Sindh treading a perilous path due to inaction over climate change
Karachi: Pakistan has over the decades witnessed extreme climate variations due to natural as well as anthropogenic hazards. These observations were made by University of Karachi Institute of Environmental Studies Prof Aamir Alamgir.
According to Alamgir the changes were drastic enough to have affected monsoon rainfall patterns and had made Sindh susceptible to storms, cyclones, floods and expansion of heat zones.
Referring to Indus River as the only lifeline for Pakistan, he added that the river’s delta had shrunk due to reduced water flow. “The province’s entire agriculture produce depended on River Indus and its tributaries and the decrease in water flow have massively affected the annual produce,” he said.
The coastal areas of Sindh were also affected due to the insignificant water flow in the downstream of the Kotri barrage, he stated. “In the light of these facts we could say that Sindh’s coastal areas face a coastal erosion of around 20 million metric tonnes every year,” Alamgir claimed.
Citing the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of 2007, Alamgir said the report, containing data provided by the Pakistan Metrological Department, stated that the mean temperature of the country had risen from 0.6 to 1.0 degrees from 1961-2004.
The report also observed that over a period of 43 years, a net rise of 0.6 degrees Celsius was witnessed in Karachi alone. The academician further said that the climate change presented dangerous prospects for Sindh in future as the arid plains – comprising 60 percent of the province – were witnessing approximately 10-15 percent less rainfall along with a 1.1mm increase in the sea level.
According to IPCC’s report, the flow in the Indus was 154 million acre-feet (MAF) in, 1960 which was reduced to only 0.72 MAF in 2009-2010. The water flow which carried heavy loads of silt had drastically shrunk from 200 million tonnes per year to 36 million tonnes per year in last 50 years.
The report further stated that the flow in Indus would further reduce up to 27 percent by the year 2050. While expressing concern over the level of water pollution in the coastal areas, he stated that inhabitants were suffering from skin infections and other water borne disease.
“The depletion of underground reserves of drinkable water is particularly due to sea water intrusion,” he claimed. Out of the total 320km coastal line in Sindh 567,000 hectare of land was lost to the sea. The seawater intrusion had extended up to 100km near Thatta-Sajawal bridge, he added.
The intrusion caused an ample loss of fertile agriculture land ideal for rice production. According to estimates, approximately two million acres of fertile land in Thatta and Badin were lost because of which farmers were forced to harvest crops which demanded less water such as cotton, he said.
One of the most deadly effects of climate change in Sindh was the loss of Indus deltaic system, Alamgir told The News. He informed that mainly 17 creeks were used to regain the deltaic region but now other than Khobar Creek (Keti Bander) most converted into saline creeks. He also highlighted the environmental economy associated with the issue.