Sunday, January 31, 2010

Connectors Spotlight- Memoona Rafique Chaudry

"I feel proud to be a climate campaigner along with my family- My little climate team. My New Year resolution include Go Green...Live Green and I promise this with my life"

From United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan

My profession:
I'm a Clinical Psychologist by education having specialized in Clinical Treatment of Psychopaths. I have been practicing it at Ayub Medical College Abbottabad for one year along with my activities with Sungi Development Foundation. I joined UN in early 2005 as a counselor and fully got involved in all kinds of help I could do for the 2005 earthquake victims in Pakistan, not just as a psychologist but as a humanitarian. In UN, I am based in Lahore and we work for rehabilitation of lands...striving towards a Greener Pakistan.

What I like:
I love painting, traveling, reading and writing. I have been writing into many national and international magazines and publications in both English and Urdu. Traveling, exploring new places and natural scenarios are my weaknesses. Probably being born and bred in Abbottabad was one of the blessings of Allah which he had destined after embedding this interest into me.

Why I am a Climate Campaigner:
In wake of that I always feel disturbed at the splurge of the activities that are harming the planet. I feel honored and happy to be part of Climate Project Connectors team in Pakistan and our initiatives of Pakistan Environment Club (PEC). I will do my level best and all the input I can to make the environment, our country and thus , this planet a safe place to live for ourselves and generations to come.

My personal experience:
To me, Climate Change is not a threat to human beings only but also to wild species and bio-diversity. In my assignment in Kolkata (India) I have personally observed people living in old houses of Sundarban jungles using iron bends in huge windows and mud stocks to protect themselves from the attacks of tigers. However, in recently constructed houses, I didn’t see such arrangements and the simple answer of my astonishment was “Now Tigers seldom attack....a lot of them had died because of change in climate, flooding, population increase and deforestation. If we look at our own areas...places like Boee, villages around Nathiagali in Pakistan also have such stories related to wild tigers and other wild life. We seldom see anything or hear anything now, because, probably we've lost all of them.

My role as a Connector:
Joining the Climate Project Connectors team in Pakistan, I started some initiatives at personal and organizational level. I see my role to make aware my family, my relatives and my colleagues on urgency of climate issue. My role is to change my self, start from my family and spread the word to the rest of world.

My family- my little climate team:
We keep having detailed discussions on Climate Change issue in my family and friends. A family had been with us for a week from Karachi and I almost conducted the whole training with them. They promised to continue it and spread the word to others. They have also joined our online groups on climate change. I've stopped using shopping bags. Instead I asked my mom to stitch two lovely cotton bags with nice embroidery as well and which my son too, loves to carry. I have them in two sizes as per my requirements. I love to use them instead of filthy plastic bags. I've made a little team...I, My husband and my little boy...yes...I don’t let him throw rubbish around, waste water etc. Together we three can bring a change ...I believe in charity begins at home formula!!

We had two lines of water supply at our home (since its built on two consecutive plots so as per the town planning we had two connections) one was never used but in order to keep it working we were told by the WAPDA that we must leave the tap running for a few hours every day so that at least there is some bill to pay and that this connection may be shown as active. Both of us, my husband and I decided to cut that line. YES! We got a fierce response because this would have cost enough for breaking the whole line, getting it all plastered back and in case it needed again (the second line if the two houses operate separately) would reverse the whole process. Me and my husband convinced the whole family and committed to pay for both operation ...and we did it. And we got that line cut. I read somewhere that if one drop of water keeps leaking all day for a month we waste 624 gallons of water...I cant measure how much I saved....WOHOOO :)

At work:
I had a chance of visiting our project area and attending a community meeting. I tried to communicate whatever I had learned about Climate Change at the connectors training workshop. Since, the group not just had the male members but females and children too, I felt children were far more interested in the conversation rather than the elders. In fact children were kind of amused. At organizational level we have recently come across a UN project working on saving water. I linked up with them and invited them to conduct a joint activity in as many cities of Punjab as possible. We'll be spreading the word on water wastage, pollution and its ultimate effects on the planet. Our first event is on January 28, 2010 in Toba Tek Singh.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Barber shops to sensitize customers on “NO MORE PLASTIC BAGS”

Faisal, a barber in Mansehra Township will be mobilizing his daily customers to stop use of plastic bags for environment protection. Faisal is more than happy to volunteer his time for this action. Faisal, in this regard, has posted hand made poster of key messages in his shop mentioning harmful impacts of plastic bags. A larger number of people come to Faisal shop every day for hair cutting and also for reading newspapers which is usually available in his shop. Faisal will urge customers to use home made environment friendly bags rather than asking shopkeepers for plastic bags during their shopping. Faisal will also contact other barber shops to join this voluntary campaign.

