As part of an ambitious initiative to build climate resilience in the aftermath of disastrous floods, Pakistan has, with Chinese assistance, put up a high-tech environmental observation station to anticipate weather and research climate change. Disasters such as floods, droughts, and cyclones have struck Pakistan in recent years, causing widespread destruction. Since the monsoon season started in mid-June, Pakistan has seen extremely heavy rains—about three times higher than the country’s 30-year average. As a result, Pakistan is facing its worst floods this century, with rivers spilling their banks, flash flooding, and bursting glacial lakes.
The climate minister of Pakistan has declared that floodwaters have spread across one-third of the country, making this the worst flooding event in the country’s history. Thousands of lives have been lost, whole communities have been wiped out, and livelihoods and infrastructure have been destroyed due to these calamities.
Moreover, damage estimates are rapidly rising, and they are quite alarming. At least 1,730 people have died directly from floods and landslides in Pakistan, and an additional million dwellings have been damaged, impacting a total of 33 million people. Economic losses and flood damages surpassed $30 billion, and more havoc will be wreaked on the economy and the country’s ability to produce food and other crops due to the widespread destruction.
Notably, one of humanity’s greatest challenges is adjusting to a rapidly shifting climate. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a continent-spanning policy and investment program initiated by the Chinese government over several decades. It aims to increase infrastructure development in countries along the historic Silk Road trade route to speed up economic integration between them. Several nations along the route are climatic and ecological hotspots. Extreme weather generates economic loss and misery in South Asia and southern Europe. Clearer research will help these countries handle climate change. Thus, BRI nations are also cooperating to boost climate resilience.
Most importantly, relations between Pakistan and China are unique and possibly without parallel in recent international diplomatic history. The massive Belt and Road Initiative has further increased economic ties between the longtime allies through the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). With the launch of CPEC in 2015, the bilateral relationship shifted from its traditional focus on defense and security cooperation to a major economic partnership. CPEC is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative’s six corridors to connect China with Pakistan through a network of roads, trains, and pipelines for carrying oil, gas, and goods.
Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Floods and other natural disasters are expected to grow in frequency and intensity in the coming decades. The only way to efficiently combat these hazards is to account for climate change in national strategy and policy, and to invest in infrastructure, businesses, and human capital to adapt to a changing environment. Experts recommended the Pakistani government enhance flood forecasting by accelerating early warning and monitoring, and by boosting personnel training. They also stressed the significance of regional and international collaboration to strengthen early warning capacities.
In this vein, the Belt and Road Initiative between Pakistan and China has installed Pakistan’s first lidar station for climate observation. The station is one of eight Belt and Road lidar stations being built by China. This lidar network will allow scientists and researchers to collaborate on a regional weather monitoring system, which will be essential in developing a reliable and effective early warning system for weather-related disasters. In addition, the CPEC and climate change and pollution studies can benefit from the lidar network’s use of atmospheric cloud, temperature, humidity, and other data.
Lanzhou University in China was instrumental in establishing this atmospheric lidar observation station, and its data will be used in disaster prediction and climate change studies. Lanzhou University is helping to operate the lidar station to forecast the weather. In addition, according to Bi Jianrong of Lanzhou University, the university is building a lidar network and monitoring and researching atmospheric composition with partners to assist Belt and Road Initiative regions.
Further, Bi Jianrong urged Pakistan to speed up advanced warning and monitoring and increase personnel training for more forecasts and predictions. Bi Jianrong said countries and regions should collaborate to improve early warning capabilities. He also highlighted that collaboration is necessary for more precise analysis and prediction. Confronting climate change requires concerted efforts from throughout the world.
According to Khalid Rahman, chairman of the Islamabad-based Institute for Policy Studies, “Pakistan-China ties have contributed to regional stability. Such partnerships’ strength comes from mutual trust, respect, and a win-win attitude.” CPEC and BRI have created new horizons for bilateral, regional, and global collaboration.
Huang Zhongwei, a professor at Lanzhou University, asserts that scientists have developed a complete regional temperature monitoring system by combining the lidar network with weather satellites. With the assistance of this system, they will be able to build a reliable database, implement a system for warning of natural disasters, and accommodate the requirements of necessary energy, transportation, and other infrastructure.
This year, it became even more evident that one of the most serious challenges the world is currently experiencing is climate change. Yet, while wealthy nations undertake comprehensive climate mitigation and adaptation plans at the national and regional levels, developing nations lag in creating integrated, South-South cooperation and sustainable development and climate adaptation plans.
The Global South must develop institutionalized, systemic climate adaptation strategies at national and regional levels. Establishing an interregional secretariat inside the UN system in the Global South to enhance South-South collaboration on climate adaptation and sustainable development is a possible step in the right direction. This platform can offer a forum for collaboration among the Regional Collaboration Centers to support one another in developing regional climate adaptation plans that complement national plans.
Hence, this forum has the potential to aid in the creation of a systemic, evolving, and workable agenda for climate adaptation and sustainable development in the Global South, which is supported by developing nations. Building climate resilience requires South-South collaboration and economic integration, and developing shared positions in international climate discussions and talks necessitates south-south solidarity and coordination. All options should be explored if the Global South is to meet the ever-changing climatic challenge and strengthen its adaptive capacities.