The warning signs that climate change could adversely affect Pakistan are becoming more obvious by the day. Frequent floods, changing monsoon patterns, less rains in some areas and heavy rains in other, droughts are some of the signs that have been there for the past few years. This year the advent of winter has brought a severe challenge in the form of smog in most cities of Punjab.
The twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad are also facing a barren spell with no rains for weeks and both the cities are covered in a thick haze. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey, more than 3,000 people were killed and a loss of $16 billion was incurred due to floods of 2010, 2011, and 2012. Bridges were swept away, infrastructure was damaged and people were displaced from their homes and villages.
Communication channels were lost in many areas and standing crops worth billions were wiped away. In 2014, floods in Punjab and Azad Kashmir destroyed thousands of developmental projects costing the government billions of rupees. More than 1,200 people lost their lives in Karachi heat wave in 2015. Flash floods in Chitral and drought in Thar cost many more lives.
Glaciers are shrinking faster than ever, making the flow of rivers more unpredictable downstream. But instead of turning to renewable energy resources like sunlight, wind, geo-thermal, the government has expedited work on coal power projects and nuclear power plants.
However, despite the fact that our country is categorized among the five most vulnerable due to climate change our policymakers seem in no hurry to chalk out a policy to counter the adverse affects of climate change. It may also be mentioned here that when it comes to contributing to global warming Pakistan has negligible contribution however it is regarded as a country that could be one of the most affected. And despite the fact that as a country we haven’t contributed to the threat of climate change we must take serious measures to counter the possible effects of this growing problem.
Federal Minister for Climate Change (MoCC) Zahid Hamid recently announced that Pakistan’s climate change bill was in its final stages and would be presented before parliament soon. The bill sounds a good step but we are already lagging behind, how the bill and Pakistan Climate Change Council that will be formed as a result of this bill will counter the threat of climate change is something that only time will tell.
The government as a whole and the Ministry of Climate Change in particular should take emergency measures regarding environmental issues and climate change. It is projected that climate change will put around 49 million more people in the Asia/Pacific region at risk of hunger by 2020. According to UNEP, by 2030, adaptation can cost developing countries $ 140 to $ 300 billion per year. The government should also work on raising awareness regarding climate change and environmental issues, for now awareness regarding climate change is non-existent and there is a tendency to associate natural calamities like floods and drought to divine punishment.
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