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Climate change and Pakistan

Pakistan is ranked eighth on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change according to the Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index. We are placed in a group of countries that encounter extreme weather events each year, not those that are in the bottom 10 because of exceptional catastrophes.

Pakistan was one of five nations most affected by events related to climate change in 2014. We are indeed in an awful situation. Our policymakers need to take appropriate measures to mitigate these effects. But they seem to slumber on while the sufferings of the people owing to climate change increase day by day.

Generally people here have no idea what climate change is. They think of natural disasters as divine punishment.

Pakistan has been one of the major victims of natural calamities in the world. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey, more than 3,000 people were killed and $16 billion loss incurred due to the floods of 2010, 2011, and 2012. Bridges were swept away by the water, infrastructure was damaged and people were displaced from their homes and villages. Communication channels were lost with many areas. In 2014, floods in Punjab and AJK destroyed thousands of developmental projects costing the government billions of rupees.

The capricious rain patterns and freakish weather are also harming our agriculture. Farmers are mostly ambivalent about which crop to grow in order to avoid high losses. Earthquakes have become a norm in most parts of the country. More than 1,200 people lost their lives on account of the heatwave in Karachi last year. Flash floods in Chitral and drought in Thar cost us many more lives. With each passing year our glaciers are shrinking at a faster rate, making the flow of rivers more unpredictable downstream.

Pakistan’s miseries due to climate change surpass its contribution towards global emission of greenhouse gases. But this doesn’t mean we point a finger at others for our losses. Pakistan should draw advantage from the Green Climate Fund, created by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010 for reducing emission of greenhouse gases in developing countries and helping them set up climate-resilient projects.

We also need to evoke the spirit of self-help. If the indigenous production of greenhouse gases in Pakistan is reduced that can help reduce our afflictions to some extent. But instead of turning to renewable energy resources like sunlight, wind, geothermal heat etc the government has expedited work on coal power projects and nuclear power plants.

The Thar power plant, Arifwala power station, Jhang (RLNG based) power project, Balloki power plant, Chasnupp (I, II, III), Kanupp (I, II, III) are some examples from the list of power projects which are eco-unfriendly. Pakistan has the potential to generate 90,000MW of electricity from wind energy and sunlight and more than 60,000MW from hydro energy. Being exposed to climate change related calamities we should have turned our focus to such environment-friendly resources of energy to meet our growing demand. But, unfortunately, that isn’t happening.

Taking eco-friendly initiatives is also very necessary. In this regard, projects like the billion tree tsunami in the entire country will help a lot.  Campaigns like ‘Save the forests’ should be launched. Planting trees on both sides of the roads and thoroughfares will add thousands of more plants to the existing ones. As a result, more carbon dioxide will be consumed and higher production of oxygen will take place.

Facilities like the metro-bus service and mass transit trains in major cities of the country will promote use of public transport. That way the use of private vehicles will be reduced which is good for both financial and environmental reasons. Why not also promote cycling that is both a healthy exercise and a means of transport? Barring transport services in some cities, the government has done very little in the above areas – and very little is on the cards.

Indifference towards climate change adds to many other areas where we are failing our coming generations. The extent to which the adopted national climate change policy has been implemented is appalling. Very little has been done to address the climate change challenges as per the facts on the ground. Although climate change has been included in the ‘budget in brief’ now, according to the UNDP’s Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review 2015, the climate change budget was underutilised in Pakistan.

It’s heartening that our government took up a national climate change policy four years ago but now it needs to be implemented in full letter and spirit with an appropriate part of budget earmarked.

Email: SirajShawa@gmail.com

Siraj Shawa, "Climate change and Pakistan," The News. 2016-11-03.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Environmental issues , Climate change , Global warming , Coal power , Environment , Heatwave , Agriculture , Pakistan , Chitral , Jhang , RLNG , UNFCCC