work with the Ministry of Information Technology and National Information Technology Board (NITB) to establish a centralised IT portal to collate information on a daily basis.

Addressing the issue of lack of a communication strategy in climate change response, the minister said: “The new task force will work diligently to devise a robust electronic and media campaign together with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Creating public awareness is one of the major aims of the task force.”

It was decided that the Ministry of Climate Change would finalise recommendations in consultation with the provincial governments for a medium to long-term strategy to meet the challenges of global warming and greenhouse gases emission in due course of time.

The task force will be meeting again on Friday..

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022

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