Climate Crisis in Pakistan Report 2023 | Islamic Relief Canada

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Climate Crisis IN Pakistan Voices

from the Ground


Author and Principal Researcher

Miranda Gallo | Interim Policy and Advocacy Manager

Contributing Author

Zoe Sheikh | Research Assistant

Contributing Primary Researcher

Kainat Qazi | International Programs Manager: Africa & Asia


Raza Qazi | Advocacy & Campaigns Specialist, Islamic Relief Pakistan

Catriona Addleton | Director of International Programs

We would like to extend our gratitude to Islamic Relief’s teams on the ground in Pakistan for facilitating our staff and researchers. This research would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the Pakistan team who managed travel arrangements, coordinated primary data collection and arranged for translators and experts to be present every step of the way.

Thank you to all of the individuals, community organizations, government representatives, environmental experts, orphans and women’s groups in Pakistan who took the time to meet with our researchers and share their stories and insights for this piece.

© Islamic Relief Canada, 2023


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Research Methods



Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK)


What We Heard

Seasonal Changes

Food Production and Livelihood Impacts

Health Impacts


Soil Erosion

Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters


Cloudbursts and Flash Flooding


Extreme Heat

Water Access and Contamination Issues

Rapid Urbanization and Water Contamination


Muzaffarabad, AJK

Water Scarcity


Endnotes Table of Contents
31 33


Climate Crisis

In August 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history. Over 33 million people were affected by the floodwaters — a staggering number close to the population of Canada. Our teams on the ground were quick to respond, providing close to one million Pakistanis with emergency food, water, shelter, and life-saving assistance.

We heard from many individuals who were impacted, including one man in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who told us, “I’ve been living in this area since birth and experienced the 2010 flood and the ones before… but this one was so much more destructive because of how long the water stayed, and how high it was — 8 to 15 feet tall. Entire neighborhoods are under water.”

The 2022 floods, however, did not occur in a vacuum and were not an isolated event. As experts have noted, the 2022 floods were made significantly worse by human-caused climate change.1 As this report reveals, through data collected prior to the flood emergency, the region has been deeply affected by climate change.

Pakistan produces less than 1% of the world’s carbon footprint yet is suffering the biggest consequences of climate change. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is currently the fifth most climate-vulnerable country in the world, having lost nearly ten thousand lives and suffering economic losses worth 3.8 billion USD due to climate change throughout the years 1999 to 2018.2

Changing seasonal weather patterns, rising temperatures, variability of monsoons and melting of glaciers in the north — compounded with recurrent extreme weather events and natural disasters — are just some of the effects of climate change that Pakistan has been forced to contend with in recent years.

Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK), is likewise grappling with the same effects of climate change through changes in seasonal patterns and periodic natural disasters that have resulted in catastrophic landslides, flash flooding and water scarcity — among other problems.


A Holistic and Effective Approach to Tackling Climate Change

Islamic Relief has been working on the ground in Pakistan for over 30 years, transforming the lives of millions of people. In response to the climate crisis, Islamic Relief Pakistan has consistently been at the forefront of ensuring climate-adaptive approaches are mainstreamed into programming. Islamic Relief recognizes that women must be at the center of the fight against climate change as powerful agents of change in their communities.

With the aim to arrive at a more detailed and practical understanding of the current and long-term situation facing Pakistanis living through the climate crisis, Islamic Relief Canada researchers joined Islamic Relief Pakistan on the ground, engaging in a communitybased narrative inquiry study. Our researchers placed a specific emphasis on listening to women, who shared their insights into the unique toll that climate change is taking on their day-to-day lives.

This report sheds light on the many ways that climate change is affecting communities in Pakistan. We advocate for an intersectional approach to programs that tackle climate change — thus, prioritizing those most impacted by creating livelihood opportunities that sustain the adoption of climate-adaptive solutions.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time. We are at a critical juncture where governments must act immediately to avoid irreversible catastrophe. It is crucial that the global community makes every effort to meet respective domestic targets and pool resources to help communities that are already experiencing the crippling consequences of climate change without delay.

“The world is sweet and verdant, and verily Allah (God) has made you stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.”3

Research Methods

This report is the result of two weeks of intensive data collection in March 2022. Our researchers engaged in qualitative methods — through a series of focus group discussions and one-onone interviews — employing narrative inquiry as an approach to better understand the dynamic lived experiences of research participants.

Participant Demographics

Our researchers spoke with approximately 150 participants throughout the duration of the research. The majority of focus group and one-on-one interview participants were conducted with Islamic Relief rights-holders — predominantly widows and orphans.

Why did we prioritize female participants?

In any disaster or humanitarian emergency, it is women and girls who often suffer disproportionately in crises due to preexisting vulnerabilities stemming from socioeconomic inequalities. Climate-induced disasters are no exception.

As Alok Sharma, President of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), stated, “Gender and climate are profoundly intertwined.

The impact of climate change [affects] women and girls disproportionately.”4

In fact, more than 80% of people displaced by climate change are women and girls.5 During the 2010 flooding in Pakistan, more than 70% of those displaced were women and children. Furthermore, cultural divisions of labour translate into an overrepresentation of women in agricultural, livestock and fishing sectors – industries that are extremely susceptible to the impact of climate change.

Seeking to better understand the ways in which women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, Islamic Relief researchers identified women as the key target demographic for this study. Since Islamic Relief’s researchers were two women – one Urdu-speaking and one English-speaking – this provided a more comfortable and secure dynamic where participants and researchers were able to converse with ease.


Research Methods Cont’d

Islamic Relief researchers also engaged with experts through both informal discussions and key-informant interviews. Some of these experts included local and high-level agricultural and women’s development political representatives as well as climate and gender experts working in, or closely with Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change

For the purposes of this report, Islamic Relief Canada (IRC) researchers traveled to the following cities and their surrounding areas for primary data collection:

• Islamabad, Punjab, Pakistan

• Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan

• Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan

• Bagh and Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK)

Regions were selected based on environmental challenges as well as the feasibility of local Islamic Relief Pakistan teams to facilitate Islamic Relief Canada researchers. The security situation was also a significant variable as our researchers were on the ground during a time of political transition. As a result, it should be noted that our data collection in Rawalpindi was not as expansive as other regions and limited to focus groups.

Research Process

Our primary objective of this study was to speak to individuals in Pakistan – especially women and girls – about the impact of climate change on their lives to:

1. Understand the impact of Islamic Relief’s climate-adaptive programming and identify areas for improvement where necessary, and

2. Better understand the policy changes that must be taken to respond to climate change

All participants gave their prior informed consent to participation and researchers explained that they had the right to refuse to answer any questions, redact any statements they made, and withdraw from the process altogether at any point. Confidentiality was guaranteed, and as such, any names that are used in this report have been changed.

Islamic Relief Pakistan organized and facilitated the focus group discussions, providing staff who already had a rapport with participants to act as translators for IRC researchers. Islamic Relief local teams also ensured that a psychological support worker was present to provide psychological support during focus group discussions, should discussions cause discomfort or distress to research participants. 6

Focus group discussions were simultaneously translated between Urdu and English, and other local languages where necessary — including Pahari, Pashto and Balochi. As responses were subject to real-time translation, it is important to note direct quotes may not always be exact transcriptions.

