“No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” (Barack Obama, 2015)
over past years, the uncertain and unpredictable climate changes have evolved from an environmental issue to serious human security and development challenges. Environmental challenges are inextricably linked with Sustainable development. Pakistan is facing multiple climate-induced challenges. Prominent among these are rising average temperature, untimely monsoon showers, flash floods, long and deadly droughts, burning wildfires, bleaching coral reefs, scarcity of water, rising sea level and scorching heat waves. The catastrophes have been obscuring the ways of sustainable development that is also detrimental for an already sagging economy. The paper aims to scrutinize the impingements of climate changes in Pakistan; examine the repercussions on sustainable development and country’s economy and discuss measures to mitigate this colossal threat in making.
Environment and Sustainable Development: An Inextricable Bond
After terrorism, environmental issues and climate changes is the second biggest non- conventional threat to human survival on this earth. Kurt Vonnegut writes, “Make war not on terrorism but on ignorance, on sickness and on environmental degradation.” Man, resources, environment, and development all factors are interdependent. The negligence of any one element would cause imbalance in the whole life support system.
Sustainable development became a prominent part of world affairs after the publication of the World commission on environment and development (WCED) report, “our common future.” It defines it as, “Sustainable Developments is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Subsequently, Agenda 21 (1992); Its extension, the implementation program Agenda 21 (1997); Millennium Development Goal (2005) and the Johannesburg plan (2005) are some fundamental developments to achieve goals of sustainable development in future.
Therefore, sustainable development is confronting wide-range challenges including political and economic but the most detrimental is rampant climate changes that intensify these constraints.
Economic Interests and Environmental Degradation
Current trends of unsustainable consumptions, extractions and production patterns are looming threat to environmental degradation. Being an agrarian economy, 60% of the population depends on the agriculture sector and 90 % of water resources are utilized for irrigation purposes. Therefore, in Punjab extraction of groundwater is also increasing. On the other side, unsustainable urbanization has been a surging demand for fresh water, food, and shelter. Thus, untimely, and repeated cultivation before the right time, deteriorates land fertility. To settle populations in urban areas, clear land required that ultimately became the reason for deforestation. However, this deforestation is heading towards destruction of ecosystem and life support. “Economic growth should not be at the cost of environmental degradation.” As, sometimes it elucidates in terms of Environmental Kuznets curve” (An inverted U-shaped curve indicates the relationship of environmental degradation and economic growth. It shows that initially the environment gets worse with the increase of income to a certain point; as income goes up, after that, environmental conditions improve.) (See Fig:1)
Thus, the development at the stake of environmental negligence is not a sagacious development strategy. Rather, mitigation and prevention are a cost effective and long-term solution.
Climate Change: Implications for Pakistan
Ironically, despite having 0.8% contribution in global carbon emission, Pakistan is rated as the world’s 6th climate vulnerable country. The driving forces behind rampant climate changes in Pakistan are wide range. Prominent among these are burgeoning population, rampant urbanization, Unsustainable consumption, extraction and production patterns of natural assets, domino effect of deforestation, industrialization, and misuse of other natural resources.
In result, the country had faced extreme events including the deadly droughts during 1999 -2003; many hydro-disasters due to untimely monsoon; floods of 2010,2011 and 2012. These floods took thousands of lives and displaced millions of peoples. Therefore, the country had faced economic losses of $US 15 billion in result of these floods, the scorching heat waves took more than 12,00 lives in Karachi (Nov,2016), Two fierce cyclones in Karachi and Gwadar (2018). In April ,2018 the highest temperature recorded globally was 50.4 degree Celsius, in Nawabshah, Sindh.
Pakistan is the world’s sixth biggest country with the population of 212.2 million people (2017 census). The growing population coupled with robust urbanization are putting pressure over resources. Rampant urbanization required more clear land. For that purpose, the rate of deforestation has been increasing day by day. In Lahore, industries near DHA-5 and DHA-6 had been established by clearing green zones. If you travel a few kilometers from DHA-6 you will find lush green areas that have been demolished to add more DHA- sectors and support urbanization.
Trees and forests are the vital sources of improving air quality, removing air pollutants, and balancing carbon concentration. They act as defenders to control dust storms, improvise the land fertility, and reduce the process of erosion. Unfortunately, statistics indicate a rapid decline of forest resources. Prominently besides, the dramatic loss of riverine and mangrove forest, the coniferous forests are diminishing at the rate of 40,000 hectares annually. Therefore, the highest rate of deforestation has been seen in Gilgit Baltistan and KPK.
Consequently, the deforestation and changing climate patterns act as a catalyst to extinct unique flora and fauna, reduce green zones, deteriorate land fertility, and has become an imminent threat to the ecosystem.
Industrialization is a major setback for the environment. It contributes to increasing carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons’ (CFC’s) level in air. These toxic gases are damaging the ozone layer and increasing global average temperature. It is projected that by the end of 2050, annual temperature of Pakistan will increase dramatically from 1.0 °C to 2.5°C, in terms of climate sensitivity and from 2.0 °C to 3.0°C, in terms of carbon-intensity. Thus, the growing industrial sector is deteriorating urban air quality. Resultantly, health issues are increasing, and air quality is decreasing in industrial areas and mega cities like Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad.
Being an agrarian economy, the socio-economic progress of the state significantly depends upon the performance of the agriculture sector. Multi-functional agriculture sector contributes 21%-24% to GDP. Therefore, raw material for the industrial sector comes from agriculture as well. Water is a major source to run both sectors. According to an International Monetary Fund report (IMF), “Pakistan is the third water-scarce country in the world.” “The united Nations declared Pakistan as water scarce country in 2017.” Moreover, ground water level is declining in Punjab by increasing the number of tube wells to perform agriculture activities. Therefore, ten million residents of Cholistan migrated owing to food shortage and water scarcity. However, Baluchistan’s government has declared “water Emergency” in Quetta to mitigate people’s woes. Water is a critical natural asset. All living beings are depending on it. Besides this, the food production and export industry of fisheries also relies upon water availability.
The above discussed facts reveal that the impact of climate change is a potential threat to the country’s development and economy. It is high time to chalk out ways to mitigate this colossal threat in making. The two main goals of sustainable development are poverty alleviation and protection of the environment. In the above context, the four major areas need to be worked on. First, speedy response to developmental activities, if successfully implemented, will reduce the broad-range human security and other community issues. Second, improve ability to manage climate risks. Third, ameliorate storage capacity to respond effectively to climate threats through building more reservoirs e.g. Kalabagh Dam, Munda Dam, Diamer Bhasha Dam and Akhori. Fourth, to avail climate change given opportunities. Opt for clean energy alternatives and safe natural resources. The exigency of time suggests a paradigm shift from polluted-technology to clean and carbon-free technology. For instance, to use the technology of biofuel. Such pragmatic measures will safeguard the future of coming generations and will ensure developmental progress and economic gains without compromising the environment. These climate changes are anthropogenic. These are caused by us and the solution must come from us. Rightly said by Buckminster Fuller, “The only way to predict the future is to design it.”
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Author: Lubna Altaf
About Author: Author is MSc IR & is interested in defense studies, current issues, all topics related to International relations and environmental sciences.
Edited By: #SnakeHunter (Editor PSF)
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Pakistan Strategic Forum.