LAHORE - As Cyclone Nilofar approaches the coastal areas of Pakistan with gusty winds and heavy rainfall, WWF-Pakistan has stressed the need for taking precautionary steps.

WWF-Pakistan has already mobilised its staff posted along the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan to help authorities and local communities prepare for the cyclone and its possible effects.  According to Dr Ejaz Ahmed, Senior Director, WWF-Pakistan, “In order to reduce the risk, it is important to strengthen the natural ecosystem such as mangroves, which serve as a defence shield by protecting coastal communities against storms and cyclones.”

Sharing his views Moazzam Khan, Technical Adviser, WWF-Pakistan, said that it was now scientifically proven that the frequency of cyclones had increased during the past two decades due to climatic changes. Since 1999, eight major cyclones had hit the coastal areas of Pakistan, some of which had caused severe damage to lives and property.  Of these, Cyclone 2 A in May 1999 quite possibly caused the most serious damage to the coastal area of Thatta and Badin. Destruction of some of the infrastructure including the Left Outfall Bank Drain (LOBD) affected coastal communities and recovery from the damage had still not been completed.  Similarly, Cyclone Phet in 2010 caused serious damage to fishing boats and coastal infrastructure in Gwader, Jiwani, Thatta and Badin districts.

Moazzam stressed the need for adequate preparedness so that any adverse effect of cyclone Nilofar can be tackled properly. Recently, it had been observed that due to climate change the frequency of cyclones have increased. Cyclone Nilofar is the second one in 2014 to hit the coastal belt of Pakistan. Muhammad Tahir Abbasi, Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP), WWF-Pakistan said that WWF-Pakistan’s team based in the creek area near Keti Bundar is closely monitoring the cyclone and coordinating with local administration and the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).

He informed that Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) committees and village organisations set up under the auspices of WWF-Pakistan in the area have been alerted to handle any adverse situation. WWF has coordinated with the local administration and has persuaded communities not to go to high seas to fish. Through these efforts 80 per cent of fishermen from coastal villages have returned while the remaining 20 per cent are heading back. The CCAP project has been working closely with FM-92 to disseminate warning messages regarding the cyclone in Sindhi. The fishers have been advised to stay indoors and those who have gone into the deep sea for fishing have been asked to return.

Also, a fund raising proposal has been prepared for rescue and rehabilitation of the affected communities.

WWF-Pakistan through its Indus for All Programme planted 7500 ha of mangroves in coastal areas of Sindh and another 525 ha through the CCAP project. The organization stresses the need for the government to focus on mitigating impacts from extreme weathering events the natural way, which is the only solution to sustainability.