Climate Project Connectors campaign in Pakistan will engage more barber shops to sensitize mass on harmful impact of plastic bags. Every day a small shop in Mansehra consume 1 kg of plastic bags costing Rs. 210/-. This ratio is even more in big markets of other major cities. Majority of families throw these shopping bags in streets and drains without knowing the global use of petroleum in preparation of these plastic bags. They don’t know use of plastic bag result in deaths of more than 100, 000 animals every year, blockage of drainage system and spread of diseases due to standing water. Decomposition of a plastic bag takes about 1000 years. This is what Faisal will be sharing with his customers to avoid use of plastic bags.

Climate Project Connectors, in next step, will engage poor women in preparation of home made bags and sell them on shop keepers. It will provide an earning opportunity for such poor women and help in lessening use of plastic bags for environment protection.

Connectors Spotlight- Sahibzada Jawad

Sahibzada Jawad Alfaizi is one of the Climate Project Connectors from Pakistan. He brings over 18 years of experience in corporate and development sector. Jawad is a social worker and on board of different welfare associations, trust, educational institution in Pakistan and chartered president of Rotary Club of Mansehra. Jawad is also enrolled as an advocate of high courts in Pakistan. One of the most encouraging social work of Jawad is blood donation over 65 times since 1984 to poor patients and kids suffering from blood diseases. He has master degrees in Managerial Economics and Political science and bachelor degree in Commerce and Law. Jawad love nature, traveling, tracking, hiking and photography. He enjoys singing and also a very good singer.

Jawad joined Climate Project Connectors campaign since October 2009 from District Mansehra and initiated his efforts to advocate on the issue of Climate Change. As a first step, he involved his circle of friends in discussion on environmental concerns in Pakistan and conducted orientation session to a group of teachers in Jinnah College on Climate Change to spread the voice among college students. Jawad and his team in Saibaan Development Organization has included environment/Climate Change as a cross cutting theme in their organizational strategic plan. Recently Jawad participated in a NGOs forum organized by Ministry of Environment in Islamabad to discuss environmental issues and looking for possible partnership to start projects for local communities on Climate Change.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Connectors Spotlight- Naheed Akhtar

Naheed Akhtar is working in one of the leading national NGOs of Pakistan “Sarhad Rural Support Programme“ (SRSP) as Project Coordinator. Naheed has completed her education in M.Sc Development Studies. She belongs to district Mansehra and having ten years of professional experience in development sector of Pakistan. Along with her dedicated efforts for development initiatives at grass root level, Naheed joined Climate Project Connectors campain in Pakistan in October 2009 to play her role as a climate campaigner. Naheed has an ambition to advocate on catastrophe of Climate Change with stakeholders on different forums. Due to unawareness in majority of rural population, Naheed want to reach maximum people, particularly women to create awareness on Climate Change.

Naheed is one of the CONNECTORS in Climate Project Connectors camapign who is volunteering her time and efforts to take actions. After attending connectors training programme in Mansehra, Naheed has been able to sensitize community leaders from 20 village organizations towards urgency of climate crisis. Naheed, while delivering trainings on proposal writing, is particularly focusing on factors like deforestation and environment pollution. Naheed anticipates that it will help village organizations to come forward and develop proposals to take actions in the field of climate change at local level. Naheed has specially included sessions on Climate Change in her disaster preparedness trainings for communities. She is also doing awareness raising among friends and families to mobilize them on importance of plantation.

Recently, Naheed participated in a consultative workshop in Mansehra on mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in development process. She emphasized on officials from District Government Mansehra, Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) and number of other government line departments to integrate aspects of Climate Change in their development strategies. Naheed is a member of Women Leadership Programme and is regularly sharing information with women leaders on Climate Change in ten Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) working in all the four province of Pakistan.

CBOs' Advocacy Network in Siran valley ready to advocate on Climate Change

Today I was able to talk to CBOs' Advocacy Network of Siran valley on the causes of climate variability, its impacts on the farmers communities and future potential for this network to advocate with district government on the issue.

Siran valley is one of the most deprived and disaster prone area in northern parts of NWFP (Pakistan). People of this areas has already faced some of the worse natural disasters in the history such as the mega flood in 1992 and devastating earthquake in 2005, killing innocent people and destroying houses, hospitals, agricultural lands, crops and many more. Besides such natural calamities, gender discrimination and deprivation from basic socio-economic services make this area more vulnerable.

Agriculture is the major source of community' livelihood in this area. Not only men, but also women and children help their families by working in fields. This area is very rich for forest and water resources, however people' dependency on forest wood for fuel and houses construction has resulted in rapid decrease in forest cover (more than 45% in a short span of 1o years as per GTZ report). With melting of glaciers and snow on high peaks in north, rains in unexpected months, together with soft geological surface and deforestation causes incidents of flash floods and erosion of agriculture land every year. The recent dry spell of winter has badly affected wheat crop this year while fresh water resources have also decreased significantly. Inflation and less economic ability of poor communities are further impacting living standards, particularly of women and little children. Degrading environment and natural resources are increasing burden on women who are already responsible for fetching water and other agricultural activities, besides their home chores.

