‘Environmental disasters are increasing but people’s excesses just won’t stop’
KARACHI: We can’t stop cyclones and floods, but we can reduce their impact on vulnerable communities – only if some people living in urban areas flush their ‘devil may care’ attitude down the drain, instead of excessive amounts of water.
At a workshop organised on Saturday by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P), experts stressed that everybody will have to play their role to mitigate the impact of disasters ravaging parts of the country. The director-general of the federal ministry on environment, Jawed Ali Khan said, “Our problems are increasing but people continue to waste millions of gallons in toilets.” Over 600 million gallons are being wasted in Karachi, he added.
He said that most natural disasters in Pakistan were related to climate change. “The cost and frequency of disasters is going up. About 60 per cent of them have occurred in the last 10 years.” According to him, Sindh is bearing the brunt of most of the impact of climate change.
Zulfiqar Halepoto, who has studied Pakistan’s water channels, also gave a presentation on the impact of climate change. “There are a number of policies but an integrated response to natural disasters is lacking,” said Halepoto. “There is no linkage among ministries, including water and power, fisheries, agriculture and environment.”
Climate change has affected the coastal communities of Sindh badly but Halepoto felt that half of the problems could be resolved within a year. “There is a lack of political will,” he said. “Countries such as Thailand and Bangladesh have learnt a lot from natural disasters but we haven’t taken serious steps to face them.”
Another speaker, Urooj Saeed, said that the sea is eroding the coast along Kharo Chhan – in one month, a staggering nine feet had been eroded.
Research studies conducted under the Climate Change Adaptation in the Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP) highlight the changes vulnerable communities must adapt to within the next 10 years as the climate changes. They must become resilient and bear shorter winters, higher night-time temperature and a rise in sea levels. Fish stocks and crop yields could plummet, reducing net incomes and causing food insecurity.
This is associated with changes in water temperature that disrupt the growth of plankton and cause a domino effect all along the food chain. In fact, lower catches are already being reported by fishermen. Pakistan has lost $21 billion in the last 11 disasters and most of their impact has been on Sindh. “Climate change is a direct threat to food, energy and economic securities,” said Khan.
He said that because of this, the government had established a separate ministry on environment about a year ago. Khan then elaborated on the policy, saying that more infrastructures to store, conserve and reuse water were the needs of the hour. The use of WWF-P’s awareness campaigns, specialised trainings and early warning systems could also save lives and prevent the destruction of assets, such as boats and chicken coops.
Even famous singer Akhtar Chanal Zehri piped in and asked experts to save the country’s flora and fauna. “Wildlife is one of our assets but a lack of education has led to serious problems. Please protect them.” Meher Marker, Nosharwani and Kashif Salik also gave presentations on the impact of climate change in Sindh.