UNDP signs pact with GB, KP Govts to protect mountain communities from natural disasters

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said the present government was taking all-out measures to mitigate adverse impacts of climate change-caused disasters on mountain communities in the country’s north.

The SAPM said this on the occasion of a high-level ceremony held here on Tuesday regarding signing of different Letter of Agreements (LoAs) among United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governments to protect lives and livelihoods of people in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa regions from devastating impacts of the climate change-induced disasters, particularly the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) events, a media release said.

Lauding the role of UNDP in environmental protection and mitigation of climate change-induced natural disasters, he said that the present government was deeply grateful to the financial and technical support provided to various government organisations including climate change ministry for enhancing climate resilience of the country against various natural disasters and overall conservation and protection of the country’s environment and natural resources.

He highlighted that melting of glaciers because of soaring temperatures in the country’s north had resulted in the formation of over 3, 044 lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, putting some 7.1 million people at risk from potential GLOF events.

“Given the backdrop, I hope that the new agreement signed between UNDP and the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would go a long way to help strengthen capacity and ability of the institutions and people in these areas to mitigate socio-economic and environmental impacts of natural disasters, ” PM’s aide Malik Amin Aslam stressed.

Spelling out details of the pact with media after the signing ceremony, the National Project Director of the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods project (Phase-II) and Additional Secretary Climate Change Ministry, Joudat Ayaz, told media under that under the pact UN Development Programme would provide technical, financial support throughout year 2021 to the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa so as to save lives and livelihoods of the mountain communities and usher in climate-resilient infrastructures and improved GLOF monitoring and warning systems.

The Letters of Agreements (LOAs) were signed by Resident Representative of UNDP-Pakistan Knut Ostby and Syed Abrar Hussain, Additional Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan Planning & Development Department and Lt (R) Amer Sultan Tareen, Special Secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Planning & Development Department. The officials of the climate change ministry were also in presence at the event.

Lack of financial resources, preparedness, knowledge, capacity and disaster-resilient public infrastructures are among key issues being faced by the GB and KP governments that hamper their efforts to protect lives and livelihoods of the mountain communities in these areas from the deleterious impacts of GLOF events, which wipe out everything on their way when burst out, the additional secretary Joudat Ayaz pointed out.

He hoped that however the joining of hands with GB and KP governments, UNDP would play a vibrant role to addresses the issues.

Sharing further details of the activities to be conducted by relevant GB and KP government departments in support with the climate change ministry and UNDP-Pakistan, the climate change ministry official said that the activities to be carried out under the LoAs would also seek to achieve significant results in the form of studies undertaken for risk assessments, GIS mapping of hazard locations and completion of forestry surveys, he said,

In addition, Provincial Climate Change Adaptation Action would not only formulate plans under the agreement but also carry out specific set of interventions for each site selected in the shape of building small scale infrastructure, promotion of water efficient, risk-informed farming technologies, and documentation of indigenous best practices to demonstrate nature-bases solutions, Joudat Ayaz added.

National Project Manager GLOF Project-II Misbah Zafar said further that the agreements are of unprecedented importance, which build on the ongoing partnership between the Government of Pakistan and UNDP that has remained instrumental for stage-setting for stronger cooperation to have a common understanding on the GLOF risks in the country’s northern regions and the importance of resilience building of communities against climate induced disasters.

The LoAs would also focus greatly on community mobilisation activities for mass sensitisation awareness, disaster risk reduction capacity-building trainings and outreach through media, the Ms. Zafar added.

The project manager Misbah Zafar, however, hoped that provincial development departments of KP and GB would act as lead partners for the Scaling up of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF-II) project and provide support in coordinating activities with respective line departments in each province.

Earlier, the signatories agreed to ensure that the GLOB-II project being implemented in 18 districts of GB and KPK gives all partners a great opportunity to expand their development agenda towards a more secure and risk averted Pakistan to climate change impacts.

Led by Ministry of Climate Change, with the support from UNDP and funding support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the GLOF project-II targets the most vulnerable rural communities in the high-altitude regions of the country, said Joudat Ayaz, the GLOF-II national project director said and added that several scaled-up early warning systems and automated weather stations would be installed in the GLOF-sensitive areas under the project to mitigate the cope with the GLOF events.