Rise in sea level poses threat to coastal cities


Karachi: The climate change experts of National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), in a recent briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology said that most parts of Karachi, the biggest city of Pakistan, would be submerged in sea by 2060 due to the aquatic intrusion.

Though Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had predicted the submersion of isolated island states in Indian Ocean, this new threat of sea level rise for a country like Pakistan is an eye opener for government.

Such serious threats of sea intrusion followed by the sea level rise have raised questions about the future of the existing and newly constructed mega projects along the coastline. Moreover, human settlements and recently built residential plazas on the seaside along Karachi coastline are at risk. The future of the proposed mega city of Zulfikarabad along coastline in Thatta district is now also in question.

Director General of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) Dr. Asif Inam told News Lens Pakistan during a telephonic interview, “Due to continuous tectonic movement, the land along Balochistan’s Makran coast is rising above the sea level. Therefore, sea level rise is not a serious threat for Balochistan, but Sindh coast will suffer from sea level rise as most parts along Sindh coastline, including Karachi, are either equal to the sea level or below it.”

He suggested the government to take immediate steps in order to save these areas. “Initially, areas should be identified which will be possibly submerged in near future due to the sea level rise,” he added.

Pakistan is one of the countries hit worst by climate change. Pakistan has also witnessed history’s worst floods in 2010 and 2011 and, at the same time, faced severe droughts in the vast scattered desert of Thar and some parts of Balochistan. Moreover, Pakistan has now been experiencing extended summer owing to changing weather patterns. But, sea level rise is the worst situation when compared to other outcomes of climate change.

On the list of worst hit countries by climate change, Pakistan ranks 12th. As a result, according to Global Climate Risk Index 2014, 34 percent of country’s total gross domestic product (GDP) is lost.

Reducing water flow in the downstream of River Indus and massive cutting of mangroves along the coastline has increased the seriousness of these threats. Coastal forest experts believe that plantation of coastal forests of mangrove can save country from such threats. “To reduce the sea level rise, we need barrier along the coastline and mangrove forests can be a great barrier,” said Agha Tahir Hussain, the Project Director of Sea Intrusion Project, Sindh Forest Department.

Talking to News Lens Pakistan, Hussain said that the department had planned to plant 60,000 hectors of mangrove forests along the coast in next 25 years. But again, the coastal forests need fresh water to grow. Owing to upstream diversion of the water of River Indus and the mismanagement in agriculture, the required amount of water is not being released in the downstream of River Indus. That is why, in such conditions, the growth of mangrove plantation is also questionable.

Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, the Advisor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Pakistan and author of the country’s Climate Change Policy took a radical stance while talking to News Lens Pakistan when asked about the possible measures to avoid the situation. “Climate change is obvious and instead of working on the adaptation, it will be better in long term if one works to eradicate those factors which have caused such climate situation.”

However, Chaudhry did not rule out the option of adaptation altogether. He said the countries, which were possible victim of sea level rise in near future, needed to adopt alternate ways as adaptation; relocation of the human settlements, construction of manmade or natural barriers to save the area from the possible effects of this phenomenon.



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