Enhancing Coastal Resilience for Sindh and Balochistan

Apr 15 2021 | 01:01:55
SummaryMs. Aisha Khan, Executive Director, Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change delivered the opening remarks for the webinar, noting Pakistan’s high vulnerability to climate change, particularly along its 1,000-km coastline. She highlighted the threats facing Pakistan’s coastal regions, namely sea level rise and extreme weather events, and questioned how well equipped the country is to handle natural calamities associated with climate change. For perspective, she added that 40% of Pakistan’s industrial-type development, 20% of other development are within the coastal region, with 10% population living in the close vicinity of the coastline.Mr. Moazzam Khan, Coordinator, Mangroves for the Future Initiative at the IUCN, served as moderator for the webinar. Mr. Khan explained that communities living on islands and along the coastline are exposed to natural disasters and calamities, with evidence for the Balochistan province dating back to the beginnings of the Holocene Epoch (the previous 11,700 years). He outlined the 1945 Balochistan earthquake and tsunami, noting that traditional knowledge among coastal communities secured many of them from the extensive damage to the coast, as many communities were quick to move to higher ground. He opened the floor to the panelists asking,  how can these communities be made resilient to cyclone events and storm surges, and flooding in coastal communities and our level of preparedness to cope with emerging threats.Ms. Swarna Kazi, Senior Disaster Management Specialist at the World Bank, presented a case study on coastal resilience in Bangladesh and the best practices for Pakistan to consider moving forward. She noted that Bangladesh’s large delta masks the high vulnerability to country’s coastline - with cyclones making landfall on the Bengali coastline every year, the country faces the highest vulnerability globally to tropical cyclones. Despite the challenges facing the country, she remained optimistic about the country’s resiliency measures. Recalling the 300,000 lives lost during the 1970 Bhola cyclone, Ms. Kazi pointed towards the 100-fold decrease in loss of lives from similar intensity cyclones only 50 years later (about 3,000 deaths). This remarkable progress is the result of systematic progress in resilience; the protection of lives and livelihoods during natural disasters and key to Bangladesh’s development strategy, through policy, institutional strengthening, large-scale infrastructure development, provision of hydro-meteorological services, community-based early warning systems and embedding analytics-based decision-making for resilience into planning and investment.Ms. Kazi outlined a few specific, successful investments: multipurpose disaster shelters built in schools, cyclone-awareness programs that feed into community-based early warning systems, investments in coastal embankment improvement projects, such as upgradation of embankments, construction and rehabilitation of hydraulic structures, construction of bank and slope protections, and associated drainage infrastructure. She spoke about the use of nature-based solutions incorporated into the World Bank resilience measures adding additional layers of coastal protection by utilizing mangrove and saline tolerant species afforestation, with social forestry measures that integrate coastal resilience response into community livelihood mechanisms. She spoke on the need for developing a comprehensive risk framework to guide national and local strategic investment agendas, citing one of the largest risks to realistic planning of necessary interventions – land procurement.Mr. Syed Salman Shah, Director General, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Government of Sindh, began by informing the participants of the $120-million World Bank sponsored Sindh Resilience Project. The 2016 initiated project focuses on multi-hazard risk assessment, given that risk identification is key for any future investment or intervention. The coastal areas are more vulnerable to hazards and thus have received high priority, particularly in Badin, Thattha and Sajawal districts. Mr. Shah also informed the participants of the Tsunami Early Warning System Project being undertaken by PDMA Sindh, with funding from the National Disaster Risk Management Fund, which shares similarities with a UNDP sponsored project (covering one district in Balochistan and Sindh each). The project will see 14 early warning towers installed along the Sindh coastline for tsunamis and cyclone. Mr. Shah emphasized the benefits of such an effort on fisherman communities, and clarified that coordination was ongoing with these communities to ensure swift communication during cyclonic and storm activities with fisherman out at sea. He added that the resilience factor for many coastal fishing communities is strongly linked to securing their livelihood and finances during a natural calamities.He highlighted the PDMA’s joint efforts with the National Institute of Oceanography to improve observatories and measurement instruments that provide data and analysis for sea-level intrusion along the Sindh coastline, along with knowledge generation for reviving the coastal belt under an ecosystem services approach. The focus of many such efforts is on mangrove plantations along the coast and the Indus river delta.Mr. Riaz Wagan, Chief Conservator of the Sindh Forestry Department, is involved with the mangrove conservation and rehabilitation activities along the Sindh coastline. He outlined the efforts of the Sindh Forestry Department in mangrove ecosystem management vis-à-vis resilience. He appreciated the proper identification of hazards, their mechanisms, and the development of early warning systems outlined by previous speakers as appropriate actions. He alluded to the 1999 cyclone that decimated coastal areas of Badin and Sajjawal districts of Sindh; the after effects continue to be seen even today. Within this context, he clarified that the role of forestry department is primarily in the management of 600,000 hectares in the Indus river delta, which has begun to suffer from sea intrusion, leading to loss of infrastructure, livelihood and food security for many people that depend on ecosystem resources in the region. Protection from tidal sea surges and sea intrusion is therefore the primary concern for the forest department with respect to coastal resilience.The rehabilitation of the mangrove ecosystem has been the primary mechanism by which the Sindh Forestry Department has contributed to the coastal resilience framework since 1986, with Mr. Wagan noting that some 200,000 hectares of mangroves are flourishing within the department’s delta jurisdiction, with another 40,000 hectares slated for the next five