Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Climate Voices from the hill peaks!


It was a cold winter day when we reached village Khait Charbanda of District Mansehra (Northern Pakistan). Some 120 tenant families live here on hill slopes- 4000 feet above sea level.

The day was not so much cold even in the month of November. We were travelling ahead on jumpy non paved link road along with my other colleagues from World Vision Pakistan. Coming from Canada, Lindsey- our Support Office programme staff also accompanied us in this far flung area known for landslides.

Reaching the village, she was much interested to meet local females who were able to form their village organization a few months before on this hill top location.

Majority, including women and children are engaged in livestock raring and farming in small landholding mostly by leveling hill slopes to form small plots. Unaware about the happenings in rest of the world, more then 90% women and girls of this village are illiterate.

Lots of people, elderly, youth and children were gathered to welcome our team as usual with the known customs of their hospitality.

And my plan was to talk to the community about the changing weather patterns (some time very extreme and unexpected) like the flood of 1992 in the history of entire valley.

“Some 60 years before, we had a thick forest, said an elderly man sitting in the gathering. Wild animals used to live in those a snow bound uphill locations, but now those forests, wild animals, the peaks covered for many months have become an old story”

Did we ever realize why all these changes are happening and now so rapidly? I asked. And then their were voices coming from the gathering after a little silence;

“Because we have cut our forests and these soft soils of hills are not able to maintain their firmness to protect from landslides after heavy rains every year”

“It’s a will of God that we live here and we have to face all these difficulties”

“We are poor and we depend on forest for fuel and to construct our houses, we have no other sources expect these forests to depend on”

And did you ever realize we living in such remote areas are not all the time responsible for these natural disasters, however, we do accelerate them to come quicker and unexpected in our lives- my second question?

And the response was “We really don’t know”

I found this time perfect to explain to all these people being unaware about climate change- a reality which is often observed but not understood at all.

With my explanation about increasing temperature due to human activities every where, particularly in rich/industrial countries, lots of discussion was then happening. Very simple, if the temperature will increase, more ice will be melted, glaciers will be no more and we will be losing our water sources permanently. People of this village then come to know that beside their own activities like cutting precious forests and not doing enough plantations, there are regions in the word, in fact doing more damage to the environment in terms of industrial pollution, burning of fossil fuels, land use change and making the earth warm with the passage of every year.

No doubt, it was new information for those people that efforts are undergo to have an international agreement to control emission of greenhouse gases next month. However Climate Change is not waiting for any one. We in this region will be losing our safe drinking water sources, our monsoon and crops cultivating seasons will be changing, our gracious will be vanishing, we will be facing more dry seasons and changing precipitation, more diseases would be happening due to flooding and our children will be more at risk.

What can you do now? Would you be able to face again the same kind of devastating flood of 1992 in this area? What will you do when after thirty years or less, your children will be asking for safe drinking water and food? Did you ever think about the future generation asking about the irresponsibility of their forefathers? Would you ever try to organize your self more and reach your leaders and politician to advocate on changing climate consequences?

And why not to again assess the needs of coming twenty to thirty years and go to your local government representative for right time planning?.

With lots of silence on the faces on these people, I was hopeful that my questions will force them to discuss these with their families, when they go back to homes by evening and then in coming days with their friends, relatives and the representatives of local government and more. I know climate crisis is a big challenge and world need to support poor communities from its harsh consequences, but little things and self help cannot be ignored to make a BIG response gradually and finally. At least an unaware should be aware what is going to happen with them worse in coming time, if actions are not taken.

I was glad to hear some of the voices from the gathering;

“We have to think about the well being of our future generation, working today as a community organization, we have to work for the challenges of coming decades, we have to raise our voices”

Asif
The Climate Project Presenter
Pakistan