Water scarcity leads to Food insecurity

“Global Warming is not a prediction, it is happening”

Climate change is a global phenomenon, but their impacts are more pronounced in South Asia during the past few decades, which challenges food security in this region.

Thus, Pakistan facing frequent climate change induced annual drought and floods. Once, Pakistan known a water surplus country and now a water deficient country. The rain fall is neither sufficient, nor regular, to meet the growing needs of water. Yet we are wasting water on daily bases.

The surface water resources in Pakistan mainly the Indus River and its tributaries, which bring is about 138 million acre feet of water annually. The Indus River alone provide 65% of the total river flows.

The flow during the Kharif is 84% and during Rabi season is 16% in Pakistan.

Pakistan always face food shortage due to water scarcity and 47% population is food insecure. The production of food is greatly dependent on irrigation. So, Pakistan required new strategies to enhance water use efficiency, maintain and improve the quality and sustainability of resources base at Basin and water shed level. Pakistan need to invest soon in increasing rain water harvesting by increasing storage capacity of water.

Long term strategies may include the construction of large storage dams, better flood and drought forecasting mechanisms and resolving water distribution problems in all over Pakistan.

Short term strategies to save water are careful use of water in our daily use, campaigns and advocacy to ensure lesser water wastage, people in urban areas are wasting a lot of water in car wash, street cleaning, and other recreational activities these need to stop. Because water we waste in urban areas are causing a lot of trouble for the people in rural areas and causing damage to our agriculture. We are killing the rights of the people who are now deprived of the water because of our wastage of water.

The Great Meltdown

The whole world is currently suffering through a phenomenon known as “Climate Change” which is bound to have some disastrous effects.  Pakistan is just another victim of this crisis. Climate change is a change in global or regional climate pattern, attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

Pakistan has been one of the most affected countries vulnerable to climate change. It is ranked on 7th position, with a death toll of 523.1 lives per year and economic losses worth US $3.8 billion.

If we take a closer look at Pakistan and its climate change, we can clearly deduce that the country is at high risk, thus, steps need to be taken in order to cope with this problem. Pakistan suffers from heavy monsoon rainfalls every year which has severely affected the lives and livelihoods of people. Not only this, the floods caused by these rainfalls affected the agriculture sector which has compromised the GDP targets as well. Other than this, the heat waves and the cold waves have also posed a threat to the people. Additionally, the Himalayan glaciers are melting at a high rate due to global warming which is making the sea level rise.

In my opinion, drastic measures need to take in order to reduce the threat of this climate change in Pakistan. Pakistan should think of reducing its emissions, which can help to reduce the risk of extreme weather events in the country.  Moreover, population control is another way to combat climate change as overpopulation contributes to the depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation. Higher population requires more resources to get processed and disposed of in the environment in the form of pollution. Researchers across the globe have found that slower population growth has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future. Therefore, Pakistan needs to work on these issues because Climate Change has undoubtedly become a reality that has caused a lot of suffering.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Pakistan

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have accelerated to an unprecedented level despite global efforts to cut down emissions. Climate model projections indicate that during the21st century the global surface temperature is likely to rise 0.3°C to 1.7°C (0.5°F to 3.1°F) for their lowest emissions scenario using stringent mitigation, and 2.6°C to 4.8°C (4.7°F to 8.6°F)for business as usual carbon intense emissions.

Pakistan’s total GHG emissions was at 369 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2012with 45.9% share of energy, 44.8% share of agriculture and livestock sector, 3.9% share of industrial processes, and 2.6% share of land use change for forestry sectors. The energy and agriculture livestock sectors alone account for 90.7% of the total emissions pool and have thus far remained the biggest emitters of GHGs since 1994.

Pakistan ranks relatively low among countries on a per capita GHG emissions basis and ranked at 135th while 31st in total GHG emissions, due to its relatively low level of development and high population but is most vulnerable to climate change. GHG emissions of Pakistan increased a lot in last decades and is expected to increase more in coming decade.

