ISLAMABAD: The International Development Association (IDA), the soft-loan window of the World Bank Group, will provide $188 million to modernise national meteorological and hydrological services in the country.
The project will help improve early warning systems and the level of planning and preparedness for and response to disasters. The five-year project involves modernisation of the observation infrastructure, data management and forecasting systems.
The total cost of the project has been estimated to be $210 million. The activities and investments under the project will be implemented through two federal entities.
The component focusing on hydro-meteorological and climate services will be implemented by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), while the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will be responsible for implementing the second component focusing on disaster risk management in the country.
Five-year project involves modernisation of the observation infrastructure, data management and forecasting systems
The relationship between the PMD and the NDMA will serve to demonstrate to other stakeholders across the hydromet value chain the benefits of working together to bridge the gap between producers and users of meteorological and hydrological services for the protection of lives and economic assets from hydromet hazards.
The project will establish new meteorological and other related structures across the country. The installation of radar has been planned for Chitral, which is home to the Kalash, the only indigenous people in Pakistan. The radar will most likely be installed within the premises of the local office of the PMD situated within the Chitral Airport.
Being one of the most climate-change vulnerable countries in the world and recurrently affected by catastrophes, Pakistan’s economy is under additional strain from prevailing and likely future threats by extreme weather and water events being exacerbated by climate change.
However, to maintain and build on its recent development gains, strengthening climate change adaptation and preparedness to natural hazards, improving the provision and access to weather, water and climate-related information is critical.
A World Bank document pertaining to the project emphasised that improved development and delivery of hydromet information services and early warnings can make important contributions to economic productivity while also enhancing community resilience to natural hazards.
Climate-resilient development requires stronger institutions and a higher level of observation, forecasting, and service delivery capacity; these could make a significant contribution to safety, security, and economic well-being, it says.
The PMD currently generates one to two days of weather forecasts, 3 to 5 days outlooks, and 24 hour hydrological forecasts. This is insufficient to meet the needs of stakeholders who require information for short-term operations including more actionable forecasts and warnings, and for medium- to long-term planning, particularly in the context of increased climate variability.
Hydromet information is required to better manage irrigation water distribution; provincial agriculture departments need monthly weather outlooks tailored to 19 agricultural zones. Wapda requires better hydrological forecasts to guide reservoir management and hydropower operations, and the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) requires improved river flow forecasts to inform inter-provincial water allocation.
The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority needs improved and more automated hydromet services, including forecasts, for flight operations. The ministry of national food security and research requires forecasts to develop agro-meteorological and water resources–related information services for its stakeholders.
A well-functioning PMD equipped with modern infrastructure, tools and technologies will be able to respond to these requirements.
In order to achieve this desired transformation, a new business model for PMD is required which focuses on end-user needs and recognises the private sector as a strategic partner. Recognising that cultural change in institutions is slow, the proposed project represents the first phase of a planned long-term engagement on hydromet modernisation.