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Pakistan vs the environment

Abdullah Gauhar Malik

AS we step into the months of April and May, the weather changes from blissful winds to the scorching heat and there is a sense of irritability all around. With every passing year, we set a record for having the highest temperature in more than a decade or often even a century. Such a record high temperature is proudly announced by news channel anchors sitting in air-conditioned rooms. We absorb news and get on with our daily life, never really understanding let alone questioning the underlying situation. Upon pondering on this matter for quite some time, a few “generic” questions arise in my mind. (i) Why is the temperature constantly rising? Degree by degree, year after year. (ii) Are we to blame ourselves for the constant rise and if so what actions are being taken on an individual level? (iii) Are any socio-political actions being taken and is the State implementing any holistic policies to curb the dangers? (iv)In any case, what does the future for this country look like?
According to a recent report published by the United Nations (UN), global temperature is moving towards a 3-5 degree Celsius rise by the turn of this century. These figures clearly show that the world is under an alarming threat and the future holds nothing but a countless number of catastrophes and disasters. Much like many other South Asian countries, the temperatures are drastically rising in Pakistan. Alongside the temperature rise, the country also faces an ever increasing number of floods, droughts, heat waves and many other natural disasters. This rise in statistics is however complemented by a rise in the number of cars, increased factories and the cutting down of forest after forest to cater to the needs of the ever-increasing population. Even the highly developed and much more aware countries of northern Europe are a part of the problem. Countries like Sweden and Denmark are self-proclaimed activists of climate change.
Most of these countries have moved many of their factories to other less regulated parts of the world including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Vietnam and many others. Other than exploiting workers in terms of poor workings conditions and low wages, these countries play a major role in the contamination of the natural environment of the respective countries. Polluting rivers by the dumping of toxic chemicals and the air by the release of tons of carbon dioxide and methane without realizing the cost and consequences of their actions. We must now understand the dynamics of this world. What we do in one part inevitably affects all other parts over the years which is why it is so important to stress over the fact that global warming and climate change is not restricted to any one country/region but as the name suggests is a global problem that must be addressed globally before it is too late.
Thinking on an individual level, our actions often feel too small to have a global impact and hence we don’t tend to improve them. This thinking leads to the development of even more problems. As the famous David Suzuki once said “In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops we can fill any bucket”. Essentially, this means that if every individual plays their respective part an effective global impact can be created. Our steps can be as small as changing our light bulbs to energy efficient light bulbs or closing the tap when brushing our teeth or even planting a few plants in our garden to bring about collective social change. More than anything it is the individual attitude that needs to change immediately and effectively if we are to see any future let alone a climate friendly one.
On many fronts the Pakistani government over the years has been almost unaware of the alarming situation. No evident geopolitical policies are in place and there are no reforms for a better tomorrow for the country. However in the recent past a few developments have taken place showing people signs of hope. CJ Mian Saqib Nisar’s Diamer-Bhasha Dam fund and PM Imran Khan’s billion tree tsunami are important steps towards a hopeful tomorrow. However the state needs to do a great deal more before the situation further escalates. Firstly and most importantly the government needs to urgently introduce pollution prevention laws and policies that effectively limit the amount of waste every factory may produce. The state must also improve the public transportation system to discourage the use of personal cars as much as possible number and moreover plant ten times the trees being cut. Moreover the government also needs to carry out several awareness campaigns so that a socio-political movement can be encouraged and an environmental-friendly future can become a reality.
If the world fails to bring about radical changes in its collective working drastic and dire increase in global temperatures is inevitable. According to a recent study conducted by NASA the future holds longer, more intense heat waves with them almost becoming a norm as already evident in the Sindh region of Pakistan. There is also an expected increase in the number of floods, storms and droughts. Today, the artic is warming at a rate almost twice the global average and its affects are already quite evident. Sea levels are rapidly rising and are expected to affect 15 million people in low-lying coastal areas of BD in near future. The extinction of animals has also become everyday news. The world is under threat and the situation only looks worse from here on. We must play our part as responsible citizens because we are if world is.
— The writer is a freelance columnist, based in Islamabad.