Book Chapter: Monsoons, Hydropower, and Climate Justice in Pakistan’s River Communities


climatejustice_3d_coverAmid a somber mood for climate action in the near term, I am excited to share with you my book chapter, “Monsoons, Hydropower, and Climate Justice in Pakistan’s River Communities,” in the Environmental Law Institute’s Climate Justice: Case Studies in Global and Regional Governance Challenges, an edited volume by Randall Abate. My co-author, Mushtaq Bilal, has recently also published a book, Writing Pakistan: Conversations on Identity, Nationhood, and Fiction (HarperCollins India).  Our chapter looks at the rise of monsoon flooding in the region and how hydropower projects can incorporate and alleviate climate justice impacts in energy infrastructure planning and design.

Floods from torrential monsoon rains have become a regular phenomenon in Pakistan. During the past 10 years, the country witnessed massive flooding, with the 2010 floods being the most devastating. In order to comprehend the extent of losses caused by the 2010 floods, consider that the 20 million people affected by these floods were more than the entire populations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), the Kashmir earthquake (2005), Cyclone Nargis (2008), and the Haiti earthquake (2010) combined based on figures from the United Nations. At the time of the flood, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge. It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times.

The monsoon flooding has put Pakistan at the front lines of climate change. The country’s river communities, coastal areas, and mountainous regions are subject to the dramatic effects of climate change, including droughts, heat waves, sea-level rise, erosion, and flooding. Infrastructure stability, agricultural yield, water and energy supplies, air quality, forestry, ecosystem balance, and public health are at risk because of the deleterious impacts of climate change. These negative consequences of climate change will strike Pakistan first and hardest. Existing conditions of poverty, drought, energy crisis, conflict, and political instability will aggravate the ongoing and future perils of climate change.

Climate change activists throughout the world applauded the outcome in the 2015 Leghari case in Pakistan. In this landmark climate change lawsuit, Ashgar Leghari, a farmer in the Rahim Yar Khan District, in Pakistan’s South Punjab region, sued the national government for failure to adhere to the actions stated in the 2012 National Climate Policy and Framework.

More information about the book:

Climate change is one of the most complex political, social, and environmental issues of this century, and climate change adaptation has become an increasingly large focus of global efforts. The international community’s attention on adaptation has been primarily focused on developing countries’ needs, with consensus that the world’s most vulnerable communities—the urban and rural poor, low-lying island nations, and indigenous peoples—require additional protection. It was in response to this need for equity that “climate justice” emerged.

Climate justice can be defined generally as addressing the disproportionate burden of climate change impacts on poor and marginalized communities. It seeks to promote more equitable allocation of the burdens of these impacts at the local, national, and global levels through proactive regulatory initiatives and reactive judicial remedies that draw on international human rights and domestic environmental justice theories. Yet, efforts to define climate justice as a field of inquiry can be elusive and underinclusive because the concept is so vast in scope.

Climate Justice: Case Studies in Global and Regional Governance Challenges seeks to fill that void, providing an overview of the landscape of climate justice from a variety of legal and geographic perspectives in a case study format. Drawing on the expertise of 29 contributors from 16 countries, the book analyzes climate justice from an international law perspective and from the perspectives of legal responses to promote climate justice in several regions of the world, including Pacific island nations, South Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. It addresses proposed solutions to a range of regulatory obstacles under international law, U.S. law, and foreign domestic law in seeking to promote climate justice on a global scale.

About the Author

Randall S. Abate is Professor of Law at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law in Orlando, Florida. Professor Abate has published and presented widely on environmental law topics, with a recent emphasis on climate change law and justice. He is the editor of What Can Animal Law Learn From Environmental Law? (ELI Press 2015) and Climate Change Impacts on Ocean and Coastal Law: U.S. and International Perspectives (2015), and co-editor of Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies (2013).

