Pakistan-adaptations measures to cope with the rising temperature, 1.5 degree regime
By Haroon Akram Gill
Pakistan is a country where once can witness many seasons at a time despite of its short area and large population. If the weather is hot in Sindh, you can enjoy pleasant weather in northern areas, if there is drought in Baluchistan, there is heavy rainfall in upper part of the country. But this diversity has made Pakistan among the most vulnerable countries to Climate Change.
Climate extremes are affecting major agricultural regions and creating regional food crises. Continuously rising Earth’s temperature is expected to rise by 5-7 °C by the end of 21st century. Pakistan in general and Indus Delta in particular would experience a 4 to 6 °C rise in temperature by that time on an average 0.5 °C per decade. We are already under the cycle of extreme weather events i.e. floods, drought, heat wave, cyclones and glacial outbursts and tsunamis. The continuously and rapidly occurring climate related disasters and rising temperature is already damaging our crops and pushing Pakistan to food insecurity. It would have horrifying impacts on our food system if we do not go for the solution.
Potential Threats due to Climate Change:
Potential threats to Pakistan due to this changing climate and increasing temperature are; increased variability of monsoon, rapid recession of Hindu Kush-Karakoram- Himalayan (HKH) glaciers threatening water inflows into the Indus River System (IRS) that can increase the risk of floods and increased siltation of major dams that can result in greater loss of reservoir capacity.
Some other climate change related concerns of Pakistan are identified as: Increase in deforestation; loss of biodiversity; increased health risks (heat strokes, pneumonia, malaria and other vector-borne diseases) and risks to other vulnerable ecosystems (e.g. rangelands, degraded lands, mountainous areas etc.).
Severe water-stressed and heat-stressed conditions in arid and semi-arid regions, leading to reduced agriculture productivity and power generation is another major threat to Pakistan in terms of Food Security, Water Security and Energy Security.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in their report “The Impact of Disasters on Agriculture and Food Security” released in December 2015, has put Pakistan on top for losses in Agriculture and crops among the developing countries. The significance of Pakistan for the scenario can be measured from the gesture that the report holds the cover picture taken during the flood in Pakistan. The report says “When examining the wider impact of disasters, the study shows that beyond production losses, medium- and large-scale disasters can have a significant impact across the food value chain, with negative consequences on trade flows of agricultural commodities, sector growth, food and non-food agro-industries, and ultimately national economies. For example, crop production losses caused by the 2010 floods in Pakistan directly affected cotton ginning, rice processing and flour and sugar milling, whilecotton and rice imports surged. Agriculture absorbed 50 percent of the USD 10 billion in total damage and losses, and sector growth dropped from 3.5 percent to 0.2 percent between 2009 and 2010, as did national gross domestic product (GDP) from 2.8 percent to 1.6 percent between the same years.
Recent research says that there would be increase of 2.8°C in maximum and 2.2°C in minimumtemperature for mid-century (2040-2069). An increase in CO2 concentration is also expected from 390 to 571 ppm. Vulnerability of the agriculture crops to extreme climate events (floods, droughts, cyclones etc) will increase with time due to increased climatic changes and globalwarming.
Impact of Climate Change on major Crops:
Wheat & Rice:
Wheat and rice are the main crops in Pakistan not only in respect of their consumption but also in view of large exports (rice). These are grown on approximately 8.69 and 2.31million hectareswith a total production of 24.2 and 5.54 million tons, respectively. These crops are cultivated indifferent agro-ecological zones of Pakistan, with each zone representing diverse socioeconomic, hydrological and climatic conditions.
Wheat is 1st staple grain food of Pakistan. It has a share of 2.2% in GDP and 10.1 % in value addition and has three major groups i.e. bold grain size, medium grain size and small grain size. Similarly Rice is 2nd staple grain food of Pakistan. Its share in GDP is 0.6% and 2.7 % in value addition with two major groups i.e. Basmati 48% and Irri (coarse rice) which is 52% of total riceproduction.According to a report Per Capita Wheat Availability in the Punjab Province estimated over different time periods using climate change scenarios does not provide a relieving situation.Considering current growth rate, it is expected that population of the province would increase many times in future. As a consequence of rising population, there would be significant impacton food security because wheat is a staple crop in Pakistan. Table shows comparison of wheatproduction and its per capita availability in Punjab, Pakistan.
