Climate change threatens Pakistan’s future
EVEN though Pakistan is not a major contributor to climate change globally, it is being devastated by climate change.
This is the conclusion that must be drawn due to the heat wave that has consumed northern India and Pakistan over the past three months and a review of the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) produced by Yale Centre for Environmental Law and Policy.
The Index ranks 180 countries on climate change performance, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality.
Overall, Pakistan ranked near the very bottom of the EPI at 176 out of the 180 countries.
Pakistan’s rankings on the three components of the EPI were: Ecosystem Vitality – 124. Environmental Health – 179.Climate Policy – 175.
These numbers in the abstract tell the story of a need for significant across-the-board improvement in environmental management and enhancement in Pakistan.
A more specific example of the need for that improvement is provided by the recent forest fire that burnt precious and ancient pine nut trees – some of which were more than 1500 years old.
Reports say that fire engulfed an area of 40 square kilometres in the world’s largest pine nut forest in the Sherani district of Balochistan province leaving three people dead and tens of thousands of trees destroyed.
Declared as a UNESCO heritage, the 26,000-hectare forest produces around 640,000 kilograms of pine nuts annually.
A complete evaluation of the economical, ecological and wildlife damages is yet to be done, but the initial estimated losses are in the billions.
This is a tragedy for Pakistan which has poor forest coverage and a high deforestation rate. In a 2019 case, the Lahore High Court observed that deforestation in Pakistan was the highest in the world.
The major reasons that have been cited for the deforestation include: ? Land clearing for water reservoirs to supply water for agricultural purposes?
Urbanizations and roads constructions in Kohistan and northern areas? Industrialization and woodcutting for commercial and domestic uses.
Research shows that deforestation and climate change are interlinked. Carbon dioxide emission and temperatures rise as forests shrink.
Deforestation also causes flooding losses, erosion of fertile soil from upland watersheds and situation of water.
The recently issued Climate Attribution Study indicates that climate change contributed significantly to the heat wave that has consumed Pakistan and India.
Climate change has been causing floods as well as droughts in many parts of Pakistan for several years.
The combination of flood and drought coupled with unexpected rainfall disturbs natural agricultural harvesting and fruit production process.
This combination also causes the outbreak of tropical diseases like diarrhoea, dehydration and kidney issues, unnatural flourishing of e-coli bacteria, dense smog causing lungs and skins diseases etc.
It can also lead to “climate refugees” who are forced to leave their native areas because of the conditions there.
In sum, climate change spares no-one or no-thing. It affects the physical environment, human health, economic output and food security. Combating climate change demands a comprehensive response.
Pakistan has begun its work in this regard by focusing on the physical environment with its “Billion Tree Tsunami Project”.
The project was designed to lessen land degradation in the Hindu Kush Mountain range in an area of 348,400 hectare.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that the project achieved its restoration target.
And, in addition, it boosted local incomes, created thousands of green jobs and empowered the youth and women by establishing 13,000 private tree nurseries.
A research report on the project says: “This project has a great contribution in restoration of forests as 2% of deforested land area will be recovered.
After 40 years the new planted trees will contribute in controlling pollution locally and global warming.
Economically 120 million US dollars will be generated as revenue while the new planted trees will sequester 0.04 Gt CO2 as a climate benefit. ”
Pakistan is building upon the success of the “Billion Tree” with the follow-up project ‘Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme (TBTTP)’.
The TBTTP is already underway with 566.58 million saplings having been planted in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province by 30 April 2022.
TBTTP is a good step for preservation of atmospheric health, lowering cases of random floods, lowering rains and greenhouse gas effects as well as droughts but it is only a step.
It is a step on what must be a long and multifaceted journey. What is required, as I wrote three years ago, is a comprehensive and coordinated climate change master plan.
That plan should be a road-map for the journey. It should detail the necessary actions to be taken to ensure food security, water security, energy security and environmental security.
It should also protect human health and contribute to economic development of the nation and its citizens.
On 05 June 2021, Pakistan was the host to the World Environment Day sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Programme.
In advance of that day, Pakistan announced that it would be creating a National Adaptation Plan for Climate Change over the next two years.
That plan, in conjunction with the initiatives that are already in place, should serve as the basic building blocks for Pakistan’s climate change master plan.
The master plan will enable Pakistan and Pakistanis to see not only the forest and the trees but to look into the future and to construct an environment and nation that is healthier and better for all.
—The writer is an Entrepreneur, Civic Leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC.