ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman emphasised on the flood losses to Pakistan and the significance of the Living Indus Initiative in flood risk management, adaptation and resilience of the Indus River system on Thursday.
If the Indus were to speak, it would say “I want to live again”, she said.
Pakistan has gone through a traumatic and devastating flood impacting more than 33 million people.
Sherry expressed these views while speaking at the high-level segment in Water Pavilion: Thematic Day 3: Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Sustainable Cities for improved Livelihoods at the Water Pavilion organized by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and FAO at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.
She said almost one-third of Pakistan was inundated and the loss and damage combined amounted to US $30 billion according to the post-disaster needs assessment adding that the livelihood, agriculture and food are severely impacted and the century’s record flood has changed the entire topography in the South of the country has changed and become unrecognizable, said a press statement.
Continuing the conversation on Pakistan’s recovery and adaptation needs, Sherry provided an overview of the Living Indus Initiative and how it would help in restoring the ecosystems of the Indus Basin.
“Restoring the ecological health of the Indus River system within the boundaries of Pakistan is a crucial step to ensure our climate resilience, especially during natural calamities like floods,” said the minister.
Rehman also spoke at a panel discussion titled ‘The Living Indus: An Axis of Adaptation’ at the Pakistan Pavilion at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh. She was joined by Federal Minister for Commerce, Syed Naveed Qamar, Julien Harneis, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, and environmental journalist, Afia Salam. The panel was moderated by environmental lawyer and activist Ahmad Rafay Alam.
“It is an ambitious project and has a living menu from which investors and multilateral organizations can prioritize investments. The Indus is the heart of our civilization; we need to revitalize it before it can protect us from climate threats caused by human activity, and become a crucial buffer against the kind of flooding we saw this summer. The Indus river system cuts through every province, and we need a consortium approach to preserve the Indus Basin, as well as rebuild communities that have lost everything in floods.
There are several project interventions on the ground focused on flooding risk and livelihoods, which should also assess biodiversity & ecosystem restoration needs. If the Indus were to speak, it would say “I want to live again”, she said.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, Julien Harneis observed that the scale of climate stress is well understood by citizens in Pakistan, but efforts to build resilience were needed on a massive scale.
“The biggest threat to Pakistan’s existence is its endangered river system, and there is nothing more terrifying than its collapse, given that 90% of life in Pakistan depends upon functioning river systems,” he explained.
In addition, in her engagements at COP27, the minister held a bilateral meeting with the Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andresen.
Andresen offered condolences to the minister on the devastation and loss and damage caused by the flood crisis. She emphasised on providing support to the country in channelling funds for its conservation and adaptation endeavours, especially for initiatives like The Living Indus.
Minister Rehman also met with the Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, H.E. Hani Sewilam, and a delegation from the Asian Development Bank. H.E. Sewilam discussed with the Minister about cooperation and sharing of knowledge and experiences on climate resilience for the rivers Nile & Indus, given that ecological issues affecting the ecosystems of the two rivers are the same.
The meeting with the ADB delegations focused on exploring avenues for collaboration with Pakistan on improving climate resilience and building back better after the 2022 catastrophic flood.
The Pakistan Pavilion at COP27 also hosted panel discussions on topics such as ‘Pakistan’s Glaciers: From Promise to Peril’ and ‘The Return of a Species: The Blind Dolphin and the Snow Leopard’.