Why Climate Diplomacy Is A Prerequisite For Balochistan
By Rida Ejaz
Climate diplomacy is a current hot debate on the international forum, which can become a blessing in disguise for the province that bears the most brunt. Climate diplomacy could be a tool for continued policy debates in Pakistan, which in 2019, ranked 18th out of 192 countries vulnerable to climate crisis according to the information ranked index. After the pandemic, the country has increasingly been experiencing recurrent floods and heat waves, making it the 7th most vulnerable country to climate catastrophes
This vulnerability has become a potential blessing in disguise for Balochistan as it attracted the serious attention of the federal government and people.
Indeed, Balochistan strategic location provides the province with rich resources, but its underdevelopment has left it poorer and less recognizable compared to other regions of the country. The recent gushing floods have brought the attention of the media to the province, which is no less than a blessing for the neglected people as the region was facing immense droughts and heatwaves before that, which resulted in the loss of vegetation, fertile lands, and groundwater. The food insecurity rate was already threatening without any prior attention. According to IPC, 41 percent population was at risk of malnutrition due to the loss of vegetation that resulted from droughts.
However, such a blessing came after the huge disguise of the people. Despite being one of the driest regions in the country, Balochistan has witnessed a significant increase in rainfall, recording a 411% surplus in comparison to the 30-year average. The flash floods intensified the threats attached to the region. As per the data shared by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the recent floods caused immense damage across Pakistan, with over 36,500 houses being destroyed. Significant portions of these houses, approximately 60 percent, were located in Balochistan. Moreover, the floods had a severe impact on the education sector, as nearly 800 schools were affected. In Balochistan alone, 600 schools suffered severe damage and crippled the already handicapped educational system. The road and railway lines were cut off, and Balochistan was isolated.
Such isolation initiated round table discussions on a national level with civil and military stakeholders for the well-being of the province. While commenting on the implications of climate-induced hazards and vulnerabilities in Balochistan, Lt. Gen. Inam Haider Malik, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority, in an organized expert round table on “Understanding Climate-Security Nexus in Balochistan stated: We should consider a complete security model. In addition, a lack of readiness leads to a lack of capacity to manage calamities.
Indeed, effective management of natural disasters requires continuous policy discussions and decision-making by policymakers. Thus, despite the passage of time, the issues surrounding floods in a given province should not be disregarded or forgotten. Rather, the experiences and lessons learned from previous floods should be viewed as opportunities to uplift the province’s status through proactive climate diplomacy initiatives. Such initiatives will not only mitigate the impact of future disasters but will also enhance the province’s overall resilience and reputation.
Climate diplomacy is a tool for negotiating sustainable development that takes into account environmental concerns. Climate diplomacy is of paramount importance for Balochistan because it could not only reduce non-traditional security threats but also possibly initiate a pathway for continued policy debates related to other issues that concern the region.
The region covers 43% of the total area of the country, has poor infrastructure, and has the lowest population. The population in Balochistan has been decreasing due to a combination of ongoing threats, but this trend could be reversed if policymakers focus attention on the region. Pakistan as the chair of G77 in COP27 establish and build a consensus regarding the ‘loss and damage fund and built a new exposure pathway toward regional diplomacy. This initiation could be a plus point for the current stakeholders of the province.
Balochistan alone bears 60% of the damage from the recent climate catastrophe. Out of every 10-three casualties were from Balochistan, which is the largest number compared to other regions of the country. Balochistan would remain a hotline in future climate crisis discussions because, despite the severe damage caused by floods, the roads, bridges, and railway lines have not been reconstructed and remain open to the public. The provincial government should play its role to engage the continued federal sightedness towards the province and demand their due share even more in terms of developmental projects, national budget allocation, education, and health facilities.
Unfortunately, the provincial authorities have been neglectful, and there have been no policies in place to address these issues until now. Climate change and its glaring effects on the province are an opportunity for the gradual processing and development of the region. Opportunities like these should not be wasted due to a lack of policy action.
Above all, the province’s civic population must also acknowledge the blessing in disguise and realize their responsibility, particularly with respect to bringing the government’s attention more to the aggressive climate crisis. Balochistan desperately needs to prepare itself for the future consequences and must act smartly to have a prosperous future in all realms of society.
Rida Ejaz is a researcher in the areas of non-traditional security threats, refugee/migration and social problems, and internee at Balochistan think tank network