Connect with us

Green Planet

Water sources are disappearing. How can we adapt?

Avatar photo



If forests are the ‘lungs’ of our planet; absorbing twice as much carbon as they emit each year, then we can think of water as our planet’s central ‘nervous system’ – linking life across landscapes, and sustaining agriculture and ecosystems, as well as humankind.

This ‘nervous system’ – already under immense anthropogenic pressure – is highly vulnerable to climate change. Rising temperatures result in prolonged droughts and floods, while extreme weather conditions are causing irreversible changes to the planet’s hydrological conditions (from glacier melts to river flows to the deterioration of water quality across the globe.)

What is less obvious about climate change impacts on the water sector is that they have a ripple effect on so many other sectors: crops and land use, livestock, industrial activities, coastal development, health, and more. As water sources disappear, for example in landlocked countries like Uzbekistan, Bhutan and Zambia, this will have devastating consequences on sustainable agriculture, food security, and energy production.

That’s why, through UNDP’s Climate Change Adaptation team, we are working to link countries’ National Adaptation Plans (NAP) processes and their national climate plans or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. An integral part of this linkage is to ensure the activities carried out under the NAP are feeding into and supporting the deliverables outlined in the country’s NDC.

The NAP is a national process for strengthening a country’s ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change and is often organized by sector. As water is integral for the functioning of human society and most economic sectors, it serves as a unique connector for inter-sectoral approaches. The examples below showcase how countries are incorporating water considerations in their NAPs and, in doing so, can feed this work into the adaptation goals outlined in their NDCs.


Uzbekistan has already experienced serious issues with water shortages, soil salinity and erosion. Once home to the world’s fourth largest body of inland water, the Aral Sea continues to disappear at an alarming rate – with 80 percent loss in volume and 64 percent loss in depth over the past four decades. In December 2020, Uzbekistan received USD 1.6 million in funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to launch a sector-driven National Adaptation Plan with support from UNDP.

This multi-year initiative focuses on supporting the most climate-affected sectors to adapt to climate change, like agriculture, water, health, buildings and emergency management, all in the targeted provinces of the Aral Sea region. Key activities include strengthening multi-sectoral coordination, consolidating climate data, integrating climate change adaptation into planning and budgeting and conducting economic appraisals for adaptation options.

These activities contribute to advance the adaptation component in Uzbekistan’s NDC, i.e., to create ‘adaptive measures for agriculture and water management, social sector, ecosystems, strategic infrastructure and production systems, as well as actions to mitigate the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster.’

Closely connected to the climate response, is the development of a national strategy for transition to a green economy, which aims to significantly increase water-use efficiency in all sectors of the economy, introduce drip irrigation technologies on up to 1 million hectares of lands, and increase yield of crops cultivated on this land by up to 20-40 percent.


Due to increased global temperatures, Bhutan’s glacier lakes are melting and causing outburst flooding, landslides, and erosion from intense rainfall for Himalayan communities. The country’s economy is very dependent on two climate-sensitive sectors: agriculture and hydropower. The impact water shortages are having on irrigation is greatly affecting agriculture and causing delayed harvests as seasons shift and decreased yields. For Bhutan, water is considered a national priority.

To support Bhutan’s ability to adapt to climate change in this region, the GCF has approved USD 3 million in readiness funding to prepare a National Adaptation Plan with a focus on the water sector, with UNDP support. One of the activities underway in this multi-year initiative is a water-specific risk assessment on a national scale to evaluate and identify hotspots for water adaptation in each of the 20 districts of Bhutan.

For effective medium term adaptation planning, it is crucial for national stakeholders to understand how climate variability and change is already leading to water issues. The risk assessment looked at how water issues have developed historically, and how they are projected to change in the future. This is a key part of climate adaptation planning because it helps inform the most appropriate strategies to cope with climate risks in the water sector across districts.

In terms of long-term adaptation planning and in partnership with UNDP’s larger body of climate adaptation work, Bhutan is also implementing a USD 25.3 million GCF-funded project on climate-resilient agriculture. The project is primarily benefiting rural communities through applying sustainable land and water management practices, more climate-resilient irrigation and agriculture and climate-resilient roads.

Bhutan’s revised NDC plans to increase overall water security through integrated water resource management and notes water as a priority adaptation need. As part of the implementation of its NDC, various outputs from the NAP process (such as the water-specific risk assessment) will contribute to the advancement of Bhutan’s NDC commitments.


Home to the world’s largest artificial lake, Zambia has witnessed Lake Kariba’s water levels drop by six meters in the past three years. About half of Zambia’s total electrical power comes from a dam connected to Lake Kariba, which is an important source of low-carbon power in the country and region. Climate change is causing a two-fold effect in Zambia: months of drought are followed by sporadic torrential rains that are destroying crops and infrastructure.

