Pakistan was ranked seventh on the 2017 Global Climate Change Risk Index for countries most vulnerable to climate change. Increasingly frequent and intensive floods, heat waves, and cyclonic activity, has resulted in substantial financial, material and human loss in the past few years. This is even more alarming, considering Pakistan was ranked at 135 among the Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emitting countries in the same index.
Already this summer, temperature have soared past the 43 degree mark in Karachi, while more than 60 people have become victim to the persistent heat wave. This brings back memories of the devastating and unprecedented heat wave that caused more than 1,200 deaths in Karachi, back in 2015.
Experts have projected that by 2050, the temperature will rise by two to three degrees centigrade due to the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG), which will, in turn, result in a 20 to 28 percent increase in the glacial melt around the globe. These factors, coupled with population growth and rising urbanization, will have a damaging effect on human life as we know it.
As the world population keeps on growing in its current unabated manner, it will lead to higher demand for food, and natural resources, while the level of pollution will also keep rising. This degradation of our planet will eventually result in an uneven distribution of resources among the masses, both at a local and global level.
According to the research conducted by the National Disaster Management Authority, the five major floods to have occurred in Pakistan between 2010 and 2014, directly resulted in a monetary loss of over 18 billion dollars, affected 38.12 million people and damaged around 3.45 million houses, along with 10.63 million acres of crops
Natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate, causing all kinds of natural disasters. Local environments are being destroyed by human expansion, while the use of pesticides and fertilisers are poisoning our food and water supplies. The burning of garbage and crops, as well as the smoke from factories leads to heavy smog, something that has affected Pakistan quite severely in the past few years.
According to research conducted by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the five major floods to have occurred in Pakistan between 2010 and 2014 directly resulted in monetary losses of over 18 billion dollars, affected 38.12 million people, and damaged around 3.45 million houses, along with 10.63 million acres of crops.
This is why it is imperative that Pakistan adapt to its changing climate and focus on environmentally sound technologies that will eventually help in achieving a sustainable development strategy. Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) is one of the most important steps towards identifying and assessing climate change adaptation challenges in Pakistan, in order for them to get their future priorities straight.
In order to mitigate the impact of climate change, the federal government has taken on a number of different initiatives, one of which is Green Pakistan. Under this program, 100 million trees will be planted across the country in five years. Even though the conservation of the environment is a job left to provincial governments, climate change is still a problem handled by the Federal government.
The Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan program has been implemented in various parts of the country under different directives. These include Revival of Forestry Resources, Revival of Wildlife Resources and Strengthening Zoological Survey of Pakistan. Additionally, projects like the development of reverse linkages with the MARMARA Research Centre in Turkey are likely to improve our capacity to predict disasters like floods and earthquakes. Turkey will also be providing enhanced support in seismic research and development.
During the financial year 2018-19, a number of measures have been planned to develop policies and procedures to curb the disastrous effects of climate change. These measures, according to the information available from official sources concerned, are as follows:
Transformation of existing environmental policies into practice by implementing a program-based approach and identifying gaps and issues, to formulate an action plan and fix any problems.
A realistic approach to managing the ecosystem will be employed, with special emphasis on important ecosystem segments like the protection of biodiversity, water conservation and soil erosion protection etc.
Due to acute water scarcity, waste water treatment is imperative for the continuous supply of water for agriculture. Despite having the potential and capacity to design and make sewage treatment plants locally, only a meagre portion of industrial waste water is being treated and reused
The Federal government, with the assistance of the provinces, is putting a special emphasis on the supply of drinkable water and sanitation services in Pakistan, as many households around the country currently lack access to both. Poor sanitation can lead to the spread of diseases and has a negative impact on the ecosystem, while clean water is a basic human right that everybody around the nation deserves.
Due to acute water scarcity in the country, wastewater treatment is imperative for the continuous supply of water for agriculture. Despite having the potential and capacity to design and make water/sewage treatment plants locally, only a meagre portion of industrial wastewater is being treated and reused. As a result, a Wastewater Treatment Program for recycling industrial effluents is set to be initiated in the country soon.
In a bid to increase the much needed forest cover and our natural resources, a strategy has been developed that will help restore our forests to their previous glory. It involves teaching locals the best ways to manage and conserve forest areas and wild lands around their homes. These residents will also be provided with various provisions, including access to alternate energy resources like Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) at affordable price.
Furthermore, as the shortage of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) leads to increase demand for cheaper gasoline, the government has been forced to ask automakers to develop vehicles with low carbon emissions. This new policy will hopefully enable the Federal government to keep a vigilant eye on car makers, while a vehicle certification policy is also being considered, which will ban any vehicles that cause excessive pollution on the roads.
Adaptation and mitigation are the two main strategies left when searching for a solution to climate change. Since Pakistan has already experienced the adverse effects of climate change over the years, it is essential it adapts quickly to the changing environment so as to ensure socio-economic growth in the future. As a result, the Ministry of Climate Change has initiated several programs that might help prepare the country. These include:
a)The effective implementation of the National Climate Change Policy and its Framework.
b) The signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement by the Federal Government.
c) The creation of the Pakistan Climate Change Council and Pakistan Climate Change Authority
d) The implementation of the Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) in the country as well as the production of an implementable Technology Action Plan (TAP) in line with the current policies.
e) The initiation of the United Nations environment program called “Strengthening Pakistan’s National Policy Frameworks to Facilitate Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Consumption and Production”.
f) The Preparation of Pakistan’s Second National Communication on Greenhouse Gases (GHG). Biennial Update Report (BUR) is an extensive report on National Communications which describes the status of GHG emissions and mitigation measures taken by the countries.
The writer is a Lahore-based freelance journalist, columnist and retired deputy controller (news) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Daily Times, June 5th 2018.