Research participants were asked openended questions about climate change and its impact upon their lives. The questions were developed in consultation with local Islamic Relief teams in order to best achieve our objectives. This is critical, because, as previous Islamic Relief research has determined, often participants find it difficult to respond when queried about “climate change” as a general concept.7 However, when asked about the impact of climate change – such as changing seasons or extreme weather events – participants found it easier to respond. IRC researchers adjusted our language to incorporate this learning and asked questions around the following issues:

• How has the environment changed since you were a child?

• Have changing weather patterns impacted your livelihood or financial situation? Has the weather affected your work?

• Have the crop outputs changed over time?

• Who is responsible for agricultural activities in your family? Who is responsible for collecting water and/ or wood?

• What dangers have increased with changes in weather?

• What are your hopes and anxieties for the future?

At the end of a focus group discussion, researchers asked participants if any of them would like to participate in a oneon-one interview where questions were explored in greater detail.

Following the data collection phase, primary data was fully transcribed and subsequently compiled following a thematic analysis.



“Pakistan’s climate is as varied as the country’s topography: dry and hot near the coast and along the lowland plains of the Indus River and progressively cooler in the Northern uplands and Himalayas. The high population density and vastly diverse terrain make Pakistan especially vulnerable to climate change impacts.”


The sections below provide a more in-depth understanding of the specific environmental contexts of the geographic areas explored in the research. Islamic Relief researchers narrowed in on Balochistan and Kashmir as the focus areas of this study and – to a lesser extent – Rawalpindi, to provide insight into the impacts of climate change in an urban context.



Balochistan is the westernmost province in Pakistan, bordering the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, the Arabian Sea, Iran and Afghanistan. Balochistan’s climate is characterized by very cold winters and warm summers. 8 While weather changes are part of the fabric of Balochistan — where concurrent drought spells have historically unfolded in the region — in recent years, the situation has intensified, as the current drought spell has lasted for over a decade.

Quetta is the provincial capital and the largest city in Balochistan. While Quetta was once known for its beauty and pleasant climate where mountains were covered with snow in every season, today the temperatures exceed 40 degrees celsius and are still rising.9

The most recent drought has caused a noticeable impact on water channels that have negatively affected crops and agricultural activities. As such, inhabitants of Balochistan are facing rising food insecurity and threats to their livelihoods, intensifying socio-economic challenges in

one of the most underdeveloped regions of the country. It is for this reason that many have made the difficult decision to leave their homes and migrate to larger urban centers in the hope of having improved access to water and other basic necessities.

In addition to drought, the major environmental issues in Balochistan include earthquakes, landslides, floods, and increasing heat waves.10

Earthquakes are often known to harm southwest Pakistan — specifically Balochistan. In 1935, Quetta and adjoining areas were impacted by a powerful earthquake killing nearly 35,000 people — named to be one of the deadliest known earthquakes in the Indian subcontinent.11 In 2021, a powerful large-scale earthquake hit the Harnai District of Balochistan, destroying lands and properties, and forever changing the livelihood of many individuals and families.

The intensity, duration and frequency of heatwaves are also a fundamental concern

in Balochistan. These heat waves have led to the eruption of spontaneous fires in recent years and have exacerbated human suffering when coupled with drought and limited access to clean drinking water.

Specific to Quetta, there has been a decline in the city’s overall environmental health over the past quarter of the century.12 As global warming intensifies and climate change sets in as a reality, Quetta continues to face issues of increasing temperatures, deforestation, pollution, changing patterns of rain, as well as drought and water scarcity. As the city lies outside the monsoon range, rainfall is often scarce and irregular.13

With climate change drawing rural inhabitants away from their homes and into the cities, within Quetta, there has been a rapid increase in urbanization, advancing congestion and traffic, and a decrease in forest cover.14 In fact, Quetta has been declared one of the most polluted cities in the globe due to population growth, expansion of industries and vehicles emitting pollution.15

In addition to drought, the major environmental issues in Balochistan include landslides, floods, and increasing heat waves.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK)

Azad Jammu and Kashmir is a selfgoverning region administered by Pakistani authorities. Kashmiri society in AJK is largely agrarian, with a noticeably high rural to urban population ratio of 88:12.16 While AJK has long been well-known for its natural resources and agricultural outputs – such as the Kashmiri apple – in recent years, climate change has taken a toll on the environment and these resources, leaving many Kashmiris without the natural wealth of their predecessors.17

As an agrarian society whose population depends on the environment for energy resources, agricultural and livestock production, and subsistence farming, AJK remains one of the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate change.

According to the AJK’s Ministry for Planning & Development, AJK the biggest climate threats to the region are as follows:18

- Increasing temperature levels which are expected to lead to a “small but fundamental shift in weather patterns within AJK,” which will negatively affect crops, livestock and human beings. With changing temperatures come reduced crop outputs, an increase in crop diseases and a loss of plant and animal biodiversity. Livestock and human beings will be more susceptible to epidemics and diseases.

- Soil erosion and land degradation is an increasingly pressing issues due to changes in hillslope hydrology, increasingly poor vegetation cover, and extreme rainfall events.

- Reduced river flow and drought due to unreliable precipitation patterns will have a severe impact on water, energy, food and economic security

- The increasing “frequency and intensity” of extreme rainfall events such as cloudbursts and shifts in existing monsoon precipitation patterns – coupled with rising temperatures — will impact river flows and hillslope hydrology, which is expected to lead to limit freshwater availability and trigger an increase in natural disasters such as flooding, landslides and avalanches.

- Climate change-induced floods will lead to loss of life, property, infrastructure, and livelihood means. Moreover, these floods have the potential to transport solid waste that is commonly dumped around rivers and streams which will further impact water quality, which is already at high contamination levels.

Alongside changing weather conditions, climate change is accompanied by an increased risk of natural disasters. In 2005, AJK suffered a disastrous and massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake, which killed over 86,000 people, injured 38,000 more, and rendered 3.5 million Kashmiris homeless,

making it one of the most destructive earthquakes in contemporary times. The earthquake triggered several thousand landslides, splitting mountains, disturbing and closing off fresh water sources, and burying entire villages. Many Kashmiri villagers sought refuge in urban areas such as Muzaffarabad, which continues to struggle to accommodate an everincreasing urban population. Ultimately, it is the most impoverished and vulnerable members of society that face the most severe consequences of climate change due to a lack of resources, financial means and access to innovative information and technology to cope with the changes in weather. In AJK, women and girls remain the most vulnerable population to the impacts of climate change, due to their lower socioeconomic status and domestic roles and responsibilities.

In the average Kashmiri household, women and girls are largely responsible for cropping and livestock farming, as well as the collection of water, wood, medicines and other forest resources to secure food and income for their families. In fact, the government of AJK’s Planning and Development Department estimates that women and girls typically spend 3-4 hours each day fulfilling these tasks.