In March 2020, Zambia’s National Adaptation Plan proposal was approved by the GCF for USD 2.18 million in funding. The NAP project is being supported by the Global Water Partnership and is being implemented in two phases. Phase one focuses on the development of the country’s overarching NAP to strengthen long-term coordination between adaptation planning at the national level, while also fostering synergies with subnational and sector-focused planning. Phase two is the development of a NAP for the water sector’. Zambia recognizes water as a connector – essential to all sectors and is pioneering a NAP that focuses exclusively on building resilience across water-sensitive sectoral plans in Zambia, such as energy, health and agriculture.

To help safeguard Zambian farmers engaged in traditional rainfed agriculture, the Government of Zambia partnered with UNDP, WFP and FAO for a seven-year conservation agriculture project that is co-financed for USD 137.3 million with the GCF. To date, the project has established 76 farmer field schools in eight districts and has trained 2,300 small scale farmers in climate resilient farming techniques. Together with this locally driven work, the project supports Zambia’s NDC to build resilience in agriculture and food security to reduce poverty.


Through Climate Promise support in 2022 and beyond, UNDP will strategically support countries to reach their adaptation goals, including those for water security. UNDP aims to do so though cross-sectoral support, including on nature-based solutions, forests, agriculture, energy, and water management.

Climate change and its impacts already touch everything and everyone – but not equally. The compounding effects of climate change on the water sector has significant reach because ultimately as water resources disappear, drinking water and crop production are feeling the impacts first, causing stress on global supply chains, forcing rural communities into migration and leading to greater food insecurity in least developed and developing countries.

Editor’s note: Building on the experiences and lessons from a portfolio of initiatives in over 137 countries, UNDP advances a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to accelerate adaptation and continues to support countries to mobilize public and private finance to implement their adaptation priorities. UNDP is currently supporting 50 countries to implement adaptation planning programmes. These include NAP projects funded under the GCF Readiness Programme, the FAO-UNDP Scaling up Climate Ambition in Agriculture and Land Use through the NDC and NAPs (SCALA) supported by the BMUV and the EU-UNDP Africa Adaptation Initiative for enhancing climate adaptation on the continent.

UNDP’s Climate Promise has supported 120 countries to enhance their NDCs, including on adaptation, with over 90% of enhanced NDCs submitted in 2020 and 2021 containing adaptation components. UNDP’s Climate Promise and the NAP Portfolio support countries to enhance not only their high-level climate plans but also to prepare more detailed activities to scale up adaptation implementation.

Rohini Kohli is the Lead Technical Specialist on National Adaptation Plans for UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team.

Continue Reading

Green Planet

Climate Smart Agriculture Can Help Balochistan bounce back

Avatar photo



Climate change brings disaster to the province Balochistan, which is an arid region located in west of Pakistan. The drought-stricken region struggling to increase its agricultural productivity, faced a backlash due to catastrophic floods. The predominantly agriculture-based territory reached the dead zone as farmers had stopped farming, shepherds kept their animal numbers low, which put people’s lives on stake, as it increased food insecurity. This highlighted the need to start a policy debate for climate smart agriculture.

Climate smart agriculture is an approach that is making the planet prosperous again. It is an ambition to increase the integration of food security with enhance resilience in productivity. It is a sustainable agriculture practice that promotes soil health, water management, and biodiversity conservation with economic benefits. Its practices like, cover/tunnel farming, drip irrigation, crop livestock systems can help Balochistan to go green and integrated again. These practices can sequester carbon in soil and can fight the impacts of climate change more efficiently.

Climate change is affecting the province in various ways. The region of Balochistan is characterized by extreme aridity, with annual precipitation levels below average, causing severe droughts, which is leading to a catastrophic impact on the province’s agriculture and livestock.

Flash floods in Balochistan becomes the new common during the monsoon season as a result of heavy rainfall, with the most significant in 2022. These floods have a detrimental impact on the environment, causing soil erosion, depletion, and the loss of fertile topsoil. The soil is already deficient in minerals and cannot endure further depletion, requiring several hundred years to recover and cannot support agricultural growth.

In an interview with wealthPk, Dr. Hanif-ur-Rehman AP from university of Turbat said, that high efficiency irrigation system (HEIS) can play an efficient role in climate effected regions like Turbat, Makran, Kech where farmers had traditionally cultivated the crops for source of income. The use of drip, rain guns, Centre pivot, and sprinkler have the ability to bring back the lush green pastures that have turned barren.

