Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Adaptation in Pakistan

Daily Times (Pakistan): …Farming practices in agriculturally dominated countries like Pakistan have to be adapted to cope with the ongoing climatic change. While the Indo-Gangetic Plain is currently classified as a highly productive, irrigated agricultural area, climate models show that by 2050 as much as half of the region may be reclassified to a heat-stressed area with a much shorter growing season. Moreover, the UN Environmental Programme warns of an impending ‘Asian haze’ due to increasing pollution that could cause a drastic reduction in rainfall — by between 20 per cent and 40 per cent — particularly in the crucial agricultural regions of north-India and Pakistan.

Water scarcity is already a big problem in our part of the world. Pakistan is itself water stressed and any reduction in rainfall levels would be acutely felt, particularly in our rain-fed agricultural producing areas…

Cultivation of trees together with crops could significantly cope with several of the adverse consequences of climate change. The World Agro-forestry Centre has shown how planting trees between crops and in the boundaries around crops helps prevent soil erosion, restore soil fertility, and provide shade for other crops. Trees and shrubs are seen to even sequester more carbon than other crops. Countries like Pakistan should seriously consider such options. If recently introduced mechanisms like joint forest management committees are used to encourage this practice, the alarmingly low forest cover in the country could be improved.

…countries most vulnerable to future climate changes are presently overwhelmed by very immediate development concerns like abject poverty, or a severe lack of health facilities. It is understandable that people in developing countries seem less concerned to place a priority on problems projected to occur decades down the road. Nonetheless, at least planners in these countries must realise that climate variability is already a major problem impeding progress in the agriculture sector, particularly in the marginal rain-fed regions where a majority of the rural poor reside. So, developing resilience to climate changes will only help counter existing difficulties confronting poor farmers in countries like our own.

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