Islamabad, June 9, 2023: The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Pakistan organized a consultative workshop on the development of Early Drought Warning System (EDWS) for Pakistan. The workshop was attended by various stakeholders and government agencies including Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), National Drought & Risk Management Fund (NDRMF), National Drought Monitoring Centre (NDMC), Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), and academia. The experts emphasized the importance of EDWS, real-time monitoring, collaboration among institutions, and timely dissemination of information among farmers and the public.
The workshop was organised under the UK Aid-funded Water Resource Accountability in Pakistan (WRAP) Programme Component 1: Climate Resilient Solutions for Improving Water Governance (CRS-IWaG).
Mahr Sahibzad Khan, Director General, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), gave the welcome remarks and highlighted Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change. According to him, “Drought is known to be the most complex disasters to assess. Pakistan is experiencing flash droughts and we need to work collectively to address these challenges.”
Anticipatory actions and decision support mechanisms were also emphasized. The workshop emphasized gender inclusive drought management and recommended using drought indices suitable for different agro-ecological zones.
According to Dr Mohsin Hafeez, Director – Water, Food and Ecosystems, IWMI, “IWMI Pakistan will be developing EDWS for Pakistan. It will have the interface for experts and a simplified version for general public. Under the WRAP Programme Component 1: CRS-IWaG, a working group on drought monitoring is going to be established. Media will also be taken onboard, so that they could use the data in their reporting for awareness raising.”
Under this programme, Chakwal has been selected as the pilot district for the implementation of EDWS. A state-of-the-art eddy covariance flux tower will be installed in Chakwal district to monitor the exchange of carbon emissions and water fluxes in the atmosphere, therefore contributing towards drought monitoring in Punjab.
Dr Giriraj Amarnath, Research Group Leader, Water Risk to Development and Resilience, IWMI-Sri Lanka, gave an overview of IWMI’s drought resilient initiatives and projects being implemented around the globe. He also shared an overview of South Asia Drought Monitoring System (SADMS), which will be introduced in Pakistan. SADMS strengthens regional to sub-national drought monitoring and management as an important step towards proactively enhancing drought resilience and risk mitigation.
Dr. Shahzada Adnan, Deputy Director, National Drought Monitoring Centre (NDMC), PMD, informed the participants about weather forecast mechanism in Pakistan. He said, “Due to the impacts of climate change, the frequency and severity of droughts has increased in Pakistan. Timely actions were not taken in early warning of drought events of 2018 and 2021, due to which a large population was affected in Sindh and Balochistan. Timely response and action on early warning is key to minimize the impacts of climate-related disasters.
According to Bilal Anwar, CEO, National Disaster & Risk Management Fund (NDRMF), “Drought is the worst form of disaster. They are now induced by climate change and their intensity and frequency has increased. Disasters are slow on-set events and their impacts are inter-generational.
He informed that NDRMF is working on drought mitigation in Pakistan by developing 27 water conservation structures in Balochistan, seven early warning systems in KP, GB, and Balochistan; plantation and reforestation of thousands of hectares of land, land stabilization, and community preparedness measures.
Dr. Imran Nadeem, Researcher – Climate Adaptation Specialist, IWMI Pakistan, gave a presentation on the historical drought assessment of Punjab based on satellite data from 1971-2022. He also informed that the prototype for EDWS for Chakwal district has been developed and the results of the prototype are being tested with farmers and government agencies. To tackle drought, IWMI team will further develop and implement the South Asian Drought Monitoring System (SADMS) for Pakistan.”
A roundtable dialogue was also held to discuss how to address the various drought impacts and its effective monitoring and management, whilst ensuring gender integration in EDWS.
Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Chairman, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), in his closing remarks urged that for effective drought monitoring, timely action is vital. By investing in green infrastructure, Pakistan can build resilience to drought events.