Rising temperature has an adverse impact on wheat production in the Punjab province whereas the population is rising on the other hand. The combination threatensfood security. Results indicate that in 2012, per capita wheat availability is 198 kg per annumand it would be 105 kg per annum in 2031 and 84 kg per annum in 2050.
The situation is not only in Punjab, over last so many years, continuously rising temperatures in mountain valleys of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Batistan regions in Pakistan’s north have increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, particularly reduction of agricultural landdue to rivers expansion, and flash floods due to rising number of glacial lakes that have touchedmore than 3000 as of now. This has put sustainability of agriculture sector, a major source oflivelihood for thousands of mountain people, at stake.
With precipitation patterns now becoming more erratic and unreliable and floods more common, the farming communities are finding it difficult to continue with growing crops.Sudden cloudbursts, flash floods and weird upheaval in temperatures in mountain valleys, havelong proved bane for the hapless farmers, who are finding it hard to cope with the vagariesthese weather events.
The beautiful Shigar valley, once a hub for wheat supply to entire Baltistan is now experiences wheat shortage. The reason behind is that the productivity of farms has been suffering fromextreme weather conditions, land reduction, rising number of glacial lakes and heavy rainfall-induced calamities. The food insecurity in mountain areas is continuously on rise as people areabandoning farming and shifting to other sources of livelihoods such as mining, gemstones etc. in distant urban areas. However, food-secure mountain communities are fast becoming food-insecure, making the food security of northern parts a matter the past.
Dr. Fahd Rasul, Agro-Climatologist says that due to changing climate and extreme climate events there is a threat of significant decrease in rice-wheat cropping system. “Two differentcrop models named DSSAT and APSIM claim 15 and 17% mean rice yield reduction respectively.Whereas same models tell that wheat mean yield reduction would be up to 14 and 12%respectively.” He says that these assessments are needed to provide to the decision makerswith information for developing appropriate plans to reduce the exposed climate changes forfood security and prosperous future.
Cotton once the top export crop of Pakistan has faced the most horrible impact of climate change in last two years; particularly the arrival of early monsoon in the months of June andJuly and abnormal variation in temperature had adverse effect on the growth and developmentof the cotton crop. According to official sources the total sowing area of cotton in Punjab was5,813,000 acres. Out of which 211,677 acres had been damaged by the flood in 2014. Averageyield was 23 Monds per acre and total loss in production had been assessed to 4,868,577monds, amounts to 12658 Million Rupees. The situation went worst to this extent that Pakistanhad to import the cotton worth 4 Billion US$ during last year. Unusually high rainfall during months of June, July, August and September brought crop under severe stress at anearly growth stage. These observations are supported by previous record of low productioncoupled with high rainfall (≥400 mm) in 1976, 1983 & 1993. The main reason of low yield incurrent year 2015 is an unusual rainfall pattern, which has certain direct effects and a series of indirect effects. Those include creation of partial waterlogged conditions, non-development of normal feeding roots in above mentioned conditions, stunted plant growth due to less or nodevelopment of feeding roots. Due to fewer uptakes of nutrients there is a direct effect onphotosynthesis mechanism that leads to stunted growth and fruit parts shedding. Heavy rainfallhas also formed a favorable environment for increasing /breeding of whitefly and jassid, lesspollination, which leads to the flower shedding. It created high humidity favorable environmentfor fungal diseases and hurdles in weed management.
High rains also induced shedding of fruiting parts, plant’s mortality, and infestation of weed population, leaching of nutrients from soil, poor pest control and stunted plant growth. Lesssunshine and high humidity due to extended wet and cloudy weather adversely affectednitrogen application, pesticide spray, weed control and other agricultural practices.
