"I don't think it is tough to solve the issues of trans-boundary waters between India and Pakistan" said Jordon based Yana Walid Abu-Talib of Eco-peace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME). She was in Lahore last week to attend a two-day conference on 'Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management-Managing Risks: Sharing Benefits' arranged by a small group of Young Global Leaders from India and Pakistan.
The idea of such cooperation was conceived at the World Economic Forum's regional summit in New Delhi in November 2010 under the aegis of YGL Indo-Pak Cooperation Initiative. The initiative is based on the belief that Pakistan and India need to address shared natural resources and climate challenges and develop a new narrative of cooperation based on sensible risk management and benefit sharing.
The conference took place on July 8-9, 2011 at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Pakistan. Besides LUMS, Aman ki Asha, (an initiative of the Jang Group of Newspapers Pakistan and Times of India Group, India), Beaconhouse, Centre for Social Markets (CSM), the Norwegian Embassy, Department For International Development (DFID), UK,and The Third Pole supported the conference.
Yana being one of the speakers at the conference talked about shared water resources among Jordon, Israel and Palestine. She believes that communities across borders need to realise and understand each other's problems and water realities. She briefed conference participants about FOEME's Good Water Neighbours project. Its success, she explained, was a result of participation by community members, decision makers and the role of schools and adult community centres.
"It was very difficult for us to convince people in all three countries that we need to cooperate on shared water resources as people in all these countries do not like each other," she said. "Despite our history of enmity, we kept on working to bring people closer on the issue of shared waters. But I have observed that Pakistani and Indian people love and respect each other and seriously want to solve the issues. I don't think there should be a problem to come up with a solution in this region on shared water resources, unlike ours".
It has been said that climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism, and for our region this holds true. As far as climate change and disaster management are concerned, most countries of the region have been working in relative isolation. There is a dire need for both India and Pakistan to take a lead in the region and develop effective adaptation strategies relating to climate risk, and a proactive approach to resource scarcity in order to meet the needs and aspirations of their people. Climate change threatens our very existence in the long term and is already dramatically impacting the lives of millions in our countries.
The World Meteorological Organisation has unequivocally linked last year's floods in Pakistan to observable changes in weather patterns as global temperatures rise. Pakistan and India are frighteningly vulnerable to climatic impacts ranging from extreme weather events such as floods, cyclones, droughts and storm surges, to deepening water and food insecurity. Experts in our region stress that synergies between Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) are necessary not only to avoid duplication and derive optimal benefits from scarce resources but also to add value to the projects through lessons learnt from the respective perspectives in the region.
Dr Adil Najam, vice-chancellor LUMS and a well known environmentalist, who was the keynote speaker at the event, raised some important questions regarding sustainable development and conservation. He said that in the South Asian region, we must identify the problems and their solutions.
"We are currently living through climate change and there was a need to adapt to these changes and take measures to ensure that living conditions do not worsen because of natural disasters," he said.
He shared a study that brought to light the impact of human security on climate and showed how natural disasters have a greater effect on people as compared to war, especially in our region. "If we adapt ourselves to deal with the climate change, natural disasters will cause less damage", he said.
Four sessions were held on the first day of the conference, on "Pakistani and Indian Contexts: Current Best Practice in Climate Change, Natural Resources and Disaster Management" in both countries; "Key Flashpoints and Opportunities: Natural Resource" and "Climate Risk", "Relevant Regional Initiatives - Lessons Learnt".
The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre's consultant Michael Renner gave examples of the 2004 tsunami and 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, in the context of post-disaster diplomacy. He said that disasters could jolt the political and social trajectories. "Building early warning networks are good for regional cooperation" he commented.
Director General of Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Punjab Khalid Sherdil talked about climate shift and glacial melting zones. Over the years, he said, Pakistan has become a water shortage country owing to climate change. He explained that so far India has not violated the Indus Water Treaty and all its projects are lawful under this treaty.
Prof N. Vinod Chandra Menon, former member of National Disaster Management Authority, India made his presentation via video conference from Delhi. Natural disasters are common to India and Pakistan, he observed, saying that India had learnt a lesson from the Gujrat earthquake and launched school and hospital safety projects.
"Pakistan and India need to strengthen their relationship and learn lessons from each other and work together on Climate Change and Disasters Risk Reduction," he said. "Youth from both countries is needed to participate in all such collaborations."
Beena Sarwar, Editor Aman ki Asha - Jang Group, briefed the participants about the peace project which was launched on January 1, 2010 by the Jang Group and the Times of India Group. She explained that the project aimed to create an enabling environment and contribute towards peace building between Pakistan and India. She shared the results of surveys conducted prior to the launch and a year after the launch of Aman ki Asha, which show that despite a history of conflict, mistrust and estranged relationship, an overwhelming number of Pakistanis and Indians want peace and friendship between their countries.
On the second day of the conference, there was a closed-door session between the parliamentarians of both countries, moderated by the well-known Indian television anchor Barkha Dutt.
Malini Mehra, CEO of Centre for Social Markets, YGL India's founder, termed the launch of this project in Pakistan highly symbolic. "Typically, it has been difficult for Indians to secure visas for Pakistan, and vice versa. We overcame these difficulties with excellent cooperation from the Pakistani authorities and look upon this as a good omen for the future," she said.
The ability to deal with natural disasters is already stretched in our region and the humanitarian and economic consequences are colossal. "Can you imagine how much more challenging the future will be if such trends continue with the predicted population rise? The only sensible option is to cooperate," she said.
What is needed is a joint, proactive strategy of regional climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction. The alternative is conflict. "And that," as Malini Mehra noted, "is something that we have had enough of that already. We need to cooperate on basic things such as assessing the risk of climate impacts on our region, sharing data on water flows and changes to hydrology; look at how food productivity is being affected by rising temperatures, and how disease prevalence is changing as vectors spread with changing weather patterns".
These are practical things in the public interest of both nations. "They are win-wins. Working on climate change is one of the best conflict reduction measures I know. It puts our risks in perspective, and reminds us that in the face of much greater natural forces, we are human and fragile and need to cooperate to survive and prosper" she said.
The writer works for The News on Sunday.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
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Page 142 of 175
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
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