Regional Victims of Climate Change
Nicholas B Robson Director General, Cayman Institute and Chief Coordinator, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, UK
Pakistan's great cities of antiquity Harrapa and MohenjoDaro, the capitols of the Indus Valley Civilization, were founded around 2600 BC on the banks of the mighty Indus River. They were founded in this location because of the close proximity to water and a highway for trade. After some 700 years the Harappan cities began to decline. According to Kenoyer one of the reasons was the drying up of major rivers. Todaywater is no less important to Pakistan andwemust be heedful of its fragility, its ferocity, its power, and in the absence ofwater, its ability to trigger conflict. Water security is an imperative for the survival of any state. Water security impinges upon all aspects of a society. Water security is necessary for the production of energy, for agriculture, for industry, and for human survival. In years to come climate change may well cause a shift in prevailing weather patterns in Pakistan. The normal monsoon patterns may well change dramatically. Pakistan, unlike India, is dependent on one river system for the majority of its water and is already one of the most water stressed countries in theworld. In the subcontinent riverine systems are being shared between a number of countries. Starting in the West we begin with Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and finally China. And China, it could well be argued, is the elephant in the room. The major riverine systems consist of 16 major rivers and those being being shared are; the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra, which drain theHimalaya. In the Indus River system we have the Beas, the Chenab, the Jhelum, the Kabul, the Ravi, and the Sutlej. TheGanges basin is part of the composite Brahmaputra Meghna basin draining 1,000,080 6000 square kilometers in Tibet and Nepal. The main rivers being the Ramganga, the Yamuna, the Tamsa, theGomti, theGhaghara, the Son, theGandaki and the Kosi that feed the Ganges. After flowing across the Gangetic plain the Ganges then finally begins branching away into a distributary riverine system leading intoBangladesh. The Indus Water Treaty governs water use between Pakistan and India. This treaty was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960 between the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Mohammed Ayub Khan. This treaty was was made necessary by the partition of British India, which created conflict over the waters of the Indus basin between the two newly independent states. By 1951 the situation had become untenable, and it was only through the good offices of David Lilienthal, former chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission who was in the region, purportedly writing a series of articles for Colliers Magazine, and who had been briefed by the US State and Executive Branches, who hoped that he could bring some resolution to the worsening situation. It quickly became clear the situation between the two countries were becoming acute. His journal for that period states "India and Pakistan were on the verge of war over Kashmir. There seemed to be no possibility of negotiating this issue until tensions abated. One way to reduce hostility . . . would be to concentrate on other important issues where cooperation was possible. Progress in these areas would promote a sense of community between the two nations which might, in time, lead to a Kashmir settlement. Accordingly, I proposed that India and Pakistan work out a program jointly to develop and jointly to operate the Indus Basin river system, upon which both nations were dependent for irrigation water. With new dams and irrigation canals, the Indus and its tributaries could be made to yield the additional water each country needed for increased food production. In the article I had suggested that the World Bank might use its good offices to bring the parties to agreement, and help in the financing of an Indus Development program. David Lilienthal's ideas were well received both by the World Bank and eventually by the Indian and Pakistani governments. The World Bank proposed a Working Party made up of Indian, Pakistani, and World Bank engineers, with the bank delegation acting as a Consultative Party. After much difficult negotiation the two sides finally returned to the negotiating table in December 1954 for talks that continued very slowly the next six years. Finally, with financing supplied by the United Kingdom and United States the treaty was signed by the Prime Minister's of Pakistan and India in 1960. The treaty has served both countries well for many years; this however, could change as the global climate begins to change. The waters of the Indus River originates on the Tibetan plateau, as do the Beas, the Chenab, the Jhelum, the Ravi, and the Sutlej, and all of these rivers are dependent on snowfall in theHimalayan region. These glaciers, or as they are referred to by Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, “reservoirs in the sky”, melting slowly during the warmer months of the year supplying a regular supply of water during the dry season. It is now clear that climate change is affecting the Western glaciers in a dramatic fashion (far more seriously, for example, than the damper Eastern Himalayas). This fact, along with observed rising air temperatures, and the possibility of changing rainfall patterns should be raising serious concern on the sub-continent.
The overwhelming flooding in Pakistan in 2010 and 2011