ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the Netherlands on Wednesday explored integrated flood-resilient strategies to enhance the former’s climate resilience, early warning systems, water management, and spatial flood plain planning.
The possibilities for a long-term collaborative partnership to the effect were discussed during a meeting between Federal Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination Senator Sherry Rehman and a delegation of the experts of the Dutch Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) team here at the climate ministry.
The DRR delegation was led by Ambassador of the Netherlands Henny de Vries, a news release said.
Sherry Rehman expressed her appreciation for the valuable findings of the DRR team, which conducted a comprehensive assessment following the devastating floods in 2022 on the request of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination to provide technical assistance in flood and water management.
Recognising the Netherlands as a country with extensive experience and expertise in water management, the minister highlighted that their support could greatly aid Pakistan in adopting an integrated approach towards pre-modeling, forecasting, and the establishment of preventative infrastructure.
“Pakistan needs a multi-layered flood safety strategy, combining both soft and hard solutions, as we cannot engineer our way out of it,” she said.
She said the approach can involve various aspects, including flood prevention through conventional hard defenses such as dikes, embankments, and barrages, as well as flood-resilient sustainable spatial planning, early warning systems, and flood forecasting.
“The success of this strategy hinges on bridging coordination gaps between provinces and districts to ensure effective preparedness and response.”
The minister said uncoordinated planning posed significant challenges in the past, making it crucial to establish a streamlined and coordinated approach at all levels.
During the meeting, it was highlighted that the floods in Pakistan were exacerbated by climate change and the extensive integration of floodplains.
It was emphasised that urgent action was needed to implement both mitigation measures and create additional space for rivers to discharge. The flood in 2022 was rare, but it might not be rare in the future, said one of the experts highlighting that climate change is making extreme weather patterns more common.
The discussion also emphasised the overarching theme of ‘Water Governance’ in the flood safety strategy at all levels.
It was highlighted that there was a pressing need to integrate spatial planning, land and water management, and incorporate nature-based solutions to restore resilience, including providing more room for rivers to flow.
It was emphasised that acute short-term recovery measures should be connected to long-term strategies within a vision for a climate-resilient future.
The minister stressed the significance of water as a crucial input for Pakistan’s economic growth.
“To minimise the likelihood of future flood occurrences, Pakistan must strive for a minimum level of water security.
This entails reducing vulnerability to the destructive impacts of water while harnessing the benefits it can bring.” She said by focusing on achieving water security, we can work towards a more sustainable and resilient future, mitigating the recurrence of devastating floods.
Sherry Rehman emphasised that while early warning systems played a critical role, as prediction and forecasting alone were not sufficient.
“It is essential to move beyond crisis management and adopt a more proactive approach,” she added.
She said there is a pressing need to address gaps in capacity, coordination, and funding at the district and provincial levels for proactive preparedness.
She said effective community engagement at the local level is key to ensuring a well-organised response, along with implementing measures that focus on long-term and integrated perspectives in order to mitigate the devastating and costly impacts of floods.
She said by adopting proactive measures and considering long-term strategies, the aim is to prevent and mitigate the destructive consequences of floods more effectively.
The minister concluded by announcing the establishment of a formal ministerial hub at her ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, National Disaster Management Authority, Federal Flood Commission, and other pertinent ministries and departments.
“This initiative aims to strengthen the partnership with the Netherlands and facilitate further progress in addressing climate resilience, water management, and flood prevention measures,” she added.