Monday, March 8, 2010

Women Rights and Climate Crisis

Sustainability without 51%

I always think how we can ensure sustainability in many aspects of life without the active participation of women being 51% of world population. For me, among the various interrelated factors that prevent women from enjoying their true benefits of development is the impact of climate change on women' lives.

Many of us try to think and analyze the relationship of societal structures and respect to women rights. When societies violate the rights of women, we cannot imagine a true sense of development. Women being the 51% of population have always remained less fortunate to exercise their basic rights. We particularly see this where men dominate decision making at the household, community and broader level. Gender sensitivity and gender responsiveness need efforts for behavioral change on the grounds, policy formulation and its implementation to ensure respect to women rights. In current situation, even if we make possible good progress towards gender responsiveness and respect to women rights, there will be still a big challenge that will obstruct true progress in this regard. That big challenge is Climate Change- a challenge we are unaware about. This is the challenge which has not only put survival of humanity at risk but will be no doubt lead to violation of women rights, worse than before.

How Climate Change will violate women rights and thus make true development as unsustainable? It is very simple and can be easily explained with the example of women role in rural communities. In Pakistan context, women in rural areas are usually responsible for number of activities such as fetching water, collecting fuel wood, fodder collection for livestock and helping their family members in farming. 67 % women are involved in food production while only 1% own land. Men, on the other hand migrate to other parts of the country or abroad to seek earning opportunities. With the increasing impacts of climate change, sources of fresh water will decrease. The droughts of 1999 and 2000 have already declined the water table. Deforestation will make shortage of fuel wood availability while the environmental degradation will degrade available water and land resources. T
his will ultimately increase burden on women to travel more for fetching water and other activities like fuel wood and fodder collection. With limited resources which are already degrading, needs would keep on increasing with increasing population. Many interrelated factors then make women vulnerable such as protection issues, health risks, less time for their own and no participation in local level development.

It becomes vital for policy makers and development professionals to integrate Climate Change and Gender to achieve the goals of sustainable development. We should not only limit our development strategies in social mobilization towards behavioral change and inclusion of women in development process. It should now be a step ahead to carefully review the consequences of Climate Change on women rights and their d
evelopment in sustainable way. It is now no more the question of male dominance and deprivation of women from decision making but also the question of gender justice in relation with Climate variability.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Glacial Recession in Pakistan

The Biafo Glacier is a 63 km long glacier in the Karakuram Mountains of the Northern Areas, Pakistan which meets the 49 km long Hispar Glacier at an altitude of 5,128 m (16,824 feet) at Hisper La (Pass) to create the world's longest glacial system outside the polar regions. This highway of ice connects two ancient mountain kingdoms, Nagar (immediately south of Hunza) in the west with Baltistan in the east. The traverse uses 51 of the Biafo Glacier's 63 km and all of the Hispar Glacier to form a 100 km glacial route.

The Biafo Glacier presents a trekker with several days of very strenuous, often hectic boulder hopping, with spectacular views throughout and Snow Lake near the high point. Snow Lake, consisting of parts of the upper Biafo Glacier and its tributary glacier Sim Gang, is one of the world's largest basins of snow or ice in the world outside of the polar regions, up to 1,600 m (one mile) in depth.

The Biafo Glacier is the world's third longest glacier outside of the polar regions, second only to the 70 km Siachen Glacier disputed between Pakistan and India and Tajikistan's 77 km long Fedchenko Glacier.

Campsites along the Biafo are located off of the glacier, adjacent to the lateral moraines and steep mountainsides. The first three (heading up from the last village before the glacier, the thousand-year-old Askole village) are beautiful sites with flowing water nearby. Mango and Namla, the first two campsites, are often covered in flowers and Namla has an amazing waterfall very near the camping area. Baintha, the third camp site, is often used as a rest day. A large green meadow, it has a few running streams near the camp and many places to spend the day rock climbing or rappelling.

Evidence of wildlife can be seen throughout the trek. The Ibex and the Markhor Mountain Goat can be found and the area is famous for brown bears and snow leopards, although sightings are rare.
Source: Wikipedia

One of my friend Alison Gannett- a TCP presenter in United States have documented Glacial Recession in Pakistan on her ski expeditions. She was kind enough to share with me the pictures of Biafo Glacier, first in 1906 and then by her in 2007, showing massive glacial recession in just 100 years. That’s why looking at these pictures, I went into bit more research on Biafo Glacier.

It shows how global warming is accelerating the recession and would badly impact water resources in this region. It is very clear from the basic science of climate change that environmental pollution in shape of greenhouse gases would keep on concentrating in the atmosphere, trap heat and result in global warming. If the world community does not control global carbon emission to keep average temperature rise below 2 degree, we will keep losing our glaciers.