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Climate Change: Pakistan’s Most Terrifying Adversary

Environment and climate change are inextricably linked to sustainable development. Pakistan requires greater progress in environmental protection. Water scarcity is increasing, land productivity is decreasing, and climate change is worsening these threats. The risk of natural disasters, also exacerbated by climate change as well as economic shocks, adds to existing vulnerabilities.

Pakistan has persistently been among the top 10 most affected countries due to climate change and regrettably, its ranking has descended from number 5. A recent German Watch Report of the Long-term Global Climate Risk Index 2020, a global think-tank working on climate change, had rated Pakistan 8th most affected country due to adverse impacts of climate change.

The GCRI report notes that Pakistan has reported a loss of $3.772 billion as a result of 173 extreme weather events between 2000 and 2019. It also indicates a level of exposure and vulnerability to extreme events, such as storms, floods, and heat waves, which serves as a warning for countries to be prepared for more frequent and severe such events in the future.

Climate scientists say Pakistan is especially vulnerable to wild weather and other effects of climate change including sea intrusion, unusual rain patterns, glacial melting, rising temperatures, and drought. In 2018, the total rain recorded in Sindh province during monsoon season was just 1 millimeter (0.039 inches). But in 2019, it was 323 millimeters (12.7 inches), and so far this year we have seen rainfall totaling 450-500 millimeters. The Arabian Sea has also been heating up, with the average surface temperature increasing from 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 Fahrenheit) to 31 degrees in just two years. This has fueled the formation of storms that push the sea into coastal communities. The Indus River delta has been badly affected by sea intrusion that harms people’s livelihoods.

Pakistan’s government is addressing climate change with projects like tree planting, electric mobility, and campaigns to reduce emissions. One project in the remote northwestern frontier province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), aims to plant 1 billion trees.

Smog is another big problem in Pakistan’s industrial eastern Punjab province, where winters in the provincial capital, Lahore, are choked with smoke. Thousands of brick kilns contribute to the problem, and authorities say they are addressing the issue.There is no point in launching tree-planting drives and promoting coal simultaneously. We need to transfer completely to wind and solar but there have been problems with implementing initiatives.

Imported plants are being planted that could harm the environment, while no environmental impact assessment of these plants is being conducted. The government is planning river and seaside urban developments, which portend more environmental disasters.

In Punjab, they are restoring the biodiversity of the Ravi River’s basin and coming up with an anti-smog policy in the province, and promoting vertical development of cities, leaving more space for parks and plantations. Similar policies are also being implemented in KP.

Pakistan’s contribution to global warming and climate change is minimal. Rich countries, which contribute significantly more, have a greater responsibility to provide funds to countries like Pakistan so that we can fight climate change. It was also said by Prime Minister Imran Khan during a special ceremony last week on the occasion of World Environment Day 2021, Pakistan  hosted in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme. The prime minister stated that the world has realized Pakistan is one of the few countries that are worried about the coming generations. It is a fact that in the past, the world did not pay any significant attention to climate change. Humanity will have to suffer the consequences of ignoring the effects of climate change. 80pc of Pakistan’s rivers originate from glaciers which are being affected by global warming.

It is noteworthy that in the context of Pakistan, there has been accelerated citizen activism like the “Say No to Plastics” campaign. In the past three years, citizens and parliamentarians of Islamabad have gone to the Supreme Court against attempts by builders and the construction lobby to alter the master plan of Islamabad; against the cutting of trees to build high rises on green areas that would benefit the real estate lobby. In both instances, the Supreme Court upheld the citizens’ plea to preserve, protect and promote a clean and green environment in Pakistan’s Federal Capital, Islamabad, which is relatively younger at a little over 50 years, sprawling among the green hills that make it one of the most beautiful capitals of the world. The good thing is that the battle to combat climate change has now been taken up by not just the government but the people, civil society, parliamentarians, media, and concerned citizens, who have organized themselves for the cause in proactive groups like professional women volunteers who call themselves “Green Force” – lobbying on environmental issues. The citizen activism gives hope that this battle can and will be won in a country which is facing some of the gravest challenges to its future due to climate change.

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Naya Daur