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Scoping Long-Term Research Agenda for Climate Change Adaptation in the Indus Basin Through Local Embedded Capacities

Scoping Long-Term Research Agenda for Climate Change Adaptation in the Indus Basin Through Local Embedded Capacities

Program Locations: Pakistan
Project Duration: March 2011–March 2013
Project Lead: Fawad Khan, Senior Economist, ISET-Pakistan

Project Overview

This project, funded by a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), provided the government of Pakistan’s “Build Back Better” program with information applicable to creating a more resilient community in the Indus River Basin. The impacts of the 2010 Indus floods in Pakistan represented a fundamental challenge that crossed all aspects of life in the country. From livelihoods of rural populations to food supply to urban areas, the core gateway transport, communication, energy, health, water control, and institutional systems on which populations depend failed during the floods. The flood had immediate consequences for people across all levels of society in Pakistan, but the impact on the poor and marginal populations was direct and severe. While the government struggled to meet the basic survival needs of the affected population, other organizations, some of them militant, stepped in to fill the void. The impacts of flood, if unaddressed could further undermine not just Pakistan’s economic future but also its stability as a nation.

The 2010 floods in the Indus, recorded as the largest in history, force us to re-examine how Pakistan and its people manage and live with the river. Although widely devastating, such situations provide an opportunity to study and learn how extreme climate events affect people, and to generate knowledge on how to start learning to adapt to such events. A large part of this question is also to understand the factors that make people vulnerable to such events and then provide answers to how one could plan to rebuild in a way that those vulnerabilities are minimized. Knowledge generated on certain aspects of the cause and nature of differential impact on different population groups can be beneficial to one of the largest recovery effort in Pakistan’s history.

This research is impelled by ISET-International's innovative work on disaster risk reduction in the country for the past four years and more broadly on climate change and adaptation in South Asia.

The core objectives of the research are as follows:

  • To understand the impacts and issues in recovery and reconstruction through a rapid synthesis of various situational reports, real time evaluations, and other material (newspaper articles, etc.) post floods.

  • To map the relief effort in terms of key actors and institutions in post Indus floods (who is doing what, where, with what resources, and capacities).

  • To inform the government’s proposed Build Back Better program with knowledge generated through secondary data analysis of ISET-International’s work in the region and globally.

  • To understand what happened and why along a transect in the Indus Basin with key stakeholders facilitated by RSPN and other local organizations in Pakistan.

  • To help establish ISET-Pakistan as a formal link with ISET-International partners and facilitate strategic learning alliances and policy dialogues, particularly across trans-boundary rivers.        

Core Program Activities

Set up a physical office:

1. Hired and trained appropriate staff.

Initiated the process of registration of ISET-Pakistan with the security and exchange commission as a not-for-profit organization/NGO.

Put into place the basic infrastructure for communications, office operations, and logistics.

Built accounting and sub-contracting systems for managing local partners involved in nation-wide data collection and development planning.

2. Research and analysis:

Reviewed and analyzed situation reports that had already been undertaken by various agencies in the wake of the 2010 floods.


Started institutional mapping and assessment of the relief and reconstruction effort.


Compiled useful lessons for climate resilience building through prior and ongoing work under ISET-International projects in Pakistan and in the region.

3. Organized consultations and shared learning dialogues (SLDs) in four selected areas along the Indus River:


Documented climate risks and their social and security implications.


Began the process of building capacities of regional rural support programs to undertake a longer term adaptation research.

4. Established linkage with other organizations for partnership to develop a larger research program:


Organized discussions with the National Disaster Management Authority in Pakistan and its provincial counterparts.


Organized discussions with the Global Change Impacts Study Center (the main Pakistani organization working on climate change modeling).

Staff Involved

Funded by:

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