Extreme heat events expose climate vulnerabilities – Pakistan

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• Over 50pc losses on imported mango varieties
• Regional co-operation, measures to build climate resilience are needed

KARACHI: Extreme heat events over the past two months have been particularly disruptive to the agricultural sector, forcing farmers and professionals to seek urgent government action to build climate resilience at the root level.

They also complained that there were currently no early warnings of severe weather events ahead of the planting season and to guide and co-ordinate farmers in climate resilience strategies including heat and drought-tolerant seeds and the right crop selection.

Talking to It was morninggrowers in Sindh and Punjab said they were caught unprepared in the heatwaves and had no idea how to protect their crops and reduce damage.

“The hottest weather over the past two months, followed by pest infestation, has caused more than 50 percent losses on exported mango species and 30pc losses on domestic species,” shared Asif Rana, a Multan mango farmer and consultant, he added. if farmers spray their crops with amino acids and irrigate too much but nothing works.

“Fruit fell prematurely, sunburned or failed to reach the required size,” he said.

According to Masroor Soomro, a farmer in Dadu, there have been significant changes in the weather patterns over the past few years. “Summer onset and winter delays have been very different for years now, but farmers have not received the guidance and support of the government to prepare for the worst that could happen to them.”

The extreme heat event in March led to a significant reduction in acre yields from 40 maunds to 28 maunds, he said. “Furthermore, pesticides are no longer effective. There is a great need for indigenous seed research to be able to withstand droughts, extreme temperatures and salty soil conditions, and new pests, ”he believed.

The plight of farmers in Sindh, according to Syed Mahmood Nawaz Shah of the Sindh Abadgar Board, was exacerbated by severe water shortages, which are in high demand due to the harsh climate. “Currently, we receive less than 40pc to 50pc of water under Sindh’s share under the 1991 water agreement. Shortages have increased to 70pc at the tail end of the tail that do not get water even once a month and we are very concerned that mango, banana, sugar and cotton crops may be affected by this condition. “

Driven by the high pressure system in the atmosphere, the recent heat-wave adversely affected Pakistan and India, with mercury rising above 45 degrees Celsius in most parts of April historically with moderate temperatures.

Pakistan Department of Meteorological Department data on weather in 63 districts showed that most areas saw significant deviations from normal temperatures for four consecutive days (from April 26 to 30).

According to Met officials, the pattern looks very similar to what happened last month when 25 districts set new record high temperatures in March. The country’s rainfall was below 62 percent.

“We have been hearing about climate change for a long time but it has not been translated into any significant step. Currently, there is a disconnect between the needs of farmers and researchers without the assistance of the government on how to improve farming practices to combat bad weather, ”said Rabia Sultan, a 20-year-old agricultural worker. in the Muzzafargarh district of Punjab.

Ms Sultan, who heads the Pakistani Farmers’ Association, spoke of the need for regional co-operation as the entire South Asian region was at the forefront of climate change.

High risk

According to a 2020 report by the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country in the world to global warming and climate change. Several studies have suggested that rising temperatures could change Pakistan’s growing season and could “permanently end” the operation of other crops.

They have shown that extreme weather conditions will have short-term and long-term consequences as they contribute to poverty and malnutrition, food insecurity, water stress, low levels of high grain and livestock products, migration of energy and increased viral load in both. number of people and animals. Plant vulnerability to pest infestation is also increasing.

“The situation is worse in the coastal areas plagued by Sindh’s poverty-stricken drinking water and rising sea levels that have devastated much of the fertile land, forcing people to relocate,” said Dr Aamir Alamgir of Karachi. University Institute of Environmental Studies, which has studied extensively the effects of climate change on the lower Sindh.

If the situation remained unpredictable, he said, it could have serious consequences in Pakistan where 60pc of the population directly or indirectly relies on rain-fed agriculture based on unpredictable weather patterns.

According to experts, the provinces have been very slow in developing climate change policies and there are serious shortcomings and implementations. A situation that could be approved by the Sindh climate change policy, a task that was reported to have begun in 2013 following the approval of national policy.

“It is true that nothing is done under the weather. Besides, the little work done by seed research institutes has not yet reached the farmers, ”said senior biologist Rafiul Haq, who suggested that the country’s land reform under the 18th constitutional amendment was politically motivated and hampered progress.

The worst is yet to come

Explaining the dramatic changes in climate, climate expert Dr. Sardar Sarfaraz said the process of climate change seems to be accelerating and every year since 2015 has been seen as hotter than before.

“In Pakistan, the number of hot days (daytime temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius) has increased by four to eight days since 1961 and the number of cold nights (when nighttime temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius) has dropped by four to four. For 10 days, which indicates that winter is coming down and summer is getting longer. ”

“We have had the hottest March in the country since 1961 and now it seems we have just experienced the hottest April of 60 years,” he said, highlighting the need for a multilateral strategy to address the effects of climate change such as heat. the spells were getting worse. However, he said the worst was yet to come, as May could be hot if it stays too dry. “We need to pool our action, embrace new ways to build resilience.”

Published Parhlo, May 3, 2022

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