The CBOs of Siran valley has recently established Advocacy Network to provide a plate form for local community to advocate on their common issues with government authorities at union council and district level. The information on basic science of climate change, its causes and impacts was totally a thing for them.

By understanding the urgency of climate issue, the Advocacy network would be planning to submit a joint resolution to the District government to demand for annual development plans of local government which integrate climate change adaptation strategies into development process. The demands would focus on initiatives such as sustainable management of water and land resources, improved and climate resilient crops production, community based hydro power schemes, conservation and sustainable management of forests and bio-diversity, income generating schemes and other capacity building initiatives.

The network would emphasize on District government to liaise with authorities at provincial level and other funding sources to ensure such adaptation strategies that could protect people from the adverse impact of climate change in future.

Many thanks to Mubashir Nawaz, Advocacy Officer of World Vision Pakistan for facilitating the consultation meeting and giving me an opportunity to deliver presentation on Climate Change to Siran valley Advocacy Network.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Heat is killing humanity, no matter it is winter or summer

Recently a mega landslide occurred in the village of Atabad in Hunza valley on 4th January, 2010, killing 15 innocent people while number are still missing. Debris has covered a 4 km stretch of the Karakoram Highway, to a maximum height of 263 feet while the road is still closed. 1763 people have been displaced. According to Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS), the Hunza River is still blocked and its level had risen to 350 feet and still rising. The situation raises fears that low-lying areas across the river would be inundated. The snap shots of location by Pamir Times clearly show the situation. The population of these red-zone areas is estimated to be around 20,000 people. Towns up the valley from the blockage, especially Gojal, are facing real hardship due shortages of food and medicine caused by the road blockage.

This is of course mid-winter in a high mountain location. It may take a month to reopen the road. Population living downstream and the on-going construction of dam are on risk. Water level in the barrier lake is rising at 0.4 feet (about 12 cm) per hour. The level is reportedly 44 feet (13.4 meters) from the crest of the dam. The lake is about to inundate the settlement of Ayinabad. APP reports that a channel will be constructed to drain the lake but that in the meantime downstream settlements are being evacuated. Meanwhile, clearance of the Karakoram Highway continues but is expected to take a month.

The impacts of Climate Change are quite visible in Pakistan. We really need an effective policy implementation on climate change with strong action by the government to protect human lives, our environment and bio-diversity. Unfortunately, majority of the people are unaware about causes of climate change and their un-natural practices which make them more vulnerable to natural disasters caused by climate variability.

Every year, with extensive use of fossil fuel, rapid industrialization, huge deforestation, millions of tones of carbon dioxide is concentrating in atmosphere and resulting in global warming. This is the global warming which has rapidly increased melting of glaciers in northern parts of Pakistan, 10 to 15% precipitation decrease in the southern coastal areas and increased precipitation in north during the last 40 years. The geography of Pakistan and rapid increase in population (6th in world ranking) make it highly vulnerable to natural disasters with huge burden on its available resources. Major shift in monsoon season in future, changed precipitation and time periods for crops sowing and harvesting during winter and summer will be impacting more the agriculture sector of Pakistan and ultimately food security in near future. Pakistan has only 0.43% share in global carbon emission but it is the 12th most vulnerable country affected by climate variability.

Many villages in the coastal areas of Pakistan have been disappeared, while villagers have already started leaving their areas due to the fear of increasing tides of sea and land erosion. Mangroves forests in this area are rapidly declining and risks of flooding and land erosion is continuously threatening lives of people living in coastal areas. Baluchistan province is already experiencing the effects of droughts, while after two major droughts in near past, water table has decreased a lot in this region.

Northern areas of Pakistan are particularly famous for its natural beauty, high peak forests with lush green sceneries. Winter is severe in these areas with heavy snowfall every year. However, people of this area are now observing decreasing snowfall and winter intensity. For the first time in NWFP province, government announced winter vacations for only one month in schools which used to be two and half months every winter. These areas are rain fed, however, wheat crop has been badly affected due to absence of rain and snowfall till the start of winter season. Decreasing level of water this year is going to affect crops in Punjab and southern parts of the country. Government has already shown concerns of 50% decrease in yield. People are already facing shortage of flour and sugar in markets which seems to be more intense this and coming year. Shortage of water, together with poor progress in water management, renewable energies/hydro power production has left people to face severe load shedding in the history of country. Deficit has gone up to 35, 00 MV which results in hours longs load shedding. There is about 46,000 MV potential of power production through hydro power, while only 6,000 MW hydro power production has been made possible. The energy crisis is going to put a huge pressure on the economic development of the country.