Sunflower & Sugarcane:
Sunflower showed yield reduction up to 25% at elevated temperature of 10C to 20C beyond2050. Model also simulated that with rising temperature, sunflower yield would increase in wellirrigated and wet regions (Gujranwala) however in hot conditions (Multan) yield would sufferseverely.
Dr. GhulamRasool, Director General Pakistan Meteorology Department is afraid that we might lose crop like sugarcane and rice in future due to water scarcity and rising temperature. Heblames the poor water management practices for this loss. “Sugarcane and Rice need muchmore water and despite having ideal conditions and soil for the growth of these two crops, I amafraid we will lose these in future, as we have to shift to those which don’t consume muchwater. Pakistan is already a water stressed country due to our poor water management andnon-serious attitude towards water storage, the situation is getting worst” DG Met added.
“Another trend of shifting the sugarcane crops towards southern Punjab is also an alarming thing. This might be due to the interests of sugar mills owners but it is not in the interest of thepopulation of that area” Rasool was annoyed on the trend. He warned that safeguarding theinterests of might would damage the right of poor to live.In general, an increase in temperature will lead to shortening of Growing Season Length (GSL)for wheat and rice crops and Basmati rice tract of the country. The results suggest that theaggregate impact of climatic parameters i.e, changes in temperature and rainfall exerted anoverall negative impact on overall cereal crop yields, given that the management practices anduse of technology remain unchanged.
Scientists present solutions:
Agromony Department, University of Agriculture Faisalabad is working to measure the impacts of climate change on Pakistan’s food crop and the solutions to cope with the situation with thecooperation of AgMIP (Agriculture Models Inter-comparison and Improvement Project) which is an international consortium for improvement of crop, climate and economic models to studyclimate change and to improve substantially food security due to climate change and toenhance adaptation capacity. It works on Inter-comparisons of various technologies to improvecrop and economic models to produce enhanced assessments by the crop and economicmodeling communities researching climate change agricultural impacts and adaptation.
Scientists agree that assessments and adaptation planning are needed for better future. Keeping in view the changing weather patterns, scientists have proposed the solutions toincrease production and to counter the climate change. Farmers can have good results byselecting improved cultivars (Short lag phase, deep root system) and better management (Highinput use efficiency, manipulation of sowing time and planting density). For rice transplantationof 25 days old nursery has been suggested. Wheat sowing should be 15 days earlier thanpresent sowing date. 15% and 25% increase in planting density of rice and wheat, respectivelyand use of 15% more fertilizer in rice and 20% in wheat will give amazing results, they claim.
Reduction in Rice yield of about 17% and wheat yield of about 14 % in Rice-Wheat Cropping Zone and an economic loss of 83% farm household can happen if we continue to use currentproduction technology in changed climate. A survey conducted over 3,000 households revealedthat the local farmers are adapting to these changes in their own way without guidance ortraining. The farmers have started sowing their crops 2-3 weeks late.
The emergent need is to develop wheat varieties having adaptive capacity to climate change conditions because changing climatic conditions would play an important role in determiningfuture wheat yield. Important factors in increasing wheat supply include farm managementpractices and adoption of technology. There is a need to educate farmers in using new varietieshaving adaptive capacity to climate change and crop management practices, ultimately leadingto get higher crop income from the land. To achieve this end, extension staff can arrangetraining programs for farmers. Making more investment in agriculture would increase foodsecurity in the country.
Dr. AshfaqAham, an economist working on the economic impacts of adaptation of crop models is hopeful that with the adaptation the number of gainers would rise above 80% whichis threatened to be 25% otherwise and overall poverty rates of population will reduce to almost17%. “Per capita income for adopters could be around Rs. 200,000.” he says.
Experts suggest that these issues can be addressed by using improved and site specific production technology, sequestration of greenhouse gases, Surface seeding practice and bedplanting of wheat, integrated pest and nutrient management, laser land leveling (PrecisionAgriculture), cultivation of aerobic rice and intensification of Rice-Wheat system.
Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad Chattha, Lead PI at AgMIP Pakistan says that there is a dire need to establish and strengthen interaction among stakeholders. “There should be Agro-climatic advisoryservices for farmers through early warning system and continuous crop monitoring andforecasting using climate, crop and economic models” he adds. Dr. Chattha recommendselection of improved cultivars (Short lag phase, deep root system, climate resilient). Hesuggests that wheat sowing should be 15 days earlier than present sowing dates. He alsosuggests 15% and 25% increase in planting density of rice and wheat, respectively and use of15% more fertilizer in rice and 20% in wheat.
DG Met, Dr. GhulamRasool says “Summer is expanding whereas winter is squeezing. It is affecting not only the growing season but also the crop biological cycle.” He says that sowingtime of Cotton used to be in May but now it is shifted to April, in the result the time when thecrop goes to maturity, that will be ideal time for pests and insects to grow and they won’t becontrolled. Another issue that our crops will be facing due to increased temperature, will be“evapotranspiration”, the term is mixture of two processes i.e. evaporation- loss of water fromsurface of soil due to increased temperature and transpiration-loss of water from plant’s stemdue to increased temperature. It would impact the crops at doubled scale and week crops likecotton would not be able to survive to the increased temperature.
Forest Cover issues:
Pakistan is one of the low forest cover countries with only five percent of land area under forests and tree cover according to the last national assessment conducted in 2004. Majorforest types include coastal mangroves, riverine forests, sub-tropical scrub forests, moisttemperate conifer forests, dry temperate conifer forests and irrigated plantations includinglinear plantations. Pakistan is home to some of the world’s most unique forests includingJuniper, Deodar, Oak and Chilghoza forests. Ecosystem services of forests significantly impactregulating water, controlling soil erosion, climate resilient safety nets.
Pakistan has high rate of deforestation and forest degradation. At the national level, rate of deforestation is estimated at 27,000 hectares per year. Forests in all provinces particularly in Gilgit-Baltistan and KhyberPakhtunkhwa are under severe pressure. Local communities solelydepend upon these forests for livelihood through commercial sale of wood. Government has nomechanism to provide positive incentives to legal owners and right holders of these forests fornot cutting trees. Deforestation in watershed areas adversely impacted the yield and quality ofwater at outlets besides triggering land degradation and loss of biodiversity. In riparian, low-lying and coastal areas, deforestation causes catastrophic floods and sea water intrusioninflicting huge economic losses.
It was envisaged to increase forest cover from 4.9% of the total land area in 2005 to 5.2% in 2010 and 6.0% by 2015; several afforestation projects like Rachna Doab Afforestation Project were started. Every year tree-planting campaigns were launched during spring and monsoon seasons. We are fond of making world records by creating temporary events like as many as 541,176 saplings were planted in one day on 15 July 2009, which was a world record for any country by that time. Last year, KPK government announced a marvelous campaign of planting a billion trees that is also being taken as a record, praised and discussed all over the world.
Besides the afforestation and reforestation activities, Improvement of the rangelands by proper range land management, and to reclaim nearly 6 million hectare of salt affected waste land andlarge areas of sandy desert by growing salt tolerant, fast growing grasses, shrubs & trees to be used as fodder; An increase in the area protected for conservation of wildlife from 11.3 % of the total land in 2004-05 to 11.6 % by 2009-10 and to 12.0 % by 2015 was in plans but never met reality.
