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FW: PAKISTAN: Women are worst hit by climate change

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  • Laxman Belbase
    *PAKISTAN: Women are worst hit by climate change* *FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ** *By: Ms. Bushra Khaliq, General Secretary, Women Workers Help Line Source:
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2009
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      *PAKISTAN: Women are worst hit by climate change*

      *By: Ms. Bushra Khaliq, General Secretary, Women Workers Help Line
      Source: AHRC-FAT-033-2009
      Date: 27th October 2009

      *An article from Ms. Bushra Khaliq, General Secretary, Women Workers Help

      Pakistan is among the countries which will be hit hardest in near future by
      effects of climate change even though it contributes only a fraction to
      global warming. The country is witnessing severe pressures on natural
      resources and environment. This warning has recently come from the mouth of
      Pakistan�s prime minister in a recent statement. The PM has alarmed the
      countrymen by disclosing that Pakistan is the 12th most vulnerable country
      in the world, to environmental degradation, would cost five per cent of the
      GDP every year.

      Very few Pakistanis took such warnings serious. There is no media uproar, no
      popular movement and no political clamoring over the issue. Sad! The
      majority of the Pakistani policy makers have no time to think about the
      horrifying picture of the future, caused by the worsening climatic
      conditions. The country is busy fighting US-led war on terrorism and now
      almost trapped in a complex political quagmire where it has found itself
      fighting a war with itself. Therefore, very little time planners find to
      apprise the people of Pakistan on the repercussions of adverse climatic

      The climate experts in the country are hinting at severe water scarcity
      saying that water supply, already a serious concern in many parts of the
      country, will decline dramatically, affecting food production. Export
      industries such as, agriculture, textile products and fisheries will also be
      affected, while coastal areas risk being inundated, flooding the homes of
      millions of people living in low-lying areas.

      Pakistan�s north eastern parts already experienced droughts in 1999 and 2000
      are one such example that caused sharp declines in water tables and dried up
      wetlands, severely degrading ecosystems. Although Pakistan contributes least
      to global warming-one 35th of the world�s average of carbon dioxide
      emissions-temperatures in the country�s coastal areas have risen since the
      early 1900s from 0.6 to 1 degree centigrade. Precipitation has decreased 10
      to 15 per cent in the coastal belt and hyper arid plains over the last 40
      years[2] while there is an increase in summer and winter rains in northern

      Although Pakistan produces minimal chlorofluorocarbons and a little sulphur
      dioxide emissions, thus making a negligible contribution to ozone depletion
      and acid rain, it will suffer disproportionately from climate change and
      other global environmental problems. Health of millions would also be
      affected with diarrhoeal diseases associated with floods and drought
      becoming more prevalent. Intensifying rural poverty is likely to increase
      internal migration as well as migration to other countries. Given the
      enormity of the impact, adaptation and mitigation measures are critically

      Pakistan�s eco system has suffered greatly due to climatic change; one such
      example is that of Keti Bandar; one of the richest port in the region of the
      coastal belt of Pakistan that lost privileges of being at some point in
      time. The former port facilities bordered both shores of the Indus River
      delta but have become submerged as a result of coastal erosion, leaving only
      a thin, 2km long isthmus by way of a land bridge to the mainland.

      There was a time when it was known to be an area thriving on mangroves
      ecosystem, rich with agriculture and boasting a busy seaport. Now the
      landscape is barren and thatched houses dotted on mudflats. Water logging
      and salinity is its major problem and the intruding sea has almost eaten up
      the villages. Thousands of peasant families and fisher folk community
      already had to migrate to other areas in search of livelihood.

      So grave is the situation now in the same region that cyclones often visit
      the coastline and their intensity has increased many times more. Poor
      peasant and fisher folk communities always hit hard by these cyclones. The
      blame relies on the fact that the community residing in Keti Bandar is
      threatened with global climatic change. The coastal area is said to be most
      vulnerable to climate change with rising sea surface temperatures and
      atmospheric water vapor causing an increase in cyclone intensity and
      When it comes to climate change population does matter, particularly for
      countries like Pakistan with an annual growth rate of 2.69 percent[4], will
      be the sixth most populous country. As poor families struggle to survive,
      environmental degradation is going to be more pervasive. Long-term
      sustainable development goals are disregarded in favor of immediate
      subsistence needs, leaving vulnerable communities specially women at the
      mercy of climate. Increased use of wood for fuel, abusive use of land and
      water resources, in the form of overgrazing, over fishing, depletion of
      fresh water and desertification- are common in rural areas of Pakistan.

      There seems to be no stopping the runaway population growth here in Pakistan
      because birth control is often portrayed as anti-people. The country's
      political and religious leaders who could make a difference are to blame.
      They have ignored the explosive population growth completely. Birth control
      is a taboo topic in Pakistan. In our culture, the larger the number of
      children, the stronger the family feels. Poverty does not seem to matter.
      The mullahs (clerics) may not like it.

