Monday, May 31, 2010

Some interesting questions in climate debate

While listening to the introductory speeches of HRDN founder members (Mr. Rommi, Chairman and Mrs. Fauzia, Executive Director), I was getting excited that I am going to deliver Al Gore' slide show on climate change as the ever first capacity building session for this newly established HRDN city chapter Hazara. Of course it is an honor for me.

Human Resource Development Network is a voluntary network in Pakistan that provide a plate form for different professionals and organizations to share ideas, experiences and learn through different capacity building initiatives like trainings, exposure visits. The city chapter Hazara, which Saibaan is going to take the responsibilities of its secretariat, is the sixth forum of this kind in Pakistan. It is a great initiative of HRDN for Haraza region.

I was thinking if I am going to meet the expectations of this diverse group of audience. My presentation is going to be the first ever session for this newly established city chapter of HRDN. I was thinking that first impression is the last impression and I wanted to give a good impression, of course.

And then I left my chair to start my presentation. Interestingly my computer got hanged. Oooops! Is this the first impression?? Whatever it be, but one thing for sure, the slide show of years long work of Al Gore was quite enough to keep the audience attentive throughout the session. I observed this because of some very interesting
debate and question and answers on our today's issue of climate change.

Well, with a little bit wait I was on my track to introduce my self, The Climate Project and today's session objectives.

For many, the influx of information through the slides was quite new. However, for a few members, the term climate change was not new because of their past experience. The diversity of experiences and thoughts led us to some really interesting debate when I was going through the presentation slides. Few I remember to share;

Why if 2005 was the warmest year and why not 2006 then, if human activities are continue to emit more and more greenhouse gases", the first question I got from my audience.

It was good to clarify that climate change is not like what the temperature is this year and what will be in next year. Climate is never like constant, rather scientists analyze trends over decades and more. With all the variation in yearly temperatures, the long term analysis show that average temperature is on the way to rise.

And then another question "we are just poor and not aware of what this is all about. This is all in the hands of rich and influential countries like Australia and America",
asked same friend.

I remembered from one of the blogs from Copenhagen summit about Tuvalu when one of its country representative requested all before the start of summit to agree on binding agreement, however when he saw the outcomes of COP15 were not that he expected for his country, he simply refused and say "Tuvalu cannot accept this accord". And my point for the discussion was, if Tuvalu, being the 4th smallest country can argue then why not we.

Another question from a lady, "It is just some thing quite new for us, we dont know it is real or not. We only know if there would be food crisis, it will be because of poor policies of our government, and not because of climate change"
Of course, effective national policies are vital for food security but even if Pakistan is going to work on it, climate change would still be shifting the monsoon season that gives us more than 56% of total rainfall. Although current trend in crops productivity has increased but in longer term we are going to lose our food production. Already a study says, we are going to be more food insecure in South Asia by 2050, after Africa.

An important question come; "Of course, it is a comprehensive work of The Climate Project to make us aware of the climate change phenomena and to create awareness. However, it would be great if we know more about solutions that we direly need to respond to climate change. Adaptation would be the major focus for us. Secondly, we need research in Pakistan perspective to analysis problems and then to take actions". I really loved these questions.

And this make my mind to click about the Al Gore' new book "Our Choice". If we are contributing less than one percent but still are the 12th most vulnerable nation due to climate crisis, we really need ways and solutions. We know some limited traditional solutions- doing plantation, avoiding shopping bags, conserving water etc, but we really need comprehensive approaches and solutions on how we are going to protect our people from the catastrophe. "Our Choice" is really going to help us in this regard. We will however need to look for more research in Pakistan perspective and that we have already started working on in our campaign "Climate Project Connectors".

"Why not to emphasize our discussion about those countries like China and India who are now doing more pollution than many others", said one of the participants.

And I totally agreed with the question. Global warming has no boundaries. China is emitting more but on the other hand he is taking steps for emission reduction as well as amazingly enhancing resources in renewable energies, which isjust awesome. China really want to take a lead in green technology and thats what we all need to achieve.

