WEB DESK : ( Special Report by Kashif Shamim Siddiqui) – Children and youth from various schools, colleges and public universities discussed their experiences of dealing with climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and way forwards to address these challenges here in a first of its kind conference on climate change risks to the future of children in Pakistan, held in a hotel in Karachi.
The conference attracted participation of more than 150 children and youth, concerned government officials and civil society representatives who opined that children’s rights of dignified access to safe water, sanitation, quality education, food, health, socialization, participation and association are affected in any disaster. They called for strengthening disaster management and adaptation mechanisms in the province. The conference was organized by the Research and Development Foundation (RDF) in collaboration with a German International Child Focused Development Organization Kindernothilfe (KNH), co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Government of Sindh.
Counsel General of Federal Republic of Germany in Karachi, His Excellence Mr. Holger Ziegler inaugurated the conference. While addressing the audience, Chief Guest Mr. Murtaza Wahab, Advisor to Chief Minister of Sindh on Law, said awareness regarding climate change is very crucial for mitigating its affects. He appreciated the strategies of RDF to engage women, children and youth from Tharparkar, Khipro and far-flung areas of seven districts of Sindh who are interacting with German experts and German Consulate. He encouraged the audience not to rely on politicians and government only but to take the responsibility themselves to play their role in the fight against climate change. He also emphasized the audience to take the serious precautions of COVID-19 with the same spirit as they are taking for climate change.
Mr. Hogler, Consul General of Germany in Karachi, recognized the efforts of RDF for supporting Pakistan’s government to explore future actions to address climate related challenges from children and youth perspective. “There is a dire need for people to recognize the severity of climate change impacts,” he added and encouraged children and youth to play an active role in combating climate change.
Youth Leader from Germany Ms Line Niedeggen interacted with the children and youth and described how the Fridays for Future movement in Germany is mobilizing youth for climate resilience building. While sharing her journey of staring this movement in Germany, she said that in initial days, they received an amazing response from the children and youth and they showed their willingness to join their movement. “People should listen to science not on individuals, not on Greta, not on me but on the best scientific results,” she emphasized.
The youth raised the concerns that the children become worst and first affected of any disaster in the country, therefore, their future comes at risk and they face severe problems of displacement, loss of education, health, food security and protection. Children of The Nexus School Jamshoro performed a tableau on an inspirational environmental song ‘Na Kato Bara Dukhta Hai’ (Do not cut me, it pains much) that got a huge applaud of the audience.
Ashfaque Soomro, Executive Director of RDF and the organizer of the conference, in his opening remarks said that all stakeholders should come forward to work together for bright and resilient future prospects for the children and youth, who are 64% of Pakistan’s total population. “We are the fifth youngest nation in the word, but at the same time we are fifth nation most vulnerable climate change,” he added. He urged for the child-centered mechanisms to address plights of the children during any disaster. “The government should work on making schools green and clean,” he said.
Ms Noor, student of 4th year Architect at Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology Karachi, in her speech highlighted environmental issues and talked about the impacts of pollution in cities affecting children and youth. Children from Tharparkar and Sanghar talked about the drought situation in their areas and asked for assistance to safeguard their natural resources.
Director General Pakistan Meteorological Department Mr. Riaz Ahmed, said that climate change is not a short problem but a long problem. He refers to the data generated by meteorological department about the extreme weather witnessed in Pakistan in recent years. He further added that fluctuation in rain in Sindh is large and causing urban flooding instead of riverine floods.
Ms Kiran Shahzadi, Country Coordinator of KNH in Pakistan, said that KNH is a German child focused organization which is working in Pakistan through 23 projects since late 70’s supporting many child and climate related projects in Pakistan. It’s rarely discussed that children are the major victims of climate change and initiatives should be taken for this purpose. The best part of this conference is that children and youth are involved in it where their perspectives regarding climate change and its impacts on their lives along with their recommendations for coping with this issue will be considered.
During the panel discussion, eminent environmentalist Nasir Panhwer discussed on the collaborative mechanisms in the province about the disaster management and climate change adaptation. He said that economy is more prioritized than ecology. He advised youth and children to take self-initiative to reduce the carbon foot prints in their daily lives. Expert planning architect and development Mr. Fazal Noor, said that along with climate change we have observed changed in the geographical and cultural in the society as well. He further stressed that proper planning is needed where there are forest human settlement should not be encroached in those areas.
Mr. Fazal Noor, an expert of planning and architect, Writer Mr. Nawaz Kumbar, Prof. Waheeda Baloch, and Prof. Ismail Kumbhar of Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam also spoke on the occasion.
Later, youth employee from RDF Jamshoro Ms Aqsa Iqbal presented the conference declaration encompassing the recommendations of the children, youth and other speakers.