Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hope for a Green District

After the 2005 earthquake in northern parts of Pakistan that killed approximately 73,000 innocent people, the government of Pakistan came up with the National Disaster Management Ordinance 2006. Under the ordinance, the government established Disaster Management Authorities at federal, provincial and district level to work for disaster management in the country. The government started a pilot programme in District Mansehra and established District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA). According to the studies, there are major fault lines in this region, making the area highly vulnerable to earthquake and other natural calamities such as landslides, flash floods due to deforestation and extreme weather.

Despite of these vulnerabilities, District Mansehra is one of the most beautiful spot in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and has always attracted local tourism. It has plenty of natural forests- the major part of existing 4.7% forest cover of the country. Major water sheds, beauty of Saif-ul-Muluk Lake, Siran and Kunhar rivers and number of other lush green hill spots have always attracted people from across the country and abroad who visit here, specially in summer season.

Currently we are implementing a project in World Vision Pakistan, “Strengthening Community Resilience in Siran valley”. It intends to strengthen community resilience against natural disaster through improved knowledge and skills of community on Disaster Risk Reduction and Coordination with DDMA. With the increasing impact of Climate Change and frequent numbers of natural disasters happening in the area, I got the opportunity to talk to the authorities of DDMA. Our theme of the discussion was totally different this time. So I suggested;

“Why not to go for Green District?” Let’s our District Government work for it”

Unlike the bureaucratic style of government, I was happy to see the encouraging responses from the focal person of DDMA Mr. Hareer Shah and Executive District Officer- Social Welfare and Community Development, Mr. Abdul Rasheed. They were quite interested to know about our campaign against Climate Change and the global efforts in this regard being led by honorable Al Gore. We talked about the impacts of Climate Change; changing monsoon and weather pattern, food insecurity and increasing disasters in our region. And we talked about how we are building connectors’ community in our campaign.

The outcome of this discussion was more than encouraging to me. The officials have offered to arrange a consultative meeting of District Disaster Management Authority with the surety of participation from District Coordination Officer and all the members of DMMA (executives from district line departments). We have planned to deliver a presentation on Climate Change to DDMA on 16th March, 2010 and will be formally offering the District Government to work for “Green District”.

My plan will be to advocate authorities and mobilize them to review the District’ annual development plan, initiate efforts for action planning and mobilizing resource for Climate Change adaptation in District Mansehra. Lets see how the administration take the idea of Green District to pilot it.

I am looking forward for the day with the hope for a good start.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Connecting people from Tribal Areas on Climate Change

Tribal area of NWFP in Pakistan bordering Afghanistan is famous for its special and different culture where from years, people have ruled by their own without the influence of government authorities. Social harmony, helping known and unknown without any wish for reward, bravery, people with arms, high level of respect to guests, specially to women are some of the strong characteristics of the tribal belt. However, the area has also remained deprived from the basic socio-economic services. Very tough mountainous area with number of problem continued to affect standard of lives in terms of poor access to basic health, education and other income generation activities. The tribal belt has always remained very conservative with strict rules of tribes and male domination. Due to illiteracy, conservative society and highly remote geography, local communities, specially women have always faced problems in access to information and other socio-economic needs.

Unlike other parts of the country where there are different ways to access information, the tribal areas have remained very less fortunate. The time when every where in the world, different organizations, media and governments are talking about Climate Change and the way it is impacting lives of poor, most of the tribal areas are totally unaware of this term and that what is happening around the world. While the fact is that Pakistan being an agricultural country will be worse impacted due to Climate Change and count for the most food insecure country in the world, the people of tribal areas continue to think of such happening as the will of nature only where there is no responsibility of human beings that alter the climate.

I couldn't stop my self to happily include the two volunteers from Khyber Agency of tribal area in the Climate Project Connectors campaign when they showed their willingness to participate in connectors training programme. They had very strong reason to become climate campaigner and that was no attention given to their remote areas on the issue like Climate Change, environmental pollution and lack of awareness among common people. For me, it was a great opportunity to reach the people in tribal areas through these two CONNECTORS (volunteers) to start work on awareness raising on the issue of Climate Change.

Abdul Wahab, one of the Climate Project Connectors has completed his masters in environmental science from University of Peshawar and now working as vice president in a local NGO SPEED. He belongs to Khyber Agency of tribal area, well educated and eager to mobilize his community on the catastrophe of Climate Change in his area. In January 2010, Abdul Wahab and his friends organized a painting competition among student in a local school to create awareness about environment and Climate Change. They have also started series of discussions among local community group, friends and family members on different environmental issues and interrelated factors of Climate Change. Wahab and his organization SPEED is also planning for a training of local communities on Climate Change and want to replicate his learning from Connectors training programme.

I feel a lot of pleasure that the connectors voices have now started reaching in Khyber Agency, the area where people remain unaware and continue to suffer.