Questions continued as I kept on presentation new slides. "We only attend such big events like Copenhagen and agree with what other strong nations say", said the HRDN member.

Well, this is what I wanted to discuss more. If Tuvalu, being one of the smallest Iceland, can reject COP15 then of course our government should also take a lesson from it. Our government need to ensure that what they are going to represent in Mexico should take into account the vulnerabilities of our people and their needs. Our government need to strengthen the advocacy on the issue among international community.

Here come a more scientific questions like "What factors destroyed ozone layer"

Thanks to TCP for sharing some good slides on CFC success story that make me able to present on how the ozone layer created a big hole due to CFCs but later on Montreal agreement led to control this amazingly. It gave me another good point to highly that people might say control over climate change is difficult. Well, initial talks and agreements have always remained weak, but later on things went on improving and Montreal agreement is one of the best case study for climate campaigners if they want to advocate for their fight against climate change.

And many more questions and answers....

With number of questions coming out from my presentation, I was happy that the slide show could keep the audience attentive although with my bit long presentation. It was amazing to respond to those questions and I tried to satisfy my audience with the slides in front of them, i hope so i did it :)

My last message for the audience was not to take the today's discussion as only new information, rather I encouraged them to take actions at personal and organizational level, spread the word and make those aware of all these issues who simply don't know this all. Because the fact is, our people don't know what is happening and what is going to happen with their future. If some one says, it is because of natural factors, we should tell them it is all because of human activities (burning of fossil fuel, deforestation, industries etc.) that emit more and more greenhouse gases into atmosphere and make our only planet warmer.

Nature contribute only 5% in global warming. Think about the 95% that we do our self.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ecopreneurship can modernize our behaviors towards sustainable development

Ecopreneurship is an emerging concept which need significant importance especially in the post Copenhagen scenario. An entrepreneur is a person who give wings to an idea to fly, launches a venture and bring together money, people and technology. However, it will be a big stupidity to ignore environmental sustainability to reach sustainable development. This is the time when an entrepreneur should turn into ECOPRENEUR- person which not only look for profit but also take into account safe environment to sustain their business in true sense.

This is the time when every one wants to make profit, earn more money and want to compete in the fast race of economic prosperity. This all looks like very traditional approach now where the fast growing companies are becoming so called successful ventures. They ignore importance and care of environment and ignore the poor who always fights with life being in the vicious circle of poverty.

Young unemployed constitute a major part of world population. We need to understand and realize that among those unemployed many will be with great talent but lack access to opportunities. One of the positive aspects of Copenhagen summit was the establishment of green fund and to raise it up to $ 30 billion in three years and $ 100 billion per year by 2020. This is really a great opportunity which need strong political will. While looking at the importance of economic empowerment to compete in the world, it is vital that we promote the concept of ecopreneurship for environmentally sound sustainable businesses. This can particularly help those nations with majority of young population being unemployed including women, and less resilient to climate crisis due to their poverty.

There could be a number of opportunities to boost the concept of ecopreneurship. First important principle should be to target majority of potentially young people and women who can significantly impact countries' GDPs. The ventures may range in ecologically sound interventions in renewable energies, boosting natural regeneration of forest for livelihoods improvements among forest dependent communities, improving adaptive capacities of farmer groups for improved productions using organic ways, small and medium businesses that promote concepts of reuse, recycle and reduce.

Studies show that natural forests are best source of carbon storage than the commercial forest. Forest dependent communities may be encouraged to conserve and protect natural forests while providing them financial incentives. The concepts of natural regeneration with agreed bylaws among forest communities for sustainable use of forest and improving their livelihoods would be a good opportunity.

I have personally visited farmers who are self managing micro hydal power plants to generate electricity, run flour mills and use diverted water to irrigate their agricultural land while turning mono cropping lands into multi-cropping. In northern areas of Pakistan, number of communities have started producing electricity through micro hydal power plants. It is also encouraging businesses for some local households to run shops of electrical appliances and giving opportunities to skilled person who can do necessary repair and maintenance.