The Department notes with concern that climate change is expected to increase the labour burden of women and girls as natural resources become scarcer and agricultural production becomes more difficult with changing weather patterns. Women and girls will feel the impacts of climate change disproportionately and will be at higher risk for falling into poverty as the ability to engage in traditional subsistence farming wanes. Climate change thus will have a negative impact on the health, well-being and quality of life of women and girls, as well as their families and local Kashmiri communities who depend upon their agricultural and resource-based activities.



In contrast to Balochistan and AJK, which host many rural communities, Rawalpindi is a large metropolitan area considered to be the fourth-largest city in Pakistan. Notably, Pakistan has the highest rate of urbanization in South Asia. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that nearly half of the country’s population will be living in urban cities by 2025. While economic opportunities are often the driving force behind internal migration, it is important to note that in recent years, many Pakistanis have left behind their rural villages to move to the city due to climate change, which is eliminating water sources and/or traditional means of livelihood.19

The United Nations notes how the “effects of urbanization and climate change are converging in dangerous ways.”20 Without proper sustainable urban planning, urbanization and climate change reinforce each other in a cycle whereby global warming increases the temperatures in urban areas and urbanization intensifies this process through heat islands, whilst creating air pollution that negatively affects the health of urban inhabitants - with many developing allergies and respiratory complaints from low air quality. Rawalpindi and many of the world’s greatest cities are built along rivers and coastlines which also make them more vulnerable when extreme weather events — such as cloudbursts — occur.

Rawalpindi’s climate is humid and subtropical – the seasons consist of long and hot summers, a monsoon, and short, milder winters with significant precipitation. 21 Indeed, the two greatest climate challenges currently facing Rawalpindi are heat waves and flooding, compounded with increasing water contamination issues.

Rawalpindi experiences some of the highest frequency and intensity of thunderstorms in Pakistan. Cloudbursts have been known to accompany these storms and beget treacherous effects on local inhabitants. Because cloudbursts release an enormous volume of water in an isolated area in a short time span, they have the potential to trigger flash flooding in cities that cause a massive amount of damage to infrastructure, homes, cars and even human life. Every year, around 400,000 residents of Rawalpindi are impacted by flash flooding in the city. 22 In addition to material impacts, residents may also experience health impacts from flash flooding as human waste is circulated and proliferated — due to a lack of adequate infrastructure and sewage disposal systems.

As global warming causes an increase in worldwide temperatures, the Indian subcontinent has endured several severe heat waves over the past decade. As of May 2022, Pakistan has already experienced a deadly and relentless heat wave, nearing 50 degrees celsius temperatures. In a groundbreaking UK Meteorological Office study, scientists attributed these heat

waves to climate change, stating that “climate change is driving the heat intensity of these spells making record-breaking temperatures 100 times more likely.”23

Because of its urban character and lack of vegetation, Rawalpindi not only contends with heat waves but also with urban heat islands, a phenomenon whereby heat is trapped in the city, making the temperatures significantly hotter than the surrounding rural areas. 24

Since women in Rawalpindi bear more responsibilities than men in terms of collecting water and fuel for cooking, they have increased exposure to the outdoor environment, which during flooding or heat waves, can put them at adverse risk for health issues. In fact, according to a 2018 study focused on changing climate patterns and women’s health in Rawalpindi, 84% of women reported facing health problems due to changing weather patterns and more female than male respondents cited health difficulties from rising air pollution levels. 25

Climate change has also had an impact on women’s earning potential in Rawalpindi as many women explained that during intense heat waves they are unable to leave their homes to earn a livelihood. For singleparent households where the widow is the primary breadwinner for her children, the ability to earn a living without environmental impediments is critical.


What We Heard

Throughout our discussions with women and community leaders in Pakistan, we heard about the various ways that global warming is impacting local populations, as well as the innovative solutions that are being implemented to adapt to climate change. The stories that were shared with us have been organized under the following themes:

• Seasonal Changes

• Deforestation

• Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters

• Water Access and Contamination Issues

“When I was young, as a child, there were four seasons. When I was a child, we used to play in the snow here throughout the many snowfalls. But now there is barely any snow. Right now, it is March – and we are supposed to be experiencing the coming of spring – but the weather has completely skipped over spring and went straight to summer. Because of these changes to the weather, we have experienced a massive loss of agriculture and horticulture, which is traditionally women’s responsibility. It is important that we act fast to save our crops and our fruits, which are disappearing. In the future, my dream would be to see more plantations and investments into agriculture to increase women’s incomes. I have no income but I want to educate my children – this is my dream but I don’t have the resources. My husband is very sick and unable to work. There are so many women who like me are in this position, forced to be the sole earner for their families. I want to meet the basic needs of my children and make them feel comfortable, but to do that we need to build more technologies and implement strategies to overcome climate change.”


Seasonal Changes

Many research participants cited changes in seasonal patterns and the disappearance of seasons as one of the most noticeable indicators of climate change.

“There is so much extreme weather now — everything has changed. It’s either summer or winter and that’s it.”

In a village outside of Bagh, AJK, we spoke to two sisters and business-owners about the changes they have witnessed. They told us:

“Thanks to Islamic Relief, we are able to run a successful clothing business in our father’s building — even making bridal clothes. Our business has provided us with a livelihood and independence … [However] we have noticed the impact of climate change in our community and even within our own business. The significant weather changes have caused an increase in demand for summer clothes – made of denim, cotton and linens – that are now

required much earlier in the year. The demand for summer fabrics used to begin around the month of May or June, but this year it was much earlier; the demand for summer clothes began in March! This past winter was also a lot more extreme. It was colder than usual with a lot more snow, and we completely sold out of all our winter fleece clothes quickly and early into the season.”

Speaking on a more personal level, the sisters went on to tell us about the adverse agricultural and economic effects of changes in seasonal patterns:

“We have also experienced impacts to our crop production due to climate change. We used to grow a lot of vegetables, but due to lack of rain, we have had low yields. Because many of our fruits are not producing, we actually have to go buy fruit now! This is because of the sudden weather and temperature changes, as the buds are falling off the trees prematurely, so the fruit doesn’t properly blossom. ”

Food Production and Livelihood Impacts

As highlighted in the sisters’ story above, increasing irregularity of seasonal patterns gravely impacts crop development and thus the ability to engage in affordable subsistence farming. Indeed, one of the most significant impacts of changing seasonal patterns, spoken about in detail by many of those we interviewed, is the shift in crop and livestock production.

“The Kashmiri apple was very famous around the world but now we are having difficulty producing them and we are actually having to import apples now. It’s unbelievable!”

“We are raising chickens in our homes but the hens are not laying as frequently. Myself and the other women in my community are not getting as many eggs as we used to.”

“Due to damaged territory and land scarcity, we don’t have lands to carry out agricultural activities anymore. Before we had land to earn a livelihood on; we were self-sufficient and could grow crops and so on, but now we have to rely on the market for our food and deal with high prices from increasing inflation.”

“Our livestock are not as healthy as before. They don’t have space to graze properly, and so they are not producing as much milk and are catching diseases more frequently. If we lose our livestock we will suffer a major loss of livelihood.”

