Taking action on climate compatible reconstruction in the Punjab, Pakistan

Taking action on climate compatible reconstruction in the Punjab, Pakistan

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Date: 1st July 2012
Authors: CDKN Asia, Dina Khan
Type: Feature
Countries: Asia, Pakistan
Tags: disasters, floods

Dina Khan, CDKN Project Manager, and Lorna Davey, Mott MacDonald Ltd take stock of what a CDKN project with the Government of Punjab, Pakistan on climate compatible reconstruction has already achieved.

With the monsoon rains around the corner, all thoughts in the Punjab, Pakistan are on whether there will be a repeat of the tragic floods which devastated the province in 2010 and elsewhere in 2011.

While nobody can accurately predict whether and where flooding will occur this year, the Government of Punjab is planning for the worst.

Through a CDKN project, the Government of Punjab, Pakistan has started a course of action towards climate compatible reconstruction in the flood prone region.

Combining Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) response with climate change adaptation and low carbon growth concerns, the partners involved in the project are developing guidelines for physical housing and infrastructure in rural areas that is better at withstanding disasters and climatic pressures.

This responds to a policy gap which the Provisional Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Punjab identified and requested CDKN support for addressing.

There are several initiatives worldwide to assist in disaster resilient and low carbon reconstruction, and many manuals are available for the purpose. In Pakistan however, this is not the case. Customised construction guidelines are not widely available and instruments like the Housing Policy (2001), planning standards, and building codes that do exist are mostly outdated and un-attuned to the changing issues and trends in sustainable construction.

Efforts have been made to incorporate disaster risk reduction (DRR) elements in the National Building Code (e.g. Seismic Provision-2007), spurred by the 2005 earthquake in northern parts of the country, but this exercise has been restricted to earthquake resiliency, leaving a gap in addressing the risks from floods, temperatures increase, energy shortages, and extreme climate events.

Rural areas are particularly challenged in guided planning and construction regulation as the existing standards and rules pertain to urban settings.  There are no prescribed structural requirements for rural settlements, although these house about 60% of the country’s population.

Realising these gaps, the PDMA is using the opportunity provided by the post-disaster reconstruction programme in the Punjab to integrate disaster proofing and sustainability measures into rural planning.

With CDKN’s support and the expertise of engineering expert Mott MacDonald, the PDMA - Punjab is overseeing preparation of rurally appropriate, climate compatible construction guidelines that can provide local planners with basic options for layout and buildings designs to reduce vulnerabilities and exposure to natural hazards. The intention is to complement existing practices by providing additional simple mechanisms and basic design considerations based on lessons learnt from a sample of PDMA-Punjab’s model village programme.

By engaging key authorities and stakeholders in the process, the PDMA has sparked communication across government departments on rural/urban planning issues and notifying bye-laws for local construction.

This was evidenced at a high level meeting in May2012 in which officers from the PDMA Punjab and provincial departments of Housing, Urban Planning, Communication and Works, met to feedback on the draft construction guidelines and assess the potential for their uptake in public programmes. Also present were experts from NESPAK, UN-HABITAT, and engineering professionals. The Chairman, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) flew in from Islamabad to join the consultation and see the possibilities for country-wide learning and replication.

Useful suggestions have resulted from these lively debates, and the general consensus is that guidelines are an important stepping stone towards notifying suitable construction by-laws in hazard prone districts.

Measures recommended to advance the guidelines from the policy level downwards include:

  • Evolving the guidelines further into clear, simple and enforceable building codes and standards for rural areas;
  • Arranging a full process of consultation and consensus building with district authorities and community planners to align the guidelines with ground realities and advance the dialogue on notifying standards and by-laws.
  • Building and managing the scientific evidence base to inform construction policy and rural planning, including extensive hazard mapping, district risk profiling, spatial planning, and climate modelling scenarios  and key data on weather trends, flood zoning, land-use, climate projections.  Since the devolution of planning to provinces, the disparity between provincial and federal sources of information is likely to increase, further widening the knowledge and skill gap.

CDKN’s 12-month project with the Government of Punjab Pakistan which began in July 2011 is being implemented by Mott Macdonald and will result in guidelines for climate compatible reconstruction in hazard-prone areas of the province, and assess the climate compatibility of villages that are currently being planned.  

Image courtesy of Mott Macdonald.

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