Islamabad, 3 September 2021 - The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of Sustainability, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) to develop sustainable habitat plans for disaster-prone valleys in northern Pakistan.
“In the last few years, Pakistan has faced the worst impact of climate-induced disasters of its history. Precious lives have been lost, millions of people have become homeless, and the country has suffered major economic losses. One of the accentuating causes is that people build on unsafe locations,” said Nawab Ali Khan, Chief Executive Officer, AKAH, Pakistan.
“AKAH believes that this major loss and human suffering can be significantly reduced by building in locations that are safer and that provide future growth opportunities. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the development of existing and future settlements is based on proper planning, that incorporates scientific and indigenous knowledge. The partnership agreement between NUST and AKAH will bring together the scientific and field-based knowledge, to develop context-specific and research driven solutions in order to create resilient communities in Pakistan.”
AKAH will collaborate with NUST to develop habitat plans for five valleys in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral that are vulnerable to climate change induced disasters. The partners will conduct socio-economic, cultural and environmental assessments and research to develop innovative contextual spatial plans with rigorous stakeholder participation. The habitats plans will provide a roadmap for all development partners and stakeholders to optimise resources and help build safe and resilient habitat where individuals, families and communities can thrive.
In his remarks Dr. Rizwan Riaz, Pro-Rector for Research, Innovation, and Commercialisation, NUST shared that “embedding core principles of sustainability is one of the strategic aims of NUST. We aim to align all of NUST’s core functions, i.e. Academics and Students’ engagement, Research and Innovation, Operations and Governance, and Stakeholders Management with the UN SDGs, thereby transforming NUST into an SDG-engaged, 4th generation university in Pakistan”.
For last the two decades, AKAH has been working in coastal and mountainous areas of Pakistan, to build safe and resilient communities, providing access to WASH facilities and offering services to build disaster and climate-resilient structures. Going forward, AKAH aims to design its interventions around habitat planning with a greater focus on safe structures, green building and initiatives to reduce carbon emission to contribute to Pakistan’s broader sustainable development and climate action goals.
About the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat: AKAH works to ensure that the places people live are as safe as possible from the effects of climate change and natural disasters while also helping them to be prepared to cope with and respond to disasters that do strike. Beyond safety, AKAH aims to ensure people have access to services and opportunities to improve their quality of life. Established in 2016, AKAH combines several agencies and programs of the AKDN that had been working on housing, habitat and disaster preparedness and relief since the 1990s in South and Central Asia, including Focus Humanitarian Assistance, the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, and the Disaster Risk Management Initiative.
About NUST: NUST has established “Office of Sustainability” as per international practices, to pledge the organization’s commitment to sustainability and establish institutional platform for effective collaboration with national, regional, and international stakeholders on sustainability initiatives. The mandate of Office of Sustainability is to adopt UN SDGs framework to align core functions of NUST with the global agenda 2030. The office outreaches to establish cross-sectoral national and international partnerships to develop indigenous solutions, through interdisciplinary research and innovation, to address the impending challenges faced in achieving the SDGs, to test and co-create innovative technologies developed in-house, and to ensure socio-economic impact of the research and innovation outcomes.
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Mehar Aftab Salma