Background / Introduction
The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) province in Pakistan is the remotest and rugged part of the country. It has an estimated population of 1.4 million (2013), approximately 85% of which live in rural areas. As the GB Economic Report states, GB’s population is spread thinly across the territory, with 19 people per square kilometres. Gilgit-Baltistan is highly mountainous with habitations at an altitude ranging from approximately 1500m to 3000m, with most of the houses informally engineered and built with mud and stones. Being located in the fragile mountain ecosystem, the province has mostly been hit by the climate change induced disasters during recent years. The climate-induced disasters like flash floods, snow avalanches, glacial lake outbursts and landslides are the most common hazards, which have led to disasters and loss of livelihoods in the province; the most recent and high frequents hydro-metrological disasters in the area were flash floods, droughts, cloud burst, avalanches, Glacial lake outburst floods, heavy rain falls and secondary hazards like landslides, mud-flow and debris falls from 1999, 2000,2001,2002, 2005, 2006, and 2010 provide an overview to vulnerability and risks of climate change and their sectoral impacts on Gilgit-Baltistan. Forest cover in GB has reduced from 640,000 hectares to 295,000 hectares in the last 20 years. These forests have been degraded due to cutting of forests for the use of fuel, construction material and business purposes in absence of alternate energy sources.
Climate variability and its impacts are gratifying progressively more evident in fragile ecosystems of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), especially Glaciers hub of the area and other fragile ecosystems are considered to be more sensitive indicators to global warming and climate change and their associated hydro-metrological hazards of the area confirm the climate change impacts on different sectors undoubtedly , as climatologist know that even minor disparity in weather can lead to momentous shifts in the local minor climate, which can in turn drastically affect fragile ecosystems, rural life, livelihood and infrastructure. Causes of climate change in world are carbon emissions, rapid urbanizations/industrialization, and unplanned development, exploitation of natural resources, environmental degradation and deforestations.
Climate change induces hydro-metrological hazards and harsh climate conditions create obstacles and limitations particularly to livelihood options in the area. Due to heavy rain falls and land sliding in the area all roads among districts within the GB, as well as with the capital city, continuously remain blocked in different periods of time and years, which are ultimate menace to transportation sector, micro business sector, communication sector, demand and supply of goods in local markets, local agriculture sector, labor work security, new invested construction project, and other means of livelihoods options in the area.
Despite sometimes-strong disparities, GB’s all districts share common development dynamics. Whereas overall economic development – mainly from intensified agriculture, tourism and trade & services – is on the verge, the new revenues are unevenly shared, with a large number of communities and households lagging behind and the impacts on the environment of these dynamics are insufficiently taken into account. Furthermore, the overall level of development remains low in most of the remote and underserved districts, despite increased attention from the federal government and other development agencies; local participation into governance and planning processes is still relatively low.
The effects of climate change are mostly felt through water: through floods, storms and droughts. These disasters can wash away water supplies, or leave them contaminated, putting the lives of millions of people at risk. Many of the regions in Pakistan including GB, most at risk of floods and related disasters, already have very low levels of access to water, and millions of people living in these areas are extremely vulnerable. Therefore, to tackle the climate change it is needed to choose climate smart solutions that are more resistant to climate change.
Rate of access to electricity are contradictory, with reports mentioning that only half the population covered in GB compared to 61% of rural areas at the national level, in 2011 and others reporting almost universal access, both at GB and national level. Whereas this trend denotes a sharp increase in access to electricity during the last years, it also highlights the huge differences in the quality of electricity provided, many households likely to benefit only from a few hours of electricity per day, with recurring outages, low voltage and low stability, denoting suboptimal access. The World Bank (2014) estimates that rural settlements in Pakistan suffer blackouts of more than 14 hours a day while urban areas experience up to 10 hours of daily power cuts. The rugged GB’s terrain adds further constraint on network extension. Considering a large part of the appliance market in GB is second-hand market, it is realistic to assume that the use of inefficient, outdated products put an additional strain on an already weak electricity provision system, whether on or off-grid. Although GB has an estimated hydro power potential of more than 40,000 MW and identified potential on sub tributaries i.e. 771 MW to 1200 MW (122 sites on sub tributaries in GB identified by WAPDA and GIZ in 2010). However, GB suffers from acute shortage of electricity. There is a considerable gap in demand and supply of energy. Current installed capacity of electricity in GB is 152.6 MW. However, during winters, the supply of electricity in GB is 88.24 MW and demand is 270 MW whereas during summers, the supply of electricity is 120.27 MW and demand is 158 MW. The demand of electricity in GB is expected to reach at 863 MW by 2030. Many remote villages either don’t have electricity at all or have limited availability of electricity which is extremely insufficient as compared to its needs. In winter season, the generation of electricity rapidly falls due to decrease in the flow of water and households face imposition of strict load-shedding.
MICS survey, 2016-17 shows a bit improved situation of water and sanitation facilities/infrastructure in GB. 79% of population have access to improved source of drinking water and 86% use improved sanitation facilities which are not shared. There are still many areas which are deprived from these facilities and GBRSP will implement WASH projects in these areas.
Physical infrastructure is the fundamental structure which enables the community to function properly. As a public good, it plays an important role in socio-economic development of the community. Such infrastructures improve resilience of the communities.
WATER, SANITIZATION, HOUSING & ENERGY project proposal have been submitted to Government and now GBRSP is waiting for the approval.