With crop and food productivity declining due to temperature changes, seasonal changes and extreme weather phenomena, there is a direct economic harm being inflicted upon community members. What crops, fruits and vegetables community members could once grow in their own gardens are now having to be purchased from the market, resulting in an increased economic burden and lower nutritional value.

This economic burden is not equally shared by all, however. While entire communities are impacted by the inability to continue engaging in subsistence farming, it is women and girls who experience the greatest of these impacts. As noted in the Elder’s testimony above, livestock and agricultural activities — including the collection of water — is traditionally the responsibility of women and girls, with families relying on these activities to earn a livelihood and provide for their children. In AJK, where many men are working abroad or in urban cash economies, and families are women-headed, it is critical that agricultural activities are successful to ensure the wellbeing and dignity of families and communities.

This economic burden is not equally shared by all, however. While entire communities are impacted by the inability to continue engaging in subsistence farming, it is women and girls who experience the greatest of these impacts.

“I am a widowed mother to a child who is currently studying at university. I work in kitchen gardening (subsistence farming) but I often come to the more urban areas to try and get vocational training for more work.

Concerning the weather, there used to be four seasons that were predictable and timely, arriving at similar times every year. Now there are only two seasons: summer and winter. There’s no spring anymore — and because of this, the vegetables are being scorched early on due to the unexpected heat.

We used to grow green chilis, tomatoes, and ginger — but the roots become infested with worms because of the changes in rain. Flash heavy rains affect the germination process of our plants and overall fruit and vegetable production. We used to have an abundance of production before, but now we only

have a few kilos. We had flourishing peach and guava plants in our garden before, but now they don’t come to fruition.

I used to rear buffalo before and was selling the milk they produced, however, my buffalo died because of the increased heat. Even before my buffalo died, its milk production had significantly decreased due to the heat and harsh weather. Previously, when the weather was more predictable and we had a proper season, I used to get 6kg of milk. With the changing weather, I am only getting 2 kg. This is a phenomenon that many other women are experiencing as well.

Other impacts of climate change are heavy rain which ruined grass and it was wasted. Grass is also hard to purchase because it costs a lot — and when it’s not the rain, it’s the heat, with grass burning when it gets so hot.

Because of the unpredictable and harsh weather conditions leading to low agricultural production, women have been diverted from traditional farming to other sectors.

15-20 years ago we used to grow vegetables without fertilizers — we could both use these vegetables for our own kitchens and sell them to the public — but now we don’t even have enough to get by for ourselves.

The heat, drought, and outof-season heavy rain ruin our crops; our fruits are infected with insects and destroyed by the weather. We have no choice left but to go to the market and buy food. But the vegetables from the market are full of chemicals - they have a bad impact on our children’s health and nutrition. We can’t even fulfill our own needs anymore.”



Health Impacts

As the Kashmiri mother from Patikka describes, the decline in food production and subsistence farming has not only taken a financial and environmental toll but also impacts health and nutrition. Throughout the research process, women continually raised concerns about the declining health of themselves, their families, and especially their children.

“Before, we ate organic food that we grew ourselves, but now we don’t have organic food and this impacts our health. We now have many diseases. For example, we have more cases of diabetes, our blood pressure is higher - this is something common today but before this was not the case.”

“When people used to eat home-grown food, there were less medical problems.” “Because of the difficulties with the weather,

many people have begun to use chemical fertilizers on their crops.

But the fertilizers affect nutrition because they make the crops mature immediately and they do not have the same nutritional value.”

“Life has totally changed nowadays - we used to live in a different world, where people raised livestock and grew lentils and vegetables all the time. We grew organic food that was highly nutritious. The risk of disease then was very low. Now the abrupt changes in weather causes devastating impacts upon our children.”

“Many of us these days have weak bones because of our lack of proper nutrition. We also have more skin issues and hormonal imbalances because we can’t have good diets.”

In collaboration with community members and the AJK Agricultural Department, Islamic Relief experts have developed several fruit orchards as part of the GAP program. At the beginning of the project a needs assessment was conducted, after which, a plan species was chosen to develop based on what fruit would survive and provide the highest yield, prioritizing indigenous species.

In this instance, apples were selected. As a result of this careful selection process and planning — because of their ability to grow in a temperate environment with significant sunlight for photosynthesis — the orchard has had a 100% germination rate.

Currently, this orchard is growing 100 apple trees. The Agricultural Department is engaging in technical training with an emphasis on women, and Islamic Relief has created orchard toolkits and training to give to rights-holders. To make the most of a limited space, Islamic Relief is encouraging rights-holders to engage in multi-cropping in order to provide grazing space for livestock and further greenery to counterbalance emissions. Likewise, Islamic Relief is meeting with the community to discuss best practices for storage and preservation of the fruit so that they can take full advantage of the yield. Some of these methods include how to preserve fruit, how to dry fruit, create pickles and jams, etc.

Because this project has been so successful in the community, other community members are now replicating it themselves. As one rights-holder at this project remarked, “We are working hard [at this orchard] and should put forward our very best to protect the climate.”

Figure 1: Islamic Relief Program: Green Actions for Protecting Biodiversity (GAP) — Apple Orchards Figure 1 - GAP Project


Deforestation is the purposeful act of clearing forested land. During deforestation, trees and other vegetation are cut down to make way for human settlements and agricultural plantations, or to provide wood for fuel, fodder, manufacturing or even construction.

As a natural resource, forests play a significant role in the development and building of a country and they play an even more vital role as the very foundation of life on earth. As the World Wildlife Fund has noted, “[Forests] purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, prevent erosion, and act as an important buffer against climate change.”26 And yet, deforestation is increasing day by day in both Pakistan and AJK, which in turn is adversely affecting the environment and living things, as forests naturally regulate the atmosphere.

It is a well-known fact that forests and trees absorb and store carbon dioxide. Therefore, when forests are cleared, they release carbon dioxide and an array of other greenhouse gasses, damaging the environment in the process. Forest loss resulting from deforestation and natural disasters accounts for approximately 10% of global warming. 27

Much of deforestation in Pakistan is driven by poverty. When alternative fuels and other resources are lacking or too costly, human beings will naturally turn to wood and charcoal to be able to cook food and boil water. Many of the rural communities we spoke to cited the cost or unavailability of alternative fuels as the reason for which they were cutting wood. As one woman put it,

Since women are responsible for cooking, collecting wood and engaging in agricultural activities, they are often the ones driving the deforestation process — with no other option but to choose between feeding their families and protecting the environment. Women also turn to the forests as a source of livelihood. In AJK, women often harvest medicinal plants from the forests for their healing properties and sell them for income.

Figure 2: Combating Deforestation Through Livelihood Programs
“We have no choice but to use wood for fuel and heat since there are no sources of gas cylinders. We do not like doing this, we know it’s bad, but we are unable to save the trees because we have to save ourselves and our children first.”

