Published On: Thu, Jun 25th, 2015

Karachi heat wave result of climate change: WWF-Pakistan

Integration of climate change considerations into development plans urged

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KARACHI: WWF-Pakistan urges the government to integrate climate change considerations into development plans, following the current heat wave, which has claimed the lives of over 1,000 people across Sindh, of which 950 deaths have been reported in Karachi. According to the organization, the present climate conditions can be attributed to the impacts of climate change.

The extreme heat event, with average temperatures between 43 and 45 degrees Celsius, which began on Saturday 20 June, has claimed around 1,000 lives and many more continue to be admitted in hospitals for treatment. This is the first time in the history of Karachi where a significantly large number of people have lost their lives due to extreme temperatures. Direct exposure of people to the heat wave has been the major cause of human mortalities.

Extreme weather patterns in Pakistan, especially rise in temperature, frequent cyclones, uncertain rainfalls, super floods and severe droughts caused by climate change have brought about drastic changes in the socio-economic and environmental conditions of the country. According to the latest scientific report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in 2014, it is likely that the frequency of heat waves will increase in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia. It further states that human influence has contributed to the observed changes at the global level in frequency and intensity of daily temperature since mid-20th century and has more than doubled the probability of the occurrence of heat waves in some locations. This situation is quite visible in recent heat wave in Sindh particularly Karachi.

According to WWF-Pakistan’s report Climate Data and Modeling Analysis of the Indus Ecoregion (link: http://wwfpak.org/ccap/pdf/Climate_Data_Modelling%20Analysis%20of%20the%20Indus%20Ecoregion.pdf), many parts of Pakistan including Indus Deltaic plains are heating up due to frequent heat waves of mild, moderate, and severe intensity. Since 1996, climate models have shown that Pakistan has experienced increased frequency and intensity of heat waves that has inflicted great economic and human loss. This is likely in future as global temperatures continue to rise.

The limited number of parks and green belts in Karachi can also be attributed to the current temperatures, as these green belts improve the microclimate of an area lowering temperatures. The lack of such areas, and increased concrete cover, which absorbs and dissipates heat has led to higher temperatures. Furthermore, new developmental projects and housing colonies are threatening the existence of forests and their subsequent deforestation which will not just increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) but increase temperatures and our vulnerability to extreme weathering events.

Rab Nawaz, Regional Director Sindh, WWF-Pakistan said that though Pakistan is not contributing to climate change but it usually ranks among the top ten countries most vulnerable to its adverse impacts. He further said that this global issue requires immediate action in terms of mitigation and adaptation by countries across the world. ‘The impacts of climate change, especially rise in temperature is very apparent in Pakistan over the last decade. The current situation in Sindh especially Karachi is certainly a wake-up call for us to be more prepared and adaptive to it,’ he added.

Ali Dehlavi, Senior Project Manager, Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP) Project, WWF-Pakistan shared that climate related hazards have significant impact on the lives of poor and marginalized communities, therefore climate change monitoring and impact assessment activities should be organized on scientific basis. Climate resilient infrastructure should be developed along coastal belt. ‘Government at various levels, need to develop adaptation plans and policies and integrate climate change considerations into broader development schemes’ he added.

WWF-Pakistan also urges the media channels to launch an awareness campaign on coping with heat strokes such as remaining hydrated, avoiding peak heat hours in direct sun, using umbrellas and caps, avoiding caffeine and sugary drinks, and wearing light clothing..

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