Climate smart agriculture could not only fetch the lost agriculture but also increase the productivity rate by making the rest of the region green. Balochistan accounts for only 6% of cultivable land for agriculture which not only failed to meet food security needs but also added little in Pakistan’s 25% agriculture GDP.

Balochistan people despite having less literacy are very conducive to cultivating lands with new cultivation techniques. In late 1990s and 2000s when the entire western part of the province was severely hit by droughts, people brought the techniques of less resilient tunnel farming to moist the soil. They grow crops beneath protective plastic tunnels. This technique helps them cope with their immediate needs but it fails to produce yield on a massive scale. Cultivation in proper climate resilient tunnels usually requires 10 to 20 acres of area or economically 3 acres feasible, and the tunnels are created by using steel pipes, or aluminum pipes that support plantations that are usually 3 to 12 feet in height and 5-10 feet wide. 

 The drip irrigation technique also has enormous potential for minimizing production costs by moderating the input use of water, fertilizers and pesticides. Drip irrigation keeps the field capacity constant by enabling the crops to easily take in water and nutrients, which result in uniform growth of plants and enhances the quality that produces well.  Drip irrigation distributes water through a network of valves, pipes, emitters, and tubing that can save 50-70% of irrigation water which can not only resolve the water scarcity issue of Balochistan, it also can produce efficient, extensive production of crops such as apples, cherries, tomatoes, and citrus.

The province also needs to move towards an integrated crop-livestock system (ICLS), which is sustainable, productive, and climate resilient compared to intensive specialized systems. ICLS have increased over time in arid regions but still, Balochistan lags behind due to lack of skills by producers, lack of investment, lack of sustainable awareness and market competition. Livestock production is the largest sector of the province’s economy. It is nearly impossible to have a dream of economic development for the rural masses without prior attention to Livestock and crop management.

After floods, the crops fields are destroyed due to which livestock become the main source of food for many rural households that make the rural farming through livestock less practicable.  It can only be enhanced by administration policies through capital funding, educational services and markets to subsistence farmers.

CSA is a method that includes several elements entrenched in local settings rather than a collection of practices that can be used everywhere. CSA requires the adoption of technologies and policies, and it refers to behaviors both on and off the farm.

According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the United Nation 2023 report, Local farmers are the foremost holders of knowledge about their environment, agro-ecosystems, crops, livestock, and climatic patterns. Therefore, the adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture should be aligned with the local farmers’ knowledge, needs, and priorities. . Farmers of Balochistan have shown a keen interest in drip irrigation, tunnel farming technique but the high cost of imported pipes, emitters, plantation of aluminum tunnels from china has become their hindrance.

Mainstreaming CSA in Balochistan requires critical stocktaking and promising practices by financial and institutional enablers that can create an initial baseline for discussion and investment from the globe. If the government of Balochistan supports the farmers through public funding or by joint ventures with farmers for covering the startup costs, the techniques can be very useful not for food security but also for economic benefits on a constant level. According to a report on Climate smart practices, the CS techniques could not only help to save water up to 50-70%, reduce the fertilizer use by 45%, increase yield up to 100-150%, reduce the production cost by 35%, but could also mature the crops with better quality for uneven topography.

Continue Reading

Green Planet

Human History and the Wonder of the Horse

Avatar photo



Imagine a person accustomed to traveling at 3 to 4 mph, who discovers a means (the horse) to speed up to 5 times that pace with occasional thrilling bursts doubling even that.

At 15 mph, it is then not unreasonable to assume a 1000 mile range for a week on horseback allowing for breaks and sleep at night.  It must have expanded enormously the horizons of those early Kazakhs who first domesticated the horse some 6000 years ago.

If the Kazakhs roamed west, the Mongols, a few thousand years later, roamed back and began a vast empire that eventually included all of China.  Ties with Russia were close but as a hegemon, until a few centuries later when the Russians threw off the yoke. 

As Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping shake hands forging a new treaty, China is once again a more powerful economy, the largest in the world, while Russia’s is more akin in size to Italy’s.

If the horse made the vast Central Asian steppes explorable, its remarkable navigational skills ensured the rider would eventually be able to return home.

Apparently horses are sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field, and not unlike homing pigeons can find their way home.  Confirmatory tests have shown that when magnets are slung over their withers, they get completely lost.  Observers have also noted that, in pasture. they tend to stand north-south aligned with the earth’s magnetic field.

Up until the advent of the internal combustion engine, horses were used for all kinds of transportation.  Where the rail line ended, horses took over.  They  hauled freight in covered wagons; pulled stagecoaches in the Wild West and elegant carriages in Europe; they were a cowboy’s bread and butter, and personal transportation for anyone who could afford one; horses in the cavalry delivered the punch generals were seeking in battle; in racing, they provided thrills for the audience and excitement for punters — such is true also today, and with all the special attention given to the triple crown races, the casual observer might forget the weekly calendar of racing events across the country.

