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Changing Weather Pattern Now Threatens Karachi. And We Are As Prepared As We Were For Rural Sindh

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Home to millions of people, urban Sindh is increasingly attracting people from villages with hopes of finding better living conditions. But they end up finding themselves in a rabble of disorganised multitude, devoid of better quality of life and living standards, searching for better health, recreational facilities and environment.

The trend of unplanned urbanization is gradually resulting into unnoticed deforestation in urban Sindh, which, in turn, is taking its toll on almost half of the population of the province living in cities and towns, having an adverse impact on social, economic, recreational and ecological conditions.

The failure of government of Sindh to ensure a healthy environment for the urban dwellers and negligence to tree plantation has given way to an air of disgruntlement and disarray.

The issue of Climate Resilient Industrial Development finds relevance to Karachi where the rapid shifts in weather pattern and resulting adverse impacts on the physical and natural environment have a lot to do with human actions that are detrimental to safeguarding natural balance.

In Karachi, we find that a lot is happening that is seriously damaging the urban environment. Land and water based ecosystems are being destroyed; air is being polluted and natural resources being mismanaged.

In a country like Pakistan where there are crisis aplenty with the economy and critical institutions of the state struggling to find relevance within a viable governance framework, where the social sector is stressed and heightened security concerns a matter of daily routine it is difficult to imagine that an issue like Climate Resilient Industrial Development and possible long term projections laced with uncertainties would create a sense of urgency and need for immediate action.

Mobilising people and institutions for action would then require placing the issue in a context that can find both relevance and urgency within our larger planning priorities.

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A discussion on Climate Resilient Industrial Development should therefore start with a discussion on how the climate change related risks fit within other existing risks and priority challenges rather than on the risks that climate change is bringing or may bring.

Climate Resilient Industrial Development is all about promoting good development and good governance and on bringing all relevant stakeholders under a common platform for action and coordination.

If we focus on Karachi, there are some fundamental challenges related to the larger governance and institutional framework that need to be addressed first. Understanding the political economy is the first step in moving towards devising a viable strategy for reforms.

While developing and implementing a climate change adaptation strategy has to be a participatory process, the main responsibility for implementing policies to address the impacts of climate change in cities rests with local governments.

For us this consideration offers the most critical challenge of all. Over the years, the capacity and writ of local government entities in Karachi have steadily eroded. Karachi in effect is a highly decentralised city in terms of control over land and provision of services. This decentralisation is manifested both officially and unofficially.

The challenges are many but the more the action is delayed, the more difficult they will get. Developing a Climate Resilient Industrial Development is not an end in itself. It is more in the nature of a journey that would evolve with new technological innovations surfacing and the capacities and responses of governments and communities adapting to changing scenarios.

Karachi, which is especially vulnerable to climate instability, will need to design energy and industry policies which aim to achieve not only economic and social objective but also enhance climate resilience.

We must define the broad contours of climate resilient industrial development paths besides defining development as an increase in local capacities for production and innovation.

  1. The goal of development is the generation of sustainable livelihoods.
  2. The climate resilient industrial development has to be pro-active.
  3. It must promote industrial diversification.
  4. It must focus on mobilising investment in environmentally sustainable industries and infrastructure.
  5. It has to be highly responsive to local geo-physical conditions and should be based on principles of adaptive management.
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