Agro-forestry can bring another opportunity for sustainable development among farmer communities. It can improve production, making agricultural land into multi purpose asset (produce crops and fruits together). Farmers can use their lands for more production, storage and sell them into markets and avoiding risks of bad weathers while having access to valuable information about market and weather forecast through use of sms.

Women being majority in population can also be effectively engaged
in green businesses. Women in many areas are engaged in number of small scale businesses such as embroidery, craft making, tailoring etc. More can be done to improve standard of poor women where they not only get economic empowerment for self reliance and decision making but also in a productive way to curb anti environmental practices. A "No more shopping bag" campaign can be a best option where we can reduce use of dirty polythene bags by sensitizing people about its harmful impacts and encouraging poor women to design, prepare and sell environment friendly shopping bags in markets.

Shops of note books with recycles papers may be established and they can be linked with number of government, non
government offices, schools etc to run their green businesses.

This is the world of fashion. Medium and large scale businesses can be promoted by encouraging products (clothing, footwear etc) that account for less carbon foot prints. Famous stars and events can be the best use of turning traditional businesses into green business- just like the example of shirts that are specially designed for the upcoming FIFA world cup 2010 football in South Africa.

I really liked knowing one of the campaign few days before where social organizers encourage households to keep their daily waste/plastic bottles etc at one place and municipality cleaners visit them on daily basis, collect waste and ecopreneurs manage to transport the waste to a recycling company. They use the earned money from the company into payments of social organizers and transportation charges and keep the profit. While the municipality cleaners get nominal charges from each household on monthly basis as their service charges.

There are lots of ideas and lots of potential ecopreneurs. The only thing is to provide them opportunities to access resources. Such opportunities while targeting small group of poor people can significantly impact economic growth and enhance their resilience against climate crisis. The Copenhagen green fund and its proper utilization need lots of advocacy and campaigning. One of the best way to use it properly is to promote Ecopreneurship.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hottest summer of 2010- Is it what we call GLOBAL WARMING

54 degree Celsius being recorded today in Mohenjodaro* which is the ever hottest mercury in the history of Pakistan.

Usually the two months i.e. May and June remain warmer every year in the country, however this time May has just crossed all the limits. This is just too hot, a real GLOBAL WARMING.

A severe heat wave is gripping the plain areas of Pakistan while the current hot weather together with use of polluted water has just increased cases of water born diseases. Apart from Mohenjodaro, different cities of Punjab and Baluchistan provinces are in severe heat grip. Sibbi (53), Jakobabad (52.5), Nawabshah (52.2) and number of other cities in the range of 48 to 50 degree Celsius.

In northern parts, this heat wave has also triggered fast melt of glaciers which has increased water flow in the rivers. This is particularly dangerous in the area of Hunza where the mega landslide has stopped river flow, making the river into a dangerous artificial lake. About 40,000 people lives and livelihoods are at risk.

*Mohenjodaro was one of the early urban settlement in the world history, built aroud 2600 BC and abondaned in 1500 BC. This great civilization of the South Asia was discovered in 1922.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Climate episode continues in Hunza- Water now just 6 feet away from spillway

Hunza- people call it "Heaven on earth". The area with zero crime rate, the people who only know love and care and the faith on purity of hearts and softness of tongues. How can we imagine that a big natural disaster is just on the heads of these innocent people.

But now the water level in the artificial lake near Hunza is about 6 feet away from the spillway.
Water outflow in the lake is 197 cusec against the inflow of 2,400 cusec, according to the National Disaster Management Authority of Pakistan. Navy commandos are reaching in the area due to possible flash flood at larger scale.