Horses for courses is a common saying for they are bred for speed in short races and stamina for long steeplechases like the famous Grand National in England.

Hark back to the wagon drivers of old, when on lonely long journeys the driver could talk to his horses — like dogs they are able to understand and develop quite a vocabulary of human words plus silent signals from the reins and legs of the riders.

And pity the poor trucker now and his lonely cross-country trips —  not much to say to a noisy diesel engine!  The only chance to talk he gets is when he takes a break to eat, rest and sometimes sleep at truck stops along the way.

With all that horses did for humans, one can wonder what they got out of it.  Apparently they form close bonds with their owners, and as with dogs, the feelings are mutual.

Continue Reading

Green Planet

Race to zero in Asia and the Pacific: Our hopes in the climate fight

Avatar photo



The latest synthesis report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes for grim reading: Every fraction of a degree of warming comes with escalated threats, from deadly heatwaves to severe hurricanes and droughts, affecting all economies and communities. It is a reality that the people of Asia and the Pacific know only too well. “The worst April heatwaves in Asian history” last month was just a taste of the worsening climate impacts we will continue to face in the years to come.

Our latest report highlights that the sea level is creeping up in parts of the region at a slightly higher rate than the global mean, leaving low-lying atolls at existential threat. Annual socioeconomic loss due to climate change is mounting and likely to double in the worst-case climate scenario. Inequity is yet another threat as climate change sweeps across the region. Asia and the Pacific already accounts for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions and the share is growing. 

But there is another picture of hope in our region: 39 countries have committed to carbon neutrality and net zero between 2050 and 2060. The cost of renewable energy is falling almost everywhere, with installed capacity growing more than three-fold in the past decade. Electric vehicles are entering the market en masse as countries such as China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand have made electric mobility a priority.

This momentum needs to accelerate like a bullet train. Because nothing short of a breakthrough in hard-to-abate sectors will give us a good chance of stopping catastrophic global warming.

Accelerating a just and inclusive energy transition

The recent energy crisis has kicked renewable energy into a new phase of even faster growth thanks to its energy security benefits. There is opportunity now to leverage this momentum and turn it into a revolutionary moment.

Cross-border electricity grids can be the game changer. ESCAP has simulated different scenarios for grid connectivity and scaling up renewables. It shows that a green power corridor, cross-border power grid integration utilizing renewables, can help to remove the last hurdles of the transition. We are working with countries to chart a path to improved regional power grid connectivity through cooperation.

Achieving low-carbon mobility and logistics

The exceptional growth of electric vehicles has proved that electric mobility is a smart investment. And it is one that will help stave off carbon dioxide emissions from transport, which has stubbornly increased almost by 2 per cent annually the past two decades.

Through the Regional Cooperation Mechanism on Low Carbon Transport, we are working with the public and private sector to lock in the changeover to low-carbon mobility, clean energy technologies and logistics. This is complemented by peer learning and experience sharing under the Asia-Pacific Initiative on Electric Mobility to accelerate the penetration of electric vehicles and upgrading public transport fleets.

Building low-carbon industries through climate-smart trade and investment

The net zero transition is not complete without decarbonizing the industrial sector. The region accounts for nearly three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions in manufacturing and construction.

Binding climate considerations in regional trade agreements can be a powerful tool. While climate-related provisions have entered regional trade agreements involving Asian and Pacific economies, they offer few concrete and binding commitments. To unlock further benefits, they will need to be broader in scope, deeper in stringency and more precise in obligations.

As foreign investment goes green, it should also go where it is needed the most. It has not been the case for any of the least developed countries and small island developing States in the region.

Financing the transition

The transition can be only possible by investing in low- and zero-emission technologies and industries. Current domestic and international financial flows fall well short of the needed amount. The issuance of green, social and sustainability bonds is rapidly growing, reaching $210 billion in 2021 but were dominated by developed and a few developing countries. Both public and private financial institutions need to be incentivized to invest in new green technologies and make the uptake of such technologies less risky.

Linking actions and elevating ambitions

The code red to go green is ever so clear. Every government needs to raise their stake in this crisis. Every business needs to transform. Every individual needs to act. A journey to net zero should accelerate with a fresh look at our shared purpose.

At ESCAP, we are working to bring together the pieces and build the missing links at the regional level to support the net-zero transition work at the national level. The upcoming Commission session will bring countries together for the first time in an intergovernmental setting – to identify common accelerators for climate action and to chart a more ambitious pathway. This is the start of an arduous journey that requires cooperation, understanding and determination. And I believe we have what it takes to get there together.

Continue Reading