Time to save Pakistan from desertification, droughts: Sherry

Zubair Qureshi

By 2025, droughts may affect estimated three-quarters of the world’s population and Pakistan will certainly be in its crosshairs. These views were expressed by Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman in connection with a the World Desertification and Drought.

She observed that for the last two years, Pakistan has been amongst the top 23 countries facing a major drought emergency.

Desertification is a global phenomenon caused by environmental and climatic factors and human activities but has left Pakistan scarred by its multiple impacts, including environmental degradation, loss of soil fertility, loss of biodiversity, and reduction in land productivity, which has exacerbated and amplified the vulnerability of fragile local communities,” said Minister Sherry Rehman.

Droughts aren’t some new phenomenon that we aren’t familiar with, they have always been a part of nature and human experience, however, with massive deforestation, and anthropogenic activities a noticeable change in climate conditions have accelerated the fallout, she said adding in Pakistan we see water stress and dry rivers all over the country due to prolonged heat waves and delayed rains, poor distribution of water. This worsens especially because the country is predominantly arid. In addition, Pakistan’s per capita water availability has dropped from 5060 cubic meters per annum in 1951 to only 908 cubic meters now. UNDP states that Pakistan will dry up by 2025 if no urgent action is taken today.

Sherry Rehman was of the view that Pakistan’s livestock was critically affected by the rising heat and lack of water in already water-stressed areas of Sindh and South Punjab.

The challenge is a big one. Pakistan has embarked on its Green Initiative programme set to plant 3.29 billion plants over an area of One million hectares. Currently, we have achieved the target of 1.5 billion plants, which has resulted in 250,000 green jobs in rural areas that continue to experience droughts and desertification. In Sindh, the Indus Delta, lifeline of many living near coastal areas, is depleting at an alarming rate. According to a US-Pakistan Centre report at the Mehran University, the Indus Delta has shrunk by a massive 92% from 13000 square km in 1833 to only 1000 sq km now.

The new ambitious “Living Indus” initiative spearheaded by the UN and MOCC is currently underway and is working towards restoring the health of the Indus Basin. Pakistan has also launched an Ecosystem Restoration Initiative under the theme of “Nature-Based Solutions” to tackle critical issues like desertification, loss of fertility, and droughts.”


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