FEATURE: Climate resilient model villages
Shahbaz Sharif is the popularly elected Chief Minister of the Punjab, which is the largest province in Pakistan
The massive flooding that hit Pakistan in the summer of 2010 was triggered by unprecedented monsoon rainfall. The United Nations described it as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster in recent years and it drew international attention to the damaging effects of climate change in the region. After the disastrous flooding, we began doing a lot of reconstruction work. The Government of Punjab is currently building 22 model villages in the flood-affected areas.
First, let me give you a round up of what has been done so far in the Punjab. Around 3000 houses have been made with funding from Qatar, Turkey and Iran. These are located in the flood-affected areas of Mianwalli, Bhakar, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur. UN Habitat has also built 11,000 shelters, which are basic one-room constructions. Another 4000 houses were made with private donations. We are also rebuilding 5000 schools that have been damaged by the floods.
What we want to do is build more climate resilient structures that can cope with future flooding. We are currently working with the Climate and Development Knowledge Network on a consultancy to develop standards on how to make better homes, schools and dispensaries so that next time a disaster strikes we are not so badly affected. The idea is to build back better, so that future construction is not destroyed by disasters. We can build better by increasing the plinth lengths of the houses, using better materials and moving to safer locations.
Now let’s come to our model villages, which any urban dweller would envy. In each of our model villages we are building 2 bedroom houses, which are fully plastered with separate kitchens and toilets. We will provide them with filtered drinking water. All the villages will have covered sewerage drains, paved brick pavements and parks. They will also have schools and dispensaries.
We are also providing each village with a shared livestock shed. This is already a big hit. Initially we had been advised that the villagers would not allow their livestock to be tied up so far from their homes but now they are queuing up to have their livestock housed in these sheds, which can take up to 60 cattle. These are well-equipped sheds with mist fans to keep the animals cool!
There has been a cultural shift as we are teaching the villagers that it is not hygienic to live with your cattle so close to you. The cattle sheds are also useful because they provide enough animal waste to power biogas plants. The energy from these biogas plants can be used for cooking. We are also providing the villages with solar energy in addition to regular electricity. Each house is to get 100 watts of solar power.
To ensure that the household waste is properly managed, we are setting up a garbage collection system complete with recycling. The trash will be separated by a NGO we have signed a deal with called Wastebusters. The recycled items will be sold while the organic waste will be turned into manure at a garbage transfer station set up in each village.
In the near future, we hope to set up micro credit financing and livelihood creation schemes. The Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority, which is a federal level organization, will have a representative in each village to advise the villagers. One of the projects the villagers can implement is off-season cultivation so that they can increase their income.
We are doing all this so we are better prepared in the future. Climate change is a reality and we have to learn to cope with it.
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Image: Digging a foundation will help guard against future flooding, courtesy of IOM Pakistan flood response