Written By: Abdul Basit Alvi
Climate Change has put adverse effects on the world specially Pakistan. As per Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is the 8th most vulnerable country to climate crisis despite its very low carbon footprint. Pakistan has emitted only 0.4% of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, since 1959, compared to 21.5% by the United States and 16.4% by China.
Even though Pakistan is responsible for the emission of less than 1% of the world’s global warming gases yet between 1952 and 2009, the temperatures in the country have risen by 0.3°C per decade which is higher than the global average. This gradual warming of temperatures caused the phenomenal heat waves in April and May this year with temperatures reaching above 40°C for prolonged periods in many places. In Pakistan’s case, it resulted in torrents and flash floods. The extreme heat also led to glacial melts in the country’s northern mountainous regions which are home to the greatest number of glaciers outside the polar zone, thereby increasing the amount of water cascading into tributaries that eventually flow into the rivers.
Recent Floods in Pakistan was a worst example of climate change as it took thousands of lives and destroyed infrastructure. Pakistan is at high risk from climate change and natural disasters. Events such as earthquakes, typhoons, flooding and drought have haunted the country for years, and regularly swept away the foundations on which the lives of hundreds of thousands of families were built. Long-lasting and heavy monsoon rains since June has claimed more than 1,700 lives in large parts of Pakistan. Landslides and flash floods swept away houses, roads and bridges. In many villages, people were cut off from all help. According to the government resources, which have declared a state of emergency, more than 33 million people have been affected by the floods. Millions of people had to leave their homes and are now homeless or living in emergency shelters. They have hardly any access to clean drinking water. Their crops have been destroyed, food is scarce, hunger is looming. The situation remains tense months after the disaster, with large parts of southern Pakistan still under water. Standing water is already a breeding ground for infectious diseases. Diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and malaria are spreading and endangering even more lives. The disaster after the disaster is looming. With rivers breaking their banks, flash flooding, and glacial lakes bursting, Pakistan is facing the worst floods of its history.
Pakistan is paying the cost of climate change and temperature rise while this situation has been produced collectively by the whole world. In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, the US president said “Families are facing impossible choices, choosing which child to feed, and wondering whether they will survive. This is the human cost of climate change. And it’s growing, not lessening,”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, while referring to Pakistan’s catastrophic floods, said that “humanity has declared war on nature and nature is striking back.” “It’s like nature has attacked the wrong targets. It should be those that are more responsible for climate change that should have to face this kind of challenge,” Guterres said.
He described Pakistan among the places most affected by the consequences of climate change.
And then we have another issue of water shortage. According to the recent report of the United Nations, there is a fear of water shortage in Pakistan in the near future. Due to factors like climate change, increasing temperature and rapid melting of glaciers, there is worldwide concern of water shortage situation. Developed and civilized countries have been implementing long-term plans to deal with these problems for a long time. Experts around the globe believe that the Number of dams and water storage reservoirs should be increased in order to cope with the issue of water shortage in future. Dams are also important for avoiding floods up to some extent. If we have reservoirs than the excessive water will go there in spite of damaging the land and taking precious lives. On the contrary, it’s so unfortunate that such an important project of the Kalabagh Dam has become a vow of politics, egotism, and obstinacy. No serious efforts have been made for national integration. In order to overcome the complaints of increased height of the dam the need was to find solutions such as reducing the height or increasing the depth. In other countries of the world, there are also legitimate complaints but those are addressed and resolved with logical and professional approach. They find appropriate and workable solutions by hiring the services of experts. The recently built Three Gorges Dams in China, Etaipo Dam in Brazil, Grand Coulee Dam in Washington are also among the wonders of dams where these dams were constructed after overcoming and resolving the issues of height and depth.
The options of all-party conferences for making common strategy and referendums to seek public opinion could have been used, which were not done. However, there is a need to find an immediate, workable and acceptable solution to the problem without wasting any more time.
Apart from major projects like Kala Bagh, more small projects like Bhasha Dam can be built to increase the water storage. Our friend countries like China can also help us in making small dams. Apart from the big projects, small dams can be constructed on rivers and canals, while viable rainwater harvesting projects can also be considered. As in developed countries, used and polluted water is re-treated and reused in addition to stored water. Storage by distillation of water from air humidity can also be researched. Seawater desalination projects can also be launched.
Readers, Climate Change and disasters effects civilians as well as armed forces. Apart from the direct impact on military infrastructure and operations, there are indirect strategic level effects of climate change. Climate-driven events cause water and food insecurity, increased energy demands and migration that increases the likelihood of conflict. This creates a rocky atmosphere for effective military operations and puts additional stress on military units if they are called for disaster management and post-conflict assistance.
In Pakistan, this dimension is precarious because of the recurrent and intense engagement of the military with disaster management. In any disaster like flood or earthquake the forces have to deploy their personnel and resources. The army played a key role during 2005 earthquake and the 2010 floods.
Pakistan is modernizing its military to meet its security needs, yet its vulnerability to climate change is also increasing. Due to its geography, Pakistan will continue to face climate-driven catastrophes therefore it is vital to build a climate resilient military, to adopt adaptive measures and practices in areas where military activities are vulnerable to climate change, and to engage with emerging technological solutions and international best practices for climate resilience.
Readers, This fact has to be understood that the development and self-sufficiency of future countries will be determined by self-dependence on water management and preparedness against climate change. Therefore, there is a need to take serious steps to deal with the threats and concerns in the near future. This is important not only to save our civilians but will help to reserve the energies and resources of our armed forces for other internal and external threats.
Written By: Abdul Basit Alvi