As the water level continues to rise in the lake, people are evacuating from their villages. It's just painful for those families who are leaving their houses with final glances on their walls, looking all around, collecting their belongings and necessary stuff. It is really really hard to imagine the feeling of those families who have lived in these houses from decades where they were grown, married and lived happily along with their families. Now they are living in tents and waiting to see their houses destroyed when flash flood would pass through their villages.

As now the water level is just 6 feet below the spillway, experts are of strong opinion that with the start of overflow, the inside part of slide would have greater chance to slip away and would result in break of that mega blockage turning the lake into a heavy flash flood. Rapid glacier melt with the increase of temperature is now quite enough to add more water into the lake and to increase the water pressure downstream.

And the result will be destruction of people houses, road, bridges, schools, their agriculture lands and precious fruit orchards which these people rely on for their livelihoods. Big tragedy will be occurring in the low lying areas near the risky location of river where people are still reluctant to move.

Bridge photo: Dave's landslide blog

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

REAL episode of Climate Change- a MUST watch for skeptic

I wonder how those who deny the reality of climate change would comment on this.
A massive artificial lake is about to burst...

More than 40, 000 people are at high risk and their livelihoods are about to destroy. Evacuation completed in 34 villages. Number of houses, roads, schools and agriculture land are under water. About 22 kilometer of Karakuram highway connecting Pakistan with China is already under water.

A rapidly growing artificial lake about 350 feet deep and 20 kilometer long till date near Atabad, Hunza (northern Pakistan) is now about turn into a massive flash flood towards downstream valleys and areas near the Indus river. AND still number of poor people are reluctant to leave the area because they have no other livelihood sources. They depend on these lands.

Knowing all this, I must say that for skeptics the word Climate Change can be a topic to debate on but NOT for our thousands of people and their livelihoods being in the mouth of this BIG disaster.

It was 4th January 2010 when a massive landslide about two and half kilometer long stopped the flow of river Hunza, near Atabad village (Norther Areas of Pakistan), killing 20 innocent people. The misery didn't stop here as since then the river water continue to store and has now become an large artificial lake spreading over the area of more than 20 kilometer. That time storage of water was quite slow however, start of summer just triggered rapid melting of glaciers in the North resulting in rise of water level at the rate of 1 meter per day. Pak army together with local contractors completed the work on spill way while early warning and swimming system is in place but it doesn't seem effective due to huge estimated pressure of water which is about to overflow that big slide in a week time or two.

Imagining the growing worse situation, I think about those who says climate change is not real. Ask those people. I wish they could see all this going to happen now. Impact on ALMOST 40, 000 people due to this coming disaster is not something to deny and ignore. These people are simply not able to fight with this.

Photo: SAMMA

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Connectors Spotlight- Abdul Majid Khan

Abdul Majid is one of The Climate Project (TCP) Connectors from Pakistan. Majid joined our campaign "Climate Project Connectors" in Pakistan from October 2009 and since then Majid has been actively engaged in creating awareness among communities and different stakeholders on the catastrophe of Climate Change. In addition to his number of personal initiatives, Majid has significantly contributed at his organizational level to strengthen their efforts in reaching maximum people in war affected areas of Swat and taking some real steps towards adaptation initiatives for communities who are facing the impacts of climate variability.

In the last week of March 2010, Majid co-facilitated our 2nd connectors training for the university students of International Islamic University Islamabad. At the organizational level, Majid has remained engaged in plantation of some 20,000 trees in Swat. At the moment, they are implementing 305 projects with their partners in Swat and they are trying to make sure these projects are environment friendly and sustainable while taking into accounts the elements of siltation, infiltration and sanitation.

"We negotiated with two partners to included climate change in their program strategy and we all successful in convincing one of them already. I am helping our partner organization to prepare long term proposal on climate change adaptation with particular emphases on land use planning and management" says Majid.

Majid is looking forward to start a new project from May 2010 in Swat and they will be planting 15,000 more trees in this project during monsoon. Majid is also planning to organize a training for 40 development professionals on climate change in Swat with their partner organizations.