As contributors to deforestation, women’s participation in the climate adaptation and mitigation strategies is critical. While tree planting programs to combat deforestation are much needed, they do not address one of the root causes of deforestation — poverty. Islamic Relief’s approach has been to deter women away from deforestation activities by lifting them out of poverty, providing women with skills training to be able to earn an income through entrepreneurial activities. This income will furthermore contribute to the economy whilst allowing women to invest in their children and their education. Moreover, Islamic Relief provides awareness-raising educational sessions on the ways in which human activities contribute to climate change. As part of these awareness campaigns, Islamic Relief has been training communities on the importance of using biogas production, as an alternative to wood. Ultimately, this holistic approach to combating deforestation empowers women, educates communities on the environmental impacts of their activities, provides social protection and reduces pressure on the forests.

In 2022, the United Nations Development Programme noted that there remains less than five percent forest cover in Pakistan’s total land. A further 1.5% of forests are lost every year. 28

Deforestation has a direct impact on rural to urban migration and the expansion of cities. Driven by the hope of economic opportunities, many Pakistanis and Kashmiris have left their rural communities in search of a better life. Trees and forests surrounding existing cities are cut down to accommodate growing populations. In the process, however, cities lose greenspace for agricultural and livestock activities, temperatures increase, and the soil is no longer stable from decreasing forest cover. This results in frequent dust storms and increased pollution — amongst a host of other issues.

With proper systems in place and sustainable urban planning, these problems can be mitigated. However, deforestation and unchecked urbanization has many consequences. As one man in Muzaffarabad, AJK remarked,

In addition to contribution to global warming, deforestation is often linked to desertification, flooding, loss of animal life and plant biodiversity, increasing temperatures from decreasing forest cover and soil erosion.

Figure 2: Combating Deforestation Through Livelihood Programs
“We are eating up the mountains as human beings.”
“Islamic Relief provides awareness-raising educational sessions on the ways in which human activities contribute to climate change. As part of these awareness campaigns, Islamic Relief has been training communities on the importance of using biogas production, as an alternative to wood.”

Soil Erosion

In the context of deforestation, soil erosion cannot go ignored. The loss of trees and plant cover stemming from deforestation leaves the soil more prone to wind erosion, which then lifts the fertile topsoil from large masses of land. This poses significant risks to the environment and human settlements in the area.

As trees are cut down and lands lose their plantlife, the soil transforms from moist and fertile to dry, thus beginning a cycle of

soil loss and lower productivity. Since trees, bushes and plants anchor the soil with their roots and break wind velocity, deforestation occurs, the land is exposed and becomes more vulnerable to winds and water damage. Without trees to anchor the soil and absorb water, excess rain can easily push exposed soil down a mountainside. In a state of constant erosion and instability, the land loses its ability to soak up water, making flooding more common and facilitating landslides.

As one woman noted: “Since the earthquake, the soil has become drier, [leading to more landslides.] Landslides can be extremely dangerous in some areas.”

In any conversations on flooding and landslides in AJK, it is important to bear in mind that soil erosion from deforestation is a significant contributor to these disasters.

The GAP program is dedicated to treeplanting in order to combat deforestation and soil erosion.

After consulting with local experts and bioengineers, Islamic Relief made the strategic decision to plant robinia (kikr in Urdu) and pine trees over fifteen kilometers of land mass. While pine is a more long-term investment, taking ten to fifteen years to grow fully, the robinia will grow in one to two years. Both robinia and pine are indigenous to AJK. Robinia is an excellent species because while it does require sun, it does not require too much water – which is crucial in an area where the soil is dry and the water table is receding. Additionally, Robinia helps with land stabilization because of its deep root system which locks into the land and acts as an anchor, protecting against soil erosion. Furthermore, robinia flower buds provide pollination for bees, which then produce honey which can be a source of food and economic income.

Many women we spoke to in the communities impacted by the GAP project described how their families are now working on plantation sites and that they want to see more plantations expanded to increase women’s livelihoods and prevent climate change.

Figure 3: GAP Program — Plantations Figure 3: Islamic Relief GAP Program — Plantations

Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters

Pakistan has been ranked the fifth most affected country in the world due to extreme weather events in recent decades. Throughout our research, participants highlighted experiences with the following extreme weather hazards and natural disasters: cloudbursts, flash flooding, landslides, earthquakes, drought and heat waves.


Landslides are one of the most destructive climate phenomena — with the aftereffects compared to that of floods, hurricanes and tsunamis. Landslides can be triggered by a variety of factors including soil erosion, heavy rains, earthquakes, and thunder in mountainous regions. While it is difficult to predict landslides, they often occur when heavy rains saturate the soil in a short period of time. Although landslides typically incur less damage to property than floods, they have been known to cause far more casualties.

“Landslides happen a lot more now because of rain puddling up in the cracks of the street – the rain fills up in the cracks and then begins to slide, taking the whole street and adjoining areas with them.”

Within our research scope, landslides were an issue raised by residents of AJK. One woman we interviewed spoke of the loss she experienced from a landslide:

“Another huge problem is landslides. While many in our community lost their homes to the 2005 earthquake, before this disaster, there was a landslide here. It wasn’t a big event but it totally wiped out my house. In my opinion, I see landslides happening because of deforestation.”

Throughout the research process in AJK, many participants expressed anxiety around the topic of landslides. Fearful of her children’s future, one woman in Patikka shared the following:

“Here [in Patikka], I am not so nervous about landslides, but near Muzaffarabad, there are so many landslides. Even on the way to Muzzaffarbad, there are landslides and it makes it really hard for transportation – people get stuck. It’s risky to travel during rainy seasons, you never know what is going to happen…. I do have fears for my children for the future - but Inshallah [God willing] I will try to contribute my efforts to raise them to be good human beings and protect this climate so they will not have as many challenges.”

Gabion walls are retaining walls made from wire mesh filled with local stone or quarry to retain the walls. The purpose of such walls is to control landsliding, soil erosion, and scouring during high velocity flows of water. Gabion walls are costeffective, durable, easy to construct and easy to repair if damaged.

In the mountains outside of Bagh, AJK, Islamic Relief has constructed gabion walls as part of the GAP project. This gabion wall pictured is protecting 10-15 households from sliding during unpredictable rainfalls. This gabion wall consists of two layers with sanatha bushes — a local indigenous species — planted above the walls to further anchor the soil with their strong roots.

Figure 4: Islamic Relief GAP Program — Gabion Walls Figure 4: GAP Program — Gabion Walls

Cloudbursts and Flash Flooding

Cloudbursts are sudden heavy downpours where a large amount of precipitation falls in a short amount of time. 29 Cloudbursts form when cooler and warmer water vapours interact and form a cloud that leads to heavy downpours. These cloudbursts cause destruction of agriculture and properties, and in extreme cases, may lead to flash floods or trigger landslides.

One villager noted the increase in cloudbursts and their effects on fruit trees:

“The seasons have changed so much over the past few years. During this time of year – in March – it used to be very cold. It used to snow a lot more but now it hasn’t even so much as rained. When the rain comes I know it will be very severe – more so than how it used to be. There are flowers on the branches [of the fruit trees], but they are budding earlier into the year now because it is not as cold. However, when the heavy rain comes they will be completely destroyed. These days, we often get many rain and hail storms that will also destroy these blossoms.”