      The rural population has been kept illiterate in Pakistan. "Instead of
      building schools we built armies. The feudal landowners saw to it that the
      rural population is kept away from schooling. Mullahs declare girls'
      education to be un-Islamic. The reality is that even where women want to
      practice birth spacing they face difficulty in accessing the family planning
      services. They meet with a non-supportive environment at home, and encounter
      misconceptions and misinformation about the use of family planning.

      At regional level, according to experts, by 2050, the Indian subcontinent
      will have to support 350 million Pakistanis; 1.65 billion Indians; 40
      million Nepalese; 300 million Bangladeshis and 30 million Sri Lankan. The
      total will be about 2.4 billion people. This was the total population of the
      whole earth around 1950[5]. The strain on resources in the region will be
      tremendous, and consequences catastrophic. By then the glaciers in the
      Himalayas will be gone, the monsoons will be erratic, sometimes too much or
      too little rain; new uncontrollable diseases will have emerged. It will come
      overnight. We will wake up, and find that all we had yesterday (food, water,
      electricity) are gone.

      This horrific picture is, no doubt, a matter of concern for the entire
      population living in this part of world, but matter of urgency for the
      marginalized sections especially women who will obviously worst and first
      hit of the climate bomb. Need of the hour is to highlight the gravity of the
      issue with focus on demanding security to the rights of the poor and
      marginalized sections in the future policy planning with regard to Climate
      Change .

      In developing countries like Pakistan, women are already suffering
      disproportionately; as a consequence of climate change. Local
      environmentalists estimate that 70 per cent of the poor, who are far more
      vulnerable to environmental damage, are women. Therefore, women are more
      likely to be the unseen victims of resource wars and violence as a result of
      climate change. We witnessed this phenomenon in years 1999 and 2000 when
      thousands of poor families had to flee from drought-hit areas of
      Balochistan, the most backward province of Pakistan. Women and children were
      seen the most suffered sections.

      Like other poor countries, climate change is harder on women in Pakistan as
      well, where mothers have to stay in areas hit by drought, deforestation or
      crop failure. Many destructive activities against the environment
      disproportionately affect them, because most women in Pakistan are dependent
      on primary natural resources: land, forests, and waters. In case of droughts
      they are immediately affected, and usually women and children can't run
      away. Men can trek and go looking for greener pastures in other areas and
      sometimes in other countries ... but for women, they're usually left on site
      to face the consequences. When there is deforestation, when there is
      drought, when there is crop failure, it is the women and children who are
      the most adversely affected.

      While women are the main providers of food in Pakistan, they face barriers
      to the ownership and access to land. 67 percent of women are engaged in
      agriculture related activities but only 1 per cent own land. When hit by the
      negative impact of climate change, women lose at the same time their
      livelihood means and their capacity to cope after a disaster. As a result of
      climate change, domestic chores such as collecting water and firewood become
      more burdensome and time consuming. As girls commonly assist their mothers
      in performing these tasks, there is less time left for school or any other
      economic activity.

      The recent data shows that due to climate change major crops yield in
      Pakistan has declined by 30% (Lead, 2008). Experts are of the opinion that
      Climate Change is enhancing the susceptibility of agriculture zones to
      floods, drought and storms. It is pertinent to mention that the agriculture
      is the single largest sector in Pakistan�s economy, contributing 21 per cent
      to the GDP and employing 43 per cent of the workforce (Lead, 2008) of which
      female are in majority.

      There is a common perception that �it is men who are the farmers�. Contrary
      to this perception, women in Pakistan produce 60-80 percent of food consumed
      in the house (IUCN, 2007). In Pakistan, especially in the mountainous
      regions, men out-migrate for livelihood opportunities (from 50% to 63% of
      the households) (WB, 2005) and it is the women who looks after the family�s
      agriculture piece of land along with many other responsibilities. It is
      interesting to note how much work female household members contribute
      outside their homes, but their work is generally less visible and attracts
      less public recognition.

      The rise in temperature is going to affect the farming communities in
      Pakistan as a whole, but will have severe impacts on individuals/households
      specially women, who are socially, politically and economically more

      Important to mention here is that Pakistan was one of the first countries to
      ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in
      1994 and has also endorsed other related protocols (Kyoto and Montreal) but
      its Climate Change policy is still in the making. Experts are of the opinion
      that not much in terms of gender should be expected from the forthcoming
      national policy on Climate change, as responsive policies can only result
      when they come out of forums that have equal gender representation along
      with the necessary sensitivity.

      National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is a new mechanism of the
      Government of Pakistan (GOP) which is trying to address the disaster
      vulnerabilities of the communities living in hazardous regions by keeping
      the gender sensitivities in mind. Since NDMA is a new mechanism not much can
      be said about its programs at this point, but if women are not involved in
      developing and monitoring important policies and legislations, gender issues
      will go unnoticed.

      In nutshell climate change could hamper the achievement of many of the
      Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including those on poverty eradication,
      child mortality, malaria, and other diseases, and environmental
      sustainability. Much of this damage would come in the form of severe
      economic shocks. In addition, the impacts of climate change will exacerbate
      existing social and environmental problems and lead to migration within and
      across national borders of Pakistan.

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