Pakistan is facing numerous socioeconomic challenges including poverty, terrorism, water scarcity, to name some. However, the most complex challenge likely to impact our current and future generations is climate change. The signs are already visible on our society, most prominent of which is the extreme flooding during recent years. The ever-increasing impacts of climate change have given rise to the need that the brilliant minds in Pakistan sit up and discuss ways to tackle this looming threat.
The climate change phenomenon is exhibiting unforeseen and asymmetrical weather patterns in Pakistan. As is evident from longer spells of heavy rains, withering floods and droughts in parallel, Pakistan is experiencing the worst effects of climate change. These wet and dry conditions present serious threats to agriculture, industry, water resources â€“ in fact, the country’s overall economic framework. As the climate has become warmer, these weather extremes have become more frequent and dangerous due to increase in extreme heat, scarce precipitation and drought.
The Asian Development Bank in its recent report, ‘Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia’ found: â€œClimate change will affect South Asia more than most other regions. South Asia’s weather is likely to become hotter than the global average, while monsoon rains and heavy storms will increase in most parts of the region. As well, the mountainous countries face increased flooding and landslides, while the coastal countries of the region are likely to be partly inundated by sea-level rise.â€
Effects on Pakistan
Pakistan is also hard hit by climate change. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2014 released by the German Watch Institute, Pakistan is ranked number three after Haiti and the Philippines as countries most affected by climate change. This should set off alarm bells for our government and it should take stringent measures for climate change mitigation.
Until some decades ago, the annual temperature ranges had normal variances. However, in the past few years, the annual temperature range has been growing, mostly owing to an increase in the maximum temperature that is recorded in the summer months. In 2010, across Sindh and in parts of Blochistan, the highest temperature was 50 to 52 degrees continuously for 10 days. It is worth mentioning that parts of Punjab, during 2010, also saw a heat wave with temperatures lasting for days around 48 to 50 degrees. This heat wave was followed by a massive flood caused by unexpected torrential rains, that brought with them loss of hundreds of lives, thousands of livestock, submerging of tens of millions of acres of fertile agricultural land, inundation of the most critical of power plants, besides causing a major law and order problem, with the army diverting its attention to rescue and relief.
Ignoring this issue has taken many lives and millions of people have been affected in the recent past, as climate change has flooded our plains again and again. Glacial melt is increasing and is also on an all-time high in Pakistan, which means that there is a strong probability of great floods in future. This is going to have deadly impacts. Hence, sensitising the unaware regarding climate change is much needed in Pakistan. We cannot ignore the fact that it is the matter of our survival.
How to Mitigate?
It is an undeniable fact that the Pakistani economy is highly dependent on agriculture and if certain measures are not taken, the country may confront genuine threats. To save agriculture, farmers are presently being prompted by experts to reconsider their harvest timetable and begin sowing cotton two months prior so that the product is harvested before the monsoon hits. Rice cultivators; again, ought to strive for deferred planting.
There is a need to bring in new mixed varieties of wheat, rice and sugarcane which can grow faster and survive storms and delayed drought. There is an agreement among experts that new dams can control and deal with the future surge of the currents of the rivers. Or else the nation will undoubtedly see a greater amount of such deluges and additional problems.
For the long haul, strategies need to be combined with the goal that individuals and domesticated animals are protected from the crushing impacts of natural calamities.
Role of Media
If we wish to sensitise people we need to sensitise the media first. It is the government’s responsibility to communicate these disastrous impacts using whatever means possible. Effectively portraying it will help in dealing with the issue and the government can push the media to do so by giving government ads to those groups and outlets that widely report on the environment. The media must play a greater role in communicating climate change impacts to the public.
More funds also need to be allocated for the Climate Change Division so that increases in carbon emissions could be curtailed. Unfortunately, this division has witnessed a huge reduction in funds having dropped down to Rs25 million in the 2014-15 budget with no specific allocation for climate change awareness through the media.
2014 floods are live a wakeup call for our rulers they have failed to understand the gravity of the situation. The issue is ignored and makes any reasonable individual question the government’s policies. Sufficient funds need to be allocated to create climate change awareness among the public so that vulnerable communities, especially those living along the coastal and northern areas of Pakistan, who stand on the frontline of climate change, take necessary steps to mitigate it.