Islamabad, 18 July 2023 (TDI): Federal Minister for Climate Change & Environmental Coordination, Senator Sherry Rehman, recently welcomed a delegation from Italy to the Ministry of Climate Change & Environmental Coordination.
The delegation included representatives from the University of Milan and the Italian Association Ev-K2-CNR, with Ambassador Andreas Ferrarese leading the group. Additionally, officials from the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan and UNDP were also present during the meeting.
Minister Rehman expressed her gratitude for the ongoing support of the Italian government in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. She acknowledged the remarkable 35-year presence of EvK2CNR in the Pakistani mountains.
The Minister specifically commended the ‘Glaciers & Students’ project, which is funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AIC), implemented by UNDP Pakistan, and executed by EvK2CNR.
This initiative aims to accomplish several key objectives, including the establishment of 8 Automatic Weather Systems (AWS), the creation of an inventory of Pakistan’s 7,200 glaciers, and the provision of capacity-building and training opportunities for students at Karakoram International University and the University of Baltistan, as well as for staff at the Gilgit-Baltistan Environmental Protection Agency.
In her opening remarks, Minister Rehman emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating, Pakistan boasts the largest number of glaciers outside the polar regions, and these invaluable resources are facing significant threats due to climate change.
It is imperative that our universities collaborate closely to cultivate a comprehensive understanding among our students regarding climate resilience and management. This project holds immense significance as it will enable us to effectively map and monitor the changes caused by climate stress on our glaciers.
Moreover, we eagerly anticipate exploring potential solutions to mitigate the alarming rise in glacial melt, which has resulted in a staggering 300% increase in Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) events in Pakistan over the past year.
Ambassador Ferrarese expressed his gratitude for the enduring friendship and exceptional cooperation between the two nations. He underscored the fact that Italy, too, is profoundly affected by the devastating consequences of climate change.
The Ambassador conveyed his heartfelt sympathies regarding the tragic events that unfolded in Pakistan last year, particularly the catastrophic floods that affected a staggering 33 million individuals.
He further emphasized the significance of the ‘Glaciers & Students’ project, as it will facilitate comprehensive glacier mapping, and provide an understanding of the glaciers in its entirety to effectively safeguard these invaluable resources.
The Government of Gilgit-Baltistan officials provided a comprehensive briefing to Minister Rehman regarding their ongoing endeavours aimed at preserving the region’s natural environment. They also shared details about various initiatives undertaken in collaboration with the Italian government to enhance climate resilience.
Minister Rehman expressed great appreciation for the significant efforts of the Gilgit-Baltistan government. She emphasized the visionary approach of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who declared the Khunjerab National Park a protected area in 1974.
Notably, Khunjerab National Park is not only the highest-altitude national park in Pakistan but also one of the largest, underscoring the commitment to conservation and environmental preservation in the region.
The delegation from the University of Milan also presented a proposal for a project known as Water for Development (W4D). This three-year initiative, scheduled to commence in September 2023, aims to support sustainable development and adaptation policies in mountainous regions.
The project will focus on enhancing the management of water resources, landscape preservation, agricultural systems, and environmental risk through diligent monitoring activities.
Additionally, it will emphasize the responsible and sustainable development of tourism, ensuring the safeguarding of environmental, agricultural, and cultural heritage while also enhancing ecosystem services.
Moreover, the project seeks to strengthen the capacity of local governments in sustainable land management. The implementation of this project will be carried out in close collaboration with the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan and other local partners.