This increase in GHG emissions is causing an increase in temperature. Pakistan’s average annual temperature increased by 0.57°C compared to 0.75°C for South Asia in last century, and average annual precipitation increased by 25%. The warmest year recorded was 2004.Heatwave days per year increased by 31 days in the period 1980 to 2007. Cold waves decreased in north eastern and southern parts, and increased in western and northwestern parts of the country.Sea level increased along the Karachi coast by 1.1 millimeters per year in the past century. Pakistan’s projected temperature increase is expected to be higher than the global average.The projected temperature increase in northern parts will be much higher than the southern parts of the country.The frequency of hot days and hot nights is expected to increase significantly. This will also effect the crop production and decreased per capita Water availability due to higher rates of evaporation caused by increased surface temperature.

In Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on ClimateChange, Pakistan intends to reduce up to 20% of its 2030 projected greenhouse gas emissions,subject to availability of international grants to meet the cumulative abatement costs amounting toapproximately $40 billion. The country’s adaptation needs have been identified to range between$7 billion to $14 billion per year. Stricter laws must be implemented to reduce emissions. All industries must be regulated to reduce their emissions.We have to plant more trees to reduce carbon emissions, as trees absorb CO2. We have to move towards energy conservations as more than 45% greenhouse emissions are associated with this sectors. We need to focus and work hard on agriculture to cut down our emissions. We can also use emissions from agriculture as energy source e.g. biogas etc. We have to cut down our greenhouse emissions to secure our future.

Bagasse as Alternate Energy Source in Pakistan

The energy demand of Pakistan is increasing rapidly; the country is finally exploring alternatives to expand its power production. Pakistan has to rely largely on fossils for their energy production since electricity generation from biomass is considered. Globally biomass is being used on large scale for energy production as an alternative to fossil fuels. Pakistan is among the world’s top-10 sugarcane producers. So, the potential for generating electricity from bagasse is huge (3000 MW).  Currently, there are around 83 sugar mills in Pakistan producing about 3.5 million metric tons of sugar per annum with total crushing capacity 597900 TCD, which can produce approximately 3000 MW during the crop season. Although it seems difficult at that moment, if the government starts to give more attention to sugar industry biomass rather than coal, Pakistan can fulfill its energy needs without negative repercussions or damage to the environment. However, by focusing on growing its alternate energy options such as bagasse-based cogeneration, the country will not only mitigate climate change but also tap the unharnessed energy potential of sugar industry biomass.

Almost all the sugar mills in Pakistan have in-house plants for cogeneration. But the problem is that there are some negative points that must be dealt with properly for effective working of bagasse based power plants. However, due to several reasons, mostly due to financing issues, the sugar mill owners were not able to set up such type of plants. Recently, after financial incentives have been offered and a tariff rate agreed upon between the government and mill owners, these projects are moving ahead. The sugar mill owners are more than willing to supply excess electricity generated from the in-house power plants to the national grid. It would also have saved precious foreign exchange which is spent on imported oil. Renewable energy projects are developed through Carbon Development Mechanism or carbon credit scheme for additional revenue.

Since bagasse is a clean fuel which emits very little carbon emissions it is being financed through the Clean Development Mechanism. High cogeneration power plants are difficult to implement because of higher costs. The payback period for the power plants is unknown which makes the investors reluctant to invest in the high cogeneration project. CDM financing can help improve the rate of return of the project. Bagasse power plants reduce carbon emission in two ways;

  • One by replacing electricity produced from fossil fuels.
  • Secondly if not used as a fuel, it would be otherwise disposed of in an unsafe manner and the methane emissions present in biomass would pollute the environment far more than CO2

However, some sugar mills are opting to use coal as a secondary fuel because the crushing period of sugarcane lasts only 4 months in Pakistan. The plants would have to be run on coal as the main fuel during the non-crushing season. The CDM effect is reduced with the use of coal. If a high cogeneration plant is using even 80% bagasse and 20% of coal, then the carbon credits are almost nullified. If more than 20% of coal is used, then the CDM potential is completely lost because the emissions are increased. However, some sugar mills are not moving ahead with coal as a secondary fuel because separate tariff rates have to be obtained for electricity generation if coal is being used in the mix which is not easily obtained.

The issue that remains to be addressed is that with such huge amounts of investment in these plants, how to use these plants efficiently during the non-crushing period when bagasse is not available. It seems almost counter-productive to use coal on plants which are supposed to be based on biofuels. The use of coal as a secondary fuel in cogeneration power plant is still debatable.