Now, sensing the intensity of the issue, Pakistan government has formulated the Forest Policy in 2015. Under the policy the government has plans to expand the forest cover. Although all provinces, FATA and AJK routinely implement their respective tree planting programs and projects and on an average, a target of 70-80 million tree saplings is fixed annually at national level which is absolutely insufficient to meet even domestic demands for wood. There is a dire need to undertake a long-term mass afforestation program by Federal Government in collaboration with all Provinces and Territories. Under the policy measures, government has focused on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & Forest Degradation (REDD+), Thisinternational program by the UNFCCC says that any action that reduces emission of carbonfrom forests is eligible for incentives. In phase three of this program, which is likely to be started in 2020, forest communities can get results-based payments under REDD+ for quantified and verified emission reduction from forests. A financial mechanism to ensure predictable financing as agreed in UNFCCC Conference of the Parties CoP-21 Decisions called the Paris Agreement for REDD+ shall be adopted when the same is ratified by the Government of Pakistan.
Pakistan Metrological department has set up the National Agro-Met Center (NAMC) which aims to address the needs of the farming community and its other related stakeholders, through provision of weather advisory information and services by using various delivery channels available in their vicinity for assisting them in making rational decisions. The purpose of establishment of National Agro-Met Center is to support and provide meteorological, climatological information and advisories to agricultural production and food security related departments to boost agriculture production in the country.
Water insecurity and Poor Management:
Pakistan is among the top 36 countries facing water scarcity. The situation is expected get even worse by the mid of century as the projections tell that Pakistan will make its position to top 20. Per capita annual water availability in Pakistan has dropped, from 5,600 cubic metres at independence to the current level of 1,017 cubic metres, and is projected to decline further. Demand for water is on the rise, projected to reach 274 million acre-feet (MAF) by 2025, while supply is expected to remain stagnant at 191 MAF. The situation will lead to demand-supply gap of approximately 83 MAF threatening sever water in security. .
Because of the country’s arid and semi-arid climate, agriculture in Pakistan is predominantly irrigated (90pc) and consumes about 95pc of annual available surface water. Though the bulk of farmland is irrigated through the canal system, farmers utilise water from other sources, including groundwater exploitation, and this has increased significantly in recent decades. Nogroundwater regulatory framework. Anyone can install any number of wells of any capacity, at any depth and can pump any amount of water at any time. In 1960, the No. of tubewells in Pakistan was about 20,000 which have now increased to over one million. This practice has led to the groundwater depletion, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Besides, Pakistan stores only 10 percent of the surface water flow. The ratio is 25-40 % worldwide whereas India saves 38%. We get our 65% water in these three months of rains and floods while the remaining 65% gathers in nine months. There is acute need for water policy and for the purpose a strong political will and filling inter-provincial trust gap is basic requirement. Unfortunately provinces are fighting on their water share and not keeping the national interest in view. On the other hand, India has made dams on Ravi, Chenab and Sutlej.
Resultantly these rivers remain dry all the year but flood in these three months. India is also helping Afghanistan for building dams on River Kabul that will emerge as an issue in near future. Pakistan needs to introduce effective trans-boundary water reforms for these trans-boundary severe issues. An effective irrigation system can play a pivotal role in overcoming the damages being done the changing climate. Pakistan’s irrigation system once considered among the best irrigation systems of the world, now has become very weak. Working procedures for the Irrigation Department have become outdated. These procedures are given in Manual of Irrigation Practices written in 1943. It contains insufficient information and doesn’t tell anything about flood management. The manual should be revised seeking advice from experts and incorporating latest international practices adjusted to local needs.
Unplanned construction in flood plain is another problem that is adding to the damages done to the crops by flooding and finally leading to the food insecurity. A new law should be promulgated to regulate constructions in flood plains as well as areas likely to be used fordevelopment of water resources in future. Experts are of the view that the water management system of Pakistan has not the tendency to cope with extreme events occurring due to rapidly changing climate. Water management practices are also needed to be in accordance with the international practices and standards.
Pakistan needs immediate and comprehensive action to counter the negative impact of climate change to our crop production and food security as research has confirmed that overall production is on decline due to changing weather patterns and frequent occurrence of extreme weather events. In 1.5 Degree regime, it is imperative to adapt the measures suggested by the scientists and comparison models. So that we may be able to reduce the impacts of the gradually increasing temperature and we might be able to contribute towards the efforts being made to reduce the increase in temperature below 1.5 degree.