Several women we interviewed shared their very emotional encounters with cloudbursts and the destruction they bring. Many of the women – especially those who had lost their homes – were in tears when describing the ways in which they have been impacted by these heavy rains. Since the women we

interviewed are vulnerable – in a lower socioeconomic bracket – they often lack the financial means to build sturdy homes. Their homes are usually made of mud, with tin roofs that have difficulty bracing the impact of cloudbursts.

“I am living in a mudhouse so my house gets very much impacted by the weather… there are often leaks in the roof and water comes into my home and floods the home.” “During heavy rains, our kids get infections — flu, cough, fever and chills.”

“A few days back there was heavy rain in which the walls of my house completely blew away… we don’t have solid houses and in such extreme weather conditions, our homes can’t stand. This event caused my blood pressure to spike and I’ve had severe anxiety the whole week.”

“I am living in a shelter right now and it’s not stable. We had really heavy rains a few days back and my shelter got totally destroyed. The shelter we live in has a tin roof, so when heavy rains come with their strong winds, my room was completely blown away - it just disappeared. My two year old grandchild, who I am the guardian of, was there sopping wet from the rains. It was horrible. And now the building is completely damaged. I never thought of climate change this deeply before as a concept, but truly climate change is a calamity. I consider climate change a total disaster.”

In addition to cloudbursts, AJK has been known to experience flash flooding as a result of rapidly melting glaciers and increased velocity and volumes of water currents caused by deforestation. As temperatures continue to rise earlier into the year, they accelerate the snow and ice melting of glaciers, which has the potential to cause flooding as well as landslides.

Check dams can be described as a ‘speed breaker’ in so far as they reduce the velocity of water rushing down the mountains and help reduce the water pressure as flows enter villages.

As cloudbursts become more frequent, they cause massive downpours of precipitation in short periods of time, which can lead to flash flooding down the sides of the mountainous regions of AJK. These cloudbursts are especially present during monsoon season, when the highest impacts of flash floods are felt. During these times, water comes rushing down the mountain with a high velocity that can easily wipe out entire villages. The check dams are able to immediately reduce the velocity of the running water and protect the villages from the worst impacts of these flash floods.

Before this check dam was built, four homes and a mosque were destroyed in this area. Now, however, this dam has already survived one flood (2022) and saved 20-25 homes in the process. Islamic Relief has also planted 150 sanatha plants (indigenous to AJK) here as well to anchor the soil.

Figure 5: Islamic Relief GAP Program — Check Dams
Figure 5: Islamic Relief GAP Program — Check Dams

“I am living in a shelter right now and it’s not stable. We had really heavy rains a few days back and my shelter got totally destroyed. The shelter we live in has a tin roof, so when heavy rains come with their strong winds, my room was completely blown away - it just disappeared. My two year old grandchild, who I am the guardian of, was there sopping wet from the rains. It was horrible. And now the building is completely damaged. I never thought of climate change this deeply before as a concept, but truly climate change is a calamity. I consider climate change a total disaster.”


Balochistan is known for experiencing various bouts of drought. However, in the past decade, climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of these droughts. The most recent droughts over the past decade have decimated the socioeconomic conditions of the inhabitants of Balochistan, where agriculture and livestock are the main source of livelihood. While Quetta – the provincial capital of Balochistan – used to be agriculturally rich with fruit and vegetable production, in the last two decades, Quetta and the surrounding area’s environmental conditions have plummeted due to extreme weather phenomena like droughts and other natural disasters.

“When I was a child we received a lot of rain and there weren’t that many diseases. Rain helped with agricultural cultivation. We had a good livelihood thanks to agriculture and were able to provide for our families. The kids always had clothes for Eid [a Muslim religious festival.]”

“During childhood, we used to have so many more trees and there was an abundance of animals as well that we could tie to our trees. There was more greenery on the land where our animals could graze. Water used to fill up from the rainwater that we got naturally. As we grew older, we know the weather changed because there aren’t as many trees now and it is incredibly drier. It used to be cold before, but it’s not

as cold now. It used to get hot in April, but now we are feeling the heat start earlier in March because it didn’t rain, which means it became hot earlier versus how nice and cool it used to be.”

Currently, Balochistan is facing a severe water shortage, with groundwater levels receding at an alarming pace. These water shortages have impacted agricultural production. While women were working closely with men in agricultural activities, their work in many cases has been halted by the failure of crops to yield production, which also has an impact on livestock raising.

In the absence of these income-generating activities, malnutrition has become prevalent in the province – mostly among women and children.

“The drought means we can’t help our kids. Illnesses have also spiked in our communities. We have to deal with influenza, high fever, and dry coughs because of the dry weather. ”

As livelihood opportunities disappear due to drought conditions, the very existence of these communities is under threat. It is for this reason that many residents have made the difficult decision to leave their homes, resulting in a large population of internally displaced people and migrants moving to urban centers. Referencing Islamic Relief’s water pond infrastructure (See Figure 8), one woman remarked, “So many people left because there wasn’t enough water. I hope that people will return to the community now that there is an available water source.”

“We want to plant more trees but trees require water and there’s not even enough water for the community members themselves. We can’t handle it.”

“There used to be so much more water we could walk in it, but now with drought, water levels have gone down drastically.”
“Even kitchen gardening is tough in this area because there is no water for the plants.”
“The drought means we can’t help our kids. Illnesses have also spiked in our communities. We have to deal with influenza, high fever, and dry coughs because of the dry weather. ”

Drought Cont’d

Inhabitants of Balochistan have long depended on traditional agriculture practices, which can no longer sustain their livelihoods in the face of changing climatic conditions and natural disasters. Working alongside experts, Islamic Relief has developed drip irrigation systems with the goal of using the minimum amount of water for maximum impact. This is a strategy often employed in drought areas where water tables are low. The purpose is to conserve water whilst providing innovative solutions to farming in waterscarce regions.

Quetta is the third-worst drought-affected area in Balochistan. Here, Islamic Relief’s drip irrigation system is using water from 700 feet below ground. The water that is stored in the tank flows through a pipe to a fertilizer tank and from there it pipes the water to the plant roots. This is an extremely calculated system, as the pipes have very small holes where each plant root is located so that water is able to “drip” out slowly from the hole to the plant root; each hole on the pipe matches the exact spot of each seed. Through these drip irrigation systems,

Balochi farmers are able to cultivate tomatoes, cucumbers, lentils and okra. As one farmer remarked,

“We have a very big problem with water and this drip irrigation system is a blessing to conserve our water and keep our livelihoods.”
Figure 6: Islamic Relief Transformation and Adaptation against Climate Variability Affected-Areas Program (TACVA) — Drip Irrigation System

Extreme Heat

As global warming increases, so do temperatures around the globe. The Indian subcontinent has experienced several deadly heat waves over the past decade, with temperatures spiking in recent years. These increasing temperatures and severe heat waves take a toll on many –especially women — whose health and livelihoods are impacted.