years. Many of these activities have been accomplished with small grants, as well as through ADB funding, to enhance mangroves associated fisheries and to combat storm surges and sea intrusion. Mr. Wagan stated that the forestry department continues to grapple with the question, as to the sufficiency of these mangrove restoration activities for creating resilience among coastal communities? He added that mangroves are only a biological barrier that can reduce the impact of climate change. Other technological barriers are needed along the coastline where mangroves are not effective. As such, these activities are now being linked to socioeconomic indicators for determining resilience success, with the role of coordination along the policy implementation chain crucial for long-term sustainability of these measures.Dr. Nuzhat Khan, former Director of National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), elaborated on the global disparity of vulnerability between developed and developing countries, and referred to the high cost of building resilience in the Indus river delta. She provided some context for the role of the delta flooding on coastal resilience, noting that the 2011 floods in Pakistan caused $18 billion in economic losses, 38.12 million people affected, 3.14 million houses damaged, and 10.63 million acres of agriculture destroyed. She admitted that while Balochistan retains about 80% of the Pakistani coastline, it is the 20% coastline in Sindh that is more significant economically, and should receive greater consideration for resilience measures. Specifically she noted that the 70-km Karachi coastline, being the most developed (65% of all national industrial activity), faces specific challenges for resilience. Dr. Khan also described the importance of mangroves for coastal resilience by informing the participants that Pakistan retains the fifth largest mangrove forests in arid regions globally.She added that the dual constraints of sea level rise and changing tidal regimes on the coast are adding new dimensions of stress to the low-lying Indus river delta, which is already facing changing upstream water use, glacial melt and flash flooding. The low elevation of the Indus river delta makes it especially vulnerable to cyclonic activity-based sea level intrusion, up to 80-km upstream, over 1.2 million hectares of agricultural and mangrove land.  Dr. Khan elaborated the continued need for developing scientific rationales and mechanisms for sea level intrusion through research and monitoring projects at NIO. Multiple participants posed questions to the panelists, covering issues related to resilience and impacts calculations, enforcement against unplanned coastal developments, the impact of industrial effluents of coastal forestry, and the disparity in disaster response measures in the urban and rural coastal environments. Ms. Khan closed the questions and answers session by thanking the panelists and participants for their interest in this relevant topic for climate resilience in Pakistan.
Key TakeawaysCoastal resilience must be taken more seriously in Pakistan as coastlines are at the frontlines of climate impacts, from extreme weather episodes (cyclones and storm surges), sea intrusion and changes to the Indus river delta from upstream changes.2)      Coastal resilience measures must embed impact reduction into decision making with respect to livelihoods (poverty) and population migration. Securing communities and their livelihoods within their rural environments provides local opportunities for resilience that reduces pressure on urban environments from rural-urban migration.3)      The development of comprehensive risk frameworks rests on thorough, scientific analysis of climate projections, and their validation against on-ground monitoring and coordination activities. NIO should play a significant role in developing scientific outputs that are in line with the strategies defined at the national and provincial levels.4)      For the urban environments along the coastline, mainly Karachi, increasing frequency of cyclones, wind storms and monsoon rains, generate larger impacts upon landfall due to unplanned developments. Karachi being located at a triple-threat junction, urgently requires a strategic investment agenda for its continuing development. Similar sentiments for islands development are also necessary to slow down illegal development process until appropriate deliberations are concluded in courts.5)      Project interventions take much longer than anticipated in many resilience efforts due to the diversity of actions to be undertaken among a variety of stakeholders with severe capacity constraints. Land procurement is considered one of the most crucial challenges to speeding up resiliency process.6)      Multipurpose disaster shelters have been piloted in the Sindh region (generally at schools), however, they are considered not successful at this stage, as the cost of rehabilitating the shelters back to their original purpose post-disaster response is very high. Appropriate budgeting for such activities, and training of disaster stricken persons on shelter maintenance is recommended.7)      The deployment of early warning systems have shown to be the most effective strategy for mitigating initial disaster damages, and incorporating traditional knowledge at the community level increases effective participation during the initial disaster phase.8)      There is a need for greater transparency in the planting and use of mangroves for enhancing ecosystem services, with mapping and plantation activities requiring greater public disclosure.9)      The impact of industrial effluent and emissions on mangroves and other ecosystems needs to be scientifically assessed and monitored in the short- and medium-term to determine the damage associated with polluting activities. The Sindh and Balochistan environmental protection departments need to increase coordination and enforcement activities to ensure mangroves rehabilitation is not hampered by polluting activities. In principle, young mangroves are unable to grow effectively when faced with water pollution.10)  Biological barriers, such as mangroves, need to be reinforced with additional engineering barriers, such as sea walls, to reduce the level of sea intrusion. These activities require planning, approval and coordination to determine where they can serve as add-ons to biological barriers. 11) Riverine forests (2 million acres) play a role in coastal resilience as well, but their management is different from mangroves ecosystems. They face water shortage due to upstream water use. The Sindh Forestry Department only controls approximately 33% of such forests, and requires stronger coordination with multiple other agencies to ensure compliance with national and local legislation on the remaining 67%.