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Freshwater scarcity aggravates climate-related risks to Pak economy: ADB

Pakistan’s capacity to store fresh water is amongst the lowest in the region, worsening the risks climate change poses to agriculture economy, Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Friday.

ADB, in a report, said the country’s dam storage as a fraction of total renewable water resources stands at 11.3 percent, a little below than India (11.7 percent), but it is much less than China’s 29.2 percent. Canada’s dam storage stands at 29 percent, while that of the US is 24 percent.

The Bank said the country’s biggest province Punjab, which majorly contributes to the economy, is at the centre of climate-related risks as freshwater scarcity aggravates farmers’ woes.

“The vulnerability of farmers in Punjab province of Pakistan to climate-related risks was aggravated by already existing constraints on available freshwater, access to income, and a fragile infrastructure,” ADB said in the report titled, “A region at risk the human dimensions of climate change in Asia and the pacific.”

“Their (farmers) capacity for adaption is impaired by a lack of knowledge as well as by resource scarcity.” The report was prepared in collaboration with Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

ADB further said annual mean precipitation in the region, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, is projected to decline by 20 to 50 percent in the late 21st century. “Melting glaciers in the north of Pakistan, (however), result in additional river flooding.”

It said precipitation patterns have become more difficult to predict as a result of extreme climate anomalies. “While precipitation in Pakistan has always experienced large-scale variability, the past few decades have shown a significant increase in both dry and wet spells, with northern Pakistan.”

The Bank further said climate change could impact the variability of the monsoon and lead to changes in the intensity and timing of precipitation. “This would further aggravate the water stress already present in the region today, as farmers have to be able to plan for the monsoon onset and withdrawal in order to effectively farm their land (e.g., plowing day).”

Manila-based lender, in the statement, said climate change will also make food production in the region more difficult and production costs higher.

“Food shortages could increase the number of malnourished children in South Asia by 7 million, as import costs will likely increase in the subregion,” it added. “In some countries of Southeast Asia, rice yields could decline by up to 50 percent by 2100 if no adaptation efforts are made.”

ADB further said a warmer climate for the region could endanger energy supply, while energy insecurity could lead to conflicts as countries compete for limited energy supply.

“Climate change can exacerbate energy insecurity through continued reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels, reduced capacities of thermal power plants due to a scarcity of cooling water, and intermittent performance of hydropower plants as a result of uncertain water discharges, among other factors,” said the Bank, which approved $3.7 billion in climate financing in 2016 and committed to further scale up its investments to $6 billion by 2020.

It said some countries in the region could experience significantly hotter climates, with temperature increases in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the northwest part of the People’s Republic of China projected to reach 8 degree Celsius.

“These increases in temperature would lead to drastic changes in the region’s weather system, agriculture and fisheries sectors, land and marine biodiversity, domestic and regional security, trade, urban development, migration, and health,” it said. “Such a scenario may even pose an existential threat to some countries in the region and crush any hope of achieving sustainable and inclusive development.”

ADB called for implementation of the Paris Agreement, which vows to rapid de-carbonisation of the Asian economy through renewable energy and technology innovation efforts in urban infrastructure and transport. “The region has both the capacity and weight of influence to move towards sustainable development pathways, curb global emissions, and promote adaptation,” it said.

Saeedi, Ahmad. Freshwater scarcity aggravates climate-related risks to Pak economy: ADB. The News, July 15, 2017.

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