Book Reviews

“The collection of case studies featured in Climate Justice covers an impressive range of territory and topics. Viewing climate change governance from international and regional perspectives, from North America to South Asia, Africa and the Middle East to Pacific island countries, the contributors carefully ground climate justice’s theory in real-world examples. Through them, a broadly defined concept like climate justice—one that seeks to identify and remedy the disproportionate burden of climate change impacts borne by those who contributed little to them—takes form. Whether viewed through the prism of procedural or substantive rights, international treaties or national laws, government regulation or private litigation, the practical lens consistently used by this group of scholars and practitioners hones our understanding of why and how climate change is a human rights issue. In addition, this book’s emphasis on adaptation fills a gap in the field and reflects the direction embodied in the Paris Agreement. It moves the reader to understand and redefine our climate legacy to future generations.”
—Tracy Bach, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School,
and founding Associate Director and Senior Research Fellow
of the Climate Legacy Initiative

“This book explores the extraordinary challenges climate change is posing to the planet’s environment.  It provides a rich snapshot of the innovative legal and policy responses climate change is spawning in every corner of the world. A diverse group of scholars explores why fairness to present and future generations should be the touchstone for crafting climate policy and avenues for pursuing this important goal.”
—Robert V. Percival, Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law & Director, Environmental Law Program,
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

“True to form, Prof. Randall Abate has again managed to provide us with a highly topical and comprehensively researched text on a critical issue: climate justice. The unique strengths, theoretical and practical relevance, and original added value of the text, lie in its being fashioned on a wide range of case studies that have been authored by a terrifically cosmopolitan collection of multi-disciplinary experts working in a wide range of professions and hailing from developed and developing country contexts. The book provides new insights to an exceptionally broad audience on the urgency of achieving climate justice across a wide range of sectors, ranging from international governance, regional governance, domestic scenarios, and very pertinently, the global judiciary. The book will no doubt become an important resource for, among others, students, scholars, practitioners, governments and non-governmental organisations in their efforts to achieve global climate justice.”
—Professor Louis J. Kotzé, Research Professor, North-West University, South Africa

“Climate change is the defining issue of humankind, involving and invoking a complex pastiche of science, fear, resignation, governance and human will. The question is whether, and if so how, justice can be done in adapting to the Anthropocene. Climate Justice: Case Studies in Global and Regional Governance Challenges elevates the climate change conversation above the stultifying echo-chamber of what to do into the realm of how international, national, regional and local legal regimes can help to level otherwise unbalanced outcomes. The book’s 24 chapters are a globe-trotting account of how to advance environmental justice, intergenerational equity, and human dignity in the wake of a planetary changes more often than not disproportionately afflicting the poor, urban, indigenous, disenfranchised and disempowered, from the Arctic to Kenya, from Kiribati to Amazonia, and from all of us to each of us. So hold your frequent flyer miles at bay, and enjoy this eye-popping account of what climate justice means to the intercontinental human condition that connects us all.”
—James R. May, Distinguished Professor of Law  & Chief Sustainability Officer, Widener University

“While climate change is often framed as a problem of science, of economics, and of politics, climate justice reminds us that it is law that is called upon for solutions. Professor Abate’s new edited volume on climate justice cuts new ground in centering justice as the core around which issues of finance, of governance, of participation, and of litigation strategy rotate (and sometimes flounder). Finally there is a resource which brings together perspectives, and detailed new case studies, from all corners of the globe to address an issue which respects few boundaries.”
— Natasha Affolder, Associate Dean Research and International, Peter A. Allard School of Law,
The University of British Columbia

“Climate Justice Case Studies in Global and Regional Governance Challenge is essential reading for policy makers, activists, and citizens interested in moving beyond the polarizing rhetoric on climate change and toward real solutions to protect present and future generations. The text addresses a remarkably diverse set of topics that collectively demonstrate the increasing complexity of addressing climate change and its impacts on some of the most vulnerable communities of the world. Topics include the physical impacts of climate change, energy infrastructure and financing, human rights, environmental justice, global policy initiatives and other emerging issues. Each chapter provides a thorough, insightful, and engaging examination of a key issue impacting climate justice throughout the world. Through evidence-based case studies and thoughtful analysis of existing law and policy the text provides a valuable roadmap for effectively responding to the many challenges of climate change.”
—Eric V. Hull, Professor of Law,  Florida Coastal School of Law

“The overarching message of the spectacular Climate Justice: Studies in Global and Regional Governance Challenges is:  the means are the ends in the making. That is to say, how we address the present and future, urgent threats of climate change will determine what our planet looks like and who will survive and thrive.  Professor Abate’s volume brings together a stellar array of scholars to address this most important ethical problem of our generation.”
—David Takacs, Professor,  University of California Hastings College of the Law

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Nadia Ahmad

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