For the past three years (2015 to 2017) Heinrich Boell Stiftung Pakistan (hbs) under the banner of the campaign titled, “There is no planet B” started engaging journalists, youth, civil society on issues related to climate change and it’s impacts in Pakistan. The objective of the campaign is to mainstream environment conservation and climate change discourse in society as a whole and to push related policies. One successful initiatives is the formation of a cohort, “Journalists on Climate Change and Resource Equity” to familiarize journalists with the global and local climate debate and enhance their capacity to analyze climate related issues through in-house trainings and exposure visits. On 19th August 2017, an exposure visit for a group of journalists from Urdu and English print and electronic media was organized to Gilgit Baltistan to explore three main thematic areas.
- Climate change and Customary Laws of Gilgit Baltistan: The traditional ways and means to share, utilize and organize natural resources are still prevalent in many societies. These practices that traditional societies adhere to are referred to as customary laws. Some of these laws are in their original shape, others have been tailored in accordance to meet new requirements and some became obsolete. Existing customary laws provide an opportunity for conflict resolution over natural resources by building consensus among the local community involved. Due to the inclusive engagement of all relevant stakeholders at the local level, these laws are owned by the communities and by and large complied with. These laws are based on local wisdom build over generations and also factor in the conservation of local resources.
Climate Change is accelerated by resource abuse and over use. Adaptation to climate change and environment degradation therefore requires knowledge that has been developed in close observation and interaction with nature. Referring to customary laws provides this opportunity to a considerable extent.
During their visit to Gilgit Baltistan, the group of journalists was able to attend the launch of the report “Negotiating Change: Recognizing the role of customary laws for Sustainable Livelihoods and Development in Gilgit-Baltistan”. That discusses the customary laws pertaining to land, and water at length. They were also taken to community elders who have adopted customary laws from their ancestors and have been practicing them for their life time. The meeting also revealed that the social education of these laws is somewhat dying due to the change of livelihood and income generating activities of communities. The youth is less involved in the traditional livelihood patterns such as agriculture and livestock management.
- Climate Change and Water Conservation: Glaciers are a source of water conservation for the area in the Himalayas and related mountain ranges. The melting of glaciers due to unprecedented increasing temperature in mountainous areas of Pakistan is posing multiple challenges including further increase in temperature, extreme weather conditions and flooding. The journalists were able to visit the Passo Glacier to directly observe the changes and to meet local communities impacted by the glacier melt.
The journalists also visited an early warning system installed by the Government of Pakistan and UNDP (under the Glacier Lake Outburst Floods project) near the Hinarchy Glacier in Bagrot Valley. The system helped the local communities to know the threat of flood in advance and prepare for appropriate response-such as shifting to safe zones. As part of the early warning system a retention wall was built to prevent flooding of the stream.
- Climate Change, Development and National Parks: National parks are habitats for wildlife and specific species. They are lungs for the surrounding areas and help prevent environment degradation. Globally the infrastructure development continues to pose threats to national parks conserved for many years. In recent months Khunjrab National Park in GB has also seen some of these changes. With the beginning of infrastructure projects along the economic route between China and Pakistan, number of tourists to Gilgit Baltistan has increased. The surrounding meadows and environment is threatened by the carbon emissions from large vehicles passing every day and the littering by tourists. The journalists group visited the place and was able to capture the scenic beauty of the place and also observe the changes occurring. Tourists and local community were interviewed by the journalists to capture the current and future changes and threats to the area.
Gilgit customary laws study launch coverage by Pamir Times