KARACHI - Speakers at a seminar on ‘Climate change: Impacts on Livelihood, Marine and Coastal Resources’ said on Saturday that indigenous people were direct victims of climate change and the state had failed to provide required protection to the people during calamities.

The seminar was jointly organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and National Council for Environment Journalists, which attracted a large number of fisherwomen and civil society activists. The event was the part of activities related to a Week of Action for Climate Justice.

The speakers focused on the overall situation of the depleting natural resources and vulnerabilities of indigenous communities living in rural areas, forests, along lakes and the coasts of Pakistan. Syed Baloch, General Secretary of the PFF quoting the impacts of cyclones, tsunami, floods, droughts and hurricane in the world said these countries have learned lessons from effects and prepared more to avert the losses. But as compared to the world, “we do not have serious efforts to initiate adaptation measures with the involvement of communities.”

Baloch said Pakistan had designed climate change policy draft, which was approved by the parliament but yet to be implemented.

Nadia Bajwa of WWF Pakistan, focal person on climate change adaptation programme, which is working in 1050-km-long coastal areas from Indus Delta, Keti Bunder, Kharo Chan in Sindh to Jewani, Balochistan province said they are conducting ‘coastal community vulnerability assessment’.  “We are working to have scientific and sociological feedback from various sectors, including indigenous people living in the target areas. We are also working on trans boundary issues related to Pakistan and India,” she said while sharing experiences related to climate change impacts.  Sharing findings of the study, she said they have designed strategy to initiate community level adaptation in two union councils of Thatta district coastal areas.

“We are learning from community experiences regarding visible changes related to climate.” She said Pakistan is on the number 16 of the world index of the impacts of climate change mapping.”

She said mangroves plantation on the priority of WFF because of its role to store carbon gases. Apart from this they offer alternative energy in the coastal areas.

Majeed Motani, a community elder belonging to Ibrahim Hydri, talking about the status of marine life, said coastal communities are direct victims of sea level rise. Due to negligible approach of the government authorities, marine pollution is increasing, affecting source of livelihood of small scale fishermen. There is no more fish along the beaches and fishermen are losing their traditional sources of income.  He said fishermen are demanding the government to avoid releasing industrial waste into the sea without treatment, but neither the government has policies to challenge polluters nor is stronger voice by environmentalists and media to save natural resources.   Motani said due to depleting mangroves forests the lives and livelihoods might be affected. Karachi is vulnerable to face cyclones and tsunamis, emphasising the need to conserve mangroves to avert the threats of such disasters. He gave a background of mangroves forests, existing around 129-km long city coast.

NCEJ President Amar Guriro said Pakistan is facing the loss of $365 billion due to depleting ecology over all in the country. Apart from this, he said Pakistan does not have policy to mitigate the effects of natural calamities.

He said majority of people in hospitals are facing water-related diseases because they do not have access to potable water. Due to change in rain pattern Pakistan is experiencing flood disasters since the last three consecutive years and have lost infrastructure and sources of livelihoods.  Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director of Piler said Sindh was more vulnerable to disasters. Provincial population is said to be around 50 million, out of which 30 million people live in rural areas, which are more vulnerable to face effects of disasters, depletion of resources and poverty.

He said about 18 million people in Sindh province live below poverty line and were the direct victims of poverty, food shortage. They do not have access to potable water.

Monsoon pattern change is also impacting on the poor segments of the society, mostly indigenous communities, herders, farmers and fishermen. Majority of people do not have their own piece of land. Farmers and fishermen are vulnerable to face shortening sources of livelihoods.

He said three million fishermen depend on fishing, deriving their sources of income from marine and inland waters. Similarly, majority of rural communities depend on cultivation but due to the soil infertility they are facing food insecurity. Among the rural people women and children are more victims of the impacts of these changes, he said.

Earlier, Jamil Junejo in his introductory speech said due to increasing warming temperature the world communities are facing impacts on their lives and natural resources, as these people are natural custodians of natural resources. Mustafa Gurgaiz also spoke on the occasion.