Due to the frequent heat domes that hover over urban environments, residents of Rawalpindi have been forced to contend with nearly unlivable temperatures, resulting in difficulty for all in the city.

Heat waves severely impair not only health but also livelihood opportunities – which are crucial for widowed mothers in order to provide for their families. Faced with illness, poverty, and discomfort from the heat, many women throughout Pakistan and AJK expressed an upsurge in their anxiety and stress levels during heat waves.

“Abrupt changes in seasons and these drastic changes in weather cause diseases in our children and illnesses that bring flu, fever and chills. It can be very hard as mothers to raise children in this kind of environment. I am running a beauty parlour, but because of the extreme temperatures and the illnesses my kids contract, it’s hard to give 100% to my business skills.”

“There are a lot of health impacts from climate change - our children are falling very ill from such sudden and extreme changes in the weather. If the greenery were to increase, this would lead to a better climate, and better weather, and we will feel a lot more mentally at ease.”

In Rawalpindi, many mothers shared that they were incredibly stressed out about the ongoing heat waves and feared for what the future would bring if the temperatures continue to rise. They also noted that they have a more difficult time parenting as the heat develops, as children tend to have poor behaviour during heat waves.

While everyone is impacted by extreme heat, the women we spoke to told us that their mental health was suffering enormously from having to balance parenting and working in unbearable conditions. As one mother noted, “Climate change’s impacts are worse on us [single, widowed mothers] because we bear so many more responsibilities.”

“As women, we are responsible for raising our children, and when it is so hot our kid’s behaviour’s change. They have behavioural issues from the heat.”
“Our kids get sick and our kids nag at us a lot when they are overheated.”
“When it is cooler, the kids’ minds cool down.”

On Heat Waves - What We Heard

“During heat waves we all have breathing issues and allergies are rampant.”

“Before there were no fans anywhere. We didn’t need fans in the summer because it wasn’t hot like it is today.”

“Because the rain isn’t coming, we are feeling the heat a lot earlier into the year.”

“The weather is so hot and dry.”

“The temperatures are hotter because we don’t have any trees. I think we should plant trees to combat this.”

“The heat keeps increasing – it feels like a punishment from God.”

“There is no air conditioning, how are we supposed to survive and make a living?”

“Our health is at risk when it is so hot.”

“For business it is difficult. There is no air conditioning, the heat is unbearable, you can’t go out of your house to sell – it is really difficult. There are also fewer customers to sell your products to because no one wants to leave the house and go out into even greater heat.”

“When there are heat waves, they really take a toll on us. Women can’t go outside of our homes for earning because it is too hot and the government doesn’t work on this. This is a big problem for single mothers especially.”

Water Access and Contamination Issues

Throughout the duration of the research process, participants continually emphasized the challenges their communities face in accessing water sources — let alone clean drinking water. Pakistan is in the middle of a nationwide water crisis, moving away from a “water stressed” country classification closer to a “water scarce” classification as freshwater resources continue to deplete. 30

Rapid Urbanization and Water Contamination

As climate change pushes people away from their villages and into the cities, urban areas must contend with the impacts of rapid — and often unplanned — urbanization. Rapid urbanization poses an even greater threat to the limited freshwater resources that remain, as access to water becomes increasingly difficult and contamination becomes the norm. While clean drinking water accessibility was an issue that was raised in rural areas throughout the research process, it was the subject that dominated conversations in urban contexts.

Urban environments face even greater water challenges as cities expand informally at a rapid pace, without proper systems and infrastructure plans to keep up with the rising population. In the absence of these essential systems (i.e. waste or sewage), the existing water resources are contaminated and increasingly depleted.


Rawalpindi is the fourth-largest city in Pakistan, with a population that continues to rise as Pakistanis migrate to the city in search of better economic opportunities.

During their time in Rawalpindi, our researchers asked questions on the subject of climate change and migration. A number of the women in one focus group were themselves migrants, who previously had no income and who had been impacted by changing weather patterns in AJK, and decided to move to Rawalpindi for greater earning potential and livelihood opportunities. As one woman noted,

“Previously I would have told you that people are not moving here because of climate change. It was purely due to job relocation or seeking new employment opportunities, etc.

However, now, climate change is definitely a factor in people making the decision to come to the city.”

As more and more people migrate to Rawalpindi due to climate change and economic factors, the environmental standards of the city — especially the availability of clean drinking water — are declining.

“Rawalpindi is an unplanned urban slum. People migrated from all over the country for a better chance here, but the result is that the sewage is mixed with the drinking water. We need to have clean drinking water. There’s only one stream we can depend on in Rawalpindi but it is dirty water from Islamabad and a lot of people live there along the stream and make it even worse.”

During a discussion with a women’s selfhelp group in Rawalpindi, the women in the room spoke passionately about water contamination and scarcity in the city. There were many moments in the conversation when all the women were speaking at the same time — even over one another — as they struggled to articulate how dire the water situation is in the city.

“It’s only about 10% of the population here that has access to clean drinking water due to philanthropists. We simply don’t have the right systems to access water.”



While the Neelum River is the main water source for many in AJK, with increasing urbanization, it has also become a large source of solid and human waste. As climate change has an impact on agricultural activities, many have migrated to the city for better economic opportunities. Unfortunately alongside population increases, human activities have depleted existing water resources and polluted the river.

“Before the river water was cold but now it has warmed up due to garbage and pollution. This is a big concern as all pipelines — including sewage — are flowing to and from the river.”

“Because so many people have moved to the city, the stream water is now polluted with garbage and waste and is no longer clean.”

“There is so much human waste and no proper planning.”

“My family is very cautious about our hygiene because we don’t want to contract the water-borne illnesses that are prevalent around here. But there is no way to fully escape them.”

In Muzaffarabad, one young woman in her twenties had the following to say,

“Waste is not being properly disposed of – especially diapers. Before, women were using cloth but today they are using single-use diapers and not disposing of them properly. We should care about this destruction and start to dispose of our garbage and waste properly. This is leading to an increase in diseases. Physical water-borne diseases are already really prevalent. We might have even more diseases in the future because of water contamination. I am also worried about water scarcity in the future. But since young people are being educated, I am hopeful that we can contribute now and find strategies for adaptation.”

the area was more than 90% contaminated and even then, accessibility of this water was a major issue. Now, it is 100% clean and available for collection during the mornings and evenings throughout the week. While females were responsible for collecting water before the construction of the plant, now it is all members of society (men, women and children) who access the water resource the plant provides.

Islamic Relief has been on the ground addressing the water crisis by constructing water filtration plants in key areas that have been impacted by contamination.

This particular filtration plant inside the city of Bagh, AJK has been able to serve over 100 households, two hospitals, two schools and a college with approximately 500 students. When Islamic Relief first constructed the filtration plant, the water in

The technical functioning of the filtration plant is as follows: Firstly, water is piped in from the streams of Bagh, where UV lighting kills bacteria and is filtered through tap systems where locals are able to access water and fill up their containers. Islamic Relief works closely with the local community to train filtration plant operators in order to build capacity and promote a sense of ownership over the project. Before the project, residents of Bagh were falling ill from water-borne illnesses that often accompanied the arrival of monsoon seasons, but now these illnesses have become less prevalent.

