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Addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution

Salient Features

  1. Living Indus is an umbrella initiative that spearheads and consolidates new and existing projects. Many of these aim to increase flood resilience in the Indus basin in Pakistan, while restoring it to good ecological health.
  2. It is an “investment project” with a focus on “climate-resilient reconstruction”.
  3. The initiative stems from a growing demand of the people of Pakistan and communities, for action to ensure a healthy, stable and resilient future.
  4. It is in line with Pakistan’s climate mitigation and adaptation commitments, with 16 interventions creating flood resilience in the vulnerable parts of the country.
  5. It has been conceived after thorough consultations with the academia, experts, stakeholders and provincial governments.
  6. The project started during the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and has been taken up by the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition.
  7. It is one of the largest climate-resilience projects built in partnership with the UN.
  8. The initiative proposes a menu of 25 interventions with a focus on nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based adaptation approaches to protect, conserve and restore natural, terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems in the Indus Basin.
  9. These interventions cut across multiple sectors like agriculture, forestation, urban resilience, waste management, pollution and blue economy.
  10. The 25 priority interventions are nature-based resilience agriculture, salinity control in the lower Indus, Indus delta protection, Indus cleanup from industrial effluent, green infrastructure and ground recharge, groundwater governance, one hundred thousand community bonds, living Indus knowledge platform, Indus trust fund, climate nature performance bonds, social entrepreneurship for green Indus, zero plastic waste cities along Indus, urban forest along Indus, Indus protection act, protection of Indus beds, built back biodiversity in Indus basin, community-based tourism in Sindh, Indus heritage sites, (Hakra river bed should be added), expanded GLOF II, promoting permaculture and others.
  11. Green infrastructure for flood control and Groundwater Recharge is the first priority intervention. It promises benefits such as reduced flood risks, increased water security, improved food security and climate-resilient livelihood.
  12. The interventions have massive community involvement to have ownership of the local populace and a long-term intervention.
  13. Realizing the vision of the Living Indus Initiative will require using all the tools in the toolbox, bringing to bear a wider and deeper mobilization than has been tried in the past, and deploying innovation and creativity that will draw from the deep pool of energy and imagination available in Pakistan – especially amongst the passions of its young.
  14. Many projects aim to improve the health of the basin, including plans to clean up industrial effluent and wastewater from the river, recharge groundwater, eliminate plastic pollution from cities, control salinisation and create an urban forest. But they also focus on improving the lives of people in the basin, through 100,000 community ponds, a ‘Living Indus knowledge platform’, ecotourism, climate-resilient agriculture and fisheries, as well as “green infrastructure for flood control”.
  15. They also seek to accelerate the transition to renewables and restore biodiversity – proposing the establishment of 500 protected areas and to offer climate and nature performance bonds.
  16. The project would operate in the length and breadth of the country whereas private sector would be required to chip in the finances as there was lack of resources.
  17. The project will be implemented by the provinces under the guidance of the federal ministry.

Way Forward

We need to be mindful that the Indus is a transboundary river. There is a need to move towards shared basin management. We need to think about the ways and means of co-creating for collective ownership of policies, and to rethink relations with our neighbouring countries. We also have to rethink the way we have plotted our development trajectory.

The writer is a member of staff.


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