This project is also an economic benefit for many as people are able to save money because they do not have to buy water, which has been increasing in price due to scarcity and rapid urbanization.

Figure 7: Islamic Relief Water Filtration Plants Figure 7: Water Filtration Plants

Water Scarcity

From Balochistan to AJK to Rawalpindi, the women we interviewed expressed deep concern that their communities were facing increasing water scarcity. While the situation in Balochistan is undoubtedly urgent, water scarcity is nonetheless impacting the whole of Pakistan, having a negative impact on economic livelihoods and physical health and wellbeing.

At the Islamic Relief Water Pond outside Aghbarg Union Council in Balochistan (See Figure 8), Islamic Relief researchers spoke with a woman who had just finished doing laundry, with a wheelbarrow full of clothes. Her reflections on the water situation were as follows:

“Before the drought, there was plenty of water – we used to be able to walk in it. But now, because of the drought, water levels have gone drastically down. Before Islamic Relief built the water pond, life had become very difficult for us. We couldn’t wash our clothes… how can people wash clothes when there isn’t enough water for the whole community? There’s a massive shortage in available water. This is also important because without water, we have issues with electricity. The water pond is a gift from God. There was a lot of physical pain before as well from fetching water, but now all of that has improved.”

While there has long existed a water pond within Aghbarg, near Quetta, Balochistan, the pre-existing water pond did not have any walls protecting the water, so when it filled with water, by morning there was about a 35-40% water loss due to evaporation. Ever since Islamic Relief constructed a new water pond, the water containment has been far more successful. The current water pond is approximately 5 feet deep and can store 60-62 thousand gallons of water. The water pond provides water for the local population, which can be used for cooking, farming, and laundry, among other things. In fact, the water pond is currently supporting a nearby 10 acre farm that is growing wheat, onions and vegetables. In total, there are 25 direct beneficiaries of the water pond and on any given day around 10-12 women come to the pond to access the water.

In Balochistan, the impact of drought, climate variability and water scarcity is immense on farmers and local communities. However, it is particularly hard on women, who are traditionally responsible for fetching water for the household and must travel increasingly long distances. It is for this reason that Islamic Relief has put women at the center of programming in Balochistan. The Balochi women we spoke to describe the pain and exhaustion themselves and their daughters are facing, as they struggle to access water resources:

Figure 8: Islamic Relief Water Pond Figure 8: Islamic Relief Water Pond

Water Scarcity Cont’d

“Our girls get tired of fetching water. Our women and girls’ shoulders are in pain from carrying water.”

“Women fetch water all day and our kids run after us. If we go to a tubewell to fetch water and there’s no electricity, then it’s too dark and we have to come back empty-handed.”

“Even the areas that still have water take a long time to access. We travel by foot to access water — about one and half hours — but we usually bring a heavy wheelbarrow because it can become challenging to carry large quantities of water for this lengthy amount of time.”

Likewise, in AJK water scarcity is a critical issue. After the 2005 earthquake, water sources were disturbed all over AJK, with some communities being cut off from water entirely as their natural springs were decimated. To make matters worse, the water table has been gradually receding across the territory. For this reason, many Kashmiris have made the difficult decision to migrate. For example, in the high mountains, livestock is the primary source of income but with limited water, many are forced to move south for better opportunities.

However, as mentioned above, the water situation in cities is also precarious as increasing urbanization has led to water shortages and contamination.

“I am a grandmother and guardian of my grandchild while also helping to take care of my husband who is in his 70s. When I was a child, the weather was much colder in the month of March, but it is no longer the case. It is not like this anymore, I think, because of deforestation and urbanization. This is also the reason for water scarcity as well - before there were many springs to fetch water from but now there is a

pipeline. As a result, the river is drying up more and more day by day and our lives are becoming more difficult.”

“I’m a widow. I have a few chickens and goats but I sold all my livestock because I couldn’t manage food or water for them –especially with disappearing greenspace and water as more people come to the city.”

As such, it is increasingly difficult for women and girls to fetch water for their households in AJK, as is the case in Balochistan. In Cheeran Village, we heard the following:

“Before the Islamic Relief water pipeline, our women and girls used to walk three to four hours to fetch water! But now the water pipeline is only 15 minutes away thank God.”



Throughout this report, we have heard from Pakistanis who have shared their testimonies about the chronic and acute crises they are facing as climate change wreaks havoc on their lands, livelihoods and physical wellbeing. The urgency of the climate crisis facing this region cannot be overemphasized, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (2021) reveals that glacier melting and freshwater depletion could entirely eliminate Pakistan’s freshwater supply by 2050. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund has also sounded the alarm, listing Pakistan as third in the world for countries facing acute water scarcity.

As we read throughout this report, the effects of climate change are threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions in Pakistan. At the heart of this crisis lie women and girls. often overlooked, but in reality are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis every day — whether through loss of agricultural livelihoods, increasing poverty, rising levels of food insecurity, or walking hours a day to collect water for their households.

As one political representative remarked, “Women are more serious about climate change because they shoulder more responsibility and are more impacted by climate change as opposed to men.”

Any investment to combat climate change must place women at the center.

Pakistan is not the only low-income societies to be impacted by climate change on a frightening scale. The Global South as a whole is suffering the consequences of global warming disproportionately due to the failures of industrialized nations to lower their emissions. As one of these industrialized nations, Canada and other member-states of the Global North have a duty act now to respond to the existential crisis facing Pakistan.

In addition to reducing domestic emissions, Canada must invest in programming that takes a holistic approach to combating the effects of global warming. As highlighted throughout this report, in order to truly tackle the climate crisis in a sustainable manner, investments must be made into programming that is developed by experts, owned within and by the community, while promoting socioeconomic development. Climate change will not be addressed through environmental schemes alone (i.e. reforestation). Many women we spoke to emphasized that while they are extremely worried about global warming’s future impacts on their children, their acute needs and struggle for survival in the present are taking precedence over their desire to protect the environment. In order to

create lasting and sustainable solutions, programs must prioritize those most impacted by climate change (i.e. women and girls) through an approach that adapts to environmental changes whilst addressing the economic drivers that are accelerating ecological degradation.

Islamic Relief has been at the forefront of developing this integrative and innovative programming, working with the most vulnerable communities to create livelihood opportunities that sustain and motivate the adoption and replication of these climateadaptive solutions.

While addressing the climate crisis may seem like a daunting task, the women who are experiencing the brunt of climate change’s impacts continue to hold onto hope that with the right investments, innovation and resources, they can overcome.

“Climate change is bad but we are not losing hope.”
“I am hopeful that [the next generation of young people] can contribute now and find strategies for adaptation for a better future.”


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29 World Weather Attribution. Climate change likely increased extreme monsoon rainfall, flooding highly vulnerable communities in Pakistan. (2022, September 14.)


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