In this day and age, every Pakistani citizen is complaining about the heat and cold spells during the summer and winter seasons respectively. Over time, these complaints are spotting a surge. No doubt, it is the fruit of climate change that is detrimental to human beings, animals, plants, and whatnot. Apart from these drastically changing weather conditions, one can easily witness the unfamiliarity of a major part of the population about climate change. Speaking about the facts, in recent years the Government of Pakistan has taken it up as a matter of public importance and emergency.
Pakistan has been placed as the 5th most climate change-affected country in Global Climate Risk Index. Hereunder, the hazardous impacts of climate change have been addressed. A report published by Asian Development Bank in 2021 illustrated that there are 3% chances of heat waves occurrence anywhere in Pakistan. Whereas in 2015, heatwaves struck Karachi for the very first time in history, which has now become a new normal. In 2021, Jacobabad – a city in Sindh – set the world’s highest temperature record at 52 degrees Celsius. Some extremes have also been witnessed in other major cities of Pakistan. It has been reported in Asian Development Bank Report that the overall surge in temperature of Pakistan is significantly above the world’s overall temperature increase.
The below mentioned map indicates that there are 50% chances of wildfire eruption anywhere in Pakistan.
Another major influence of climate change is flooding in urban areas. The numerals show that between 1950 and 2010, twelve major floods have ravaged the country. According to Asian Development Bank Report, around 8,887 fatalities were reported in this period. Financial losses were up to $19 billion (in 2010 dollars).
After ten years in 2020, a report was shared by ECHO (European Commission for Humanitarian Aid Operations), according to which Pakistan was hit by monsoon rains and urban flooding which resulted in 409 deaths, 402 injured citizens, and 305,151 fully or partially destroyed homes.
Likewise, glacial lake outburst flooding in Northern Areas is increasing day by day. On the night of 13th July 2021 in Salkha, Neelum Valley a cloudburst was occurred, which destroyed almost 20 houses, injured 2 residents and a major number of the local population is still unknown. The same cloud burst has been watched in the E-11 sector of the capital city.
As a matter of paramount importance, climate change in Pakistan would result in a wide gap between gender rights allocation. Women would be highly subject to inequality, higher emotional and psychological stress, and extreme workload. In modest words, climate change affects women and men in different ways and at different paces. Pakistan cannot take risks to enhance any kind of gender inequality at this crucial time.
Global Climate Risk Index by Germanwatch ranked Pakistan the 5th most affected country by climate change. This means it is essential to strengthening our Environmental laws, legal framework, and implementation of environmental rules and regulations to their full extent.
Currently, Pakistan is following Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 along with sixteen Rules and six Regulations made under the parent legislation. Unfortunately, the law itself and its by-laws were drafted almost 24 years ago. There are hardly one-two rules which have been legislated in the near past. Otherwise, Pakistan is stick to the two decades-old environmental standards. ‘National Environmental Quality Standards for Ambient Air, Drinking Water Quality and Noise Pollution 2010’ clearly stated in a proviso that for drinking water WHO fixed standards must be adhered to despite of Asian country’s standards. Regrettably, no effort in this regard has been made.
In the same manner, Section. 7 of PEPA 1997 has empowered Pak-EPA to constitute a National Environmental Coordination Committee for federal and inter-provincial coordination on the subject matter. However, after 24 years EPA failed to exercise this power let alone its other functions.
The above discussion does not imply that Pakistan is lagging behind in environmental protection. Ministry of Climate Change recently launched the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme, which received appreciation and applause from all across the world. Despite these exertions, a comprehension is required that Pak-EPA and all four environmental protection departments need to sit together, in order to lower the effects of our past actions and to generate coherence in future strategies. Climate change does not have boundaries. We all shall suffer together if we keep trying to deal with it single-handedly. PEPA 1997 demands revision. The same goes for the National Environmental Quality Standards. Pak-EPA along with provincial environmental departments should long for environmental protection with the lens of economic loss which Pakistan will most likely face in near future, its consequence on the agriculture sector, food insecurity, and loss of biodiversity. Asian Development Bank 2021 report estimated that Pakistan is facing a $3.8 billion economic loss due to climate change. Above all, achieving sustainable development amid the period of climate change and extreme poverty is a huge challenge. It can be jointly tackled via an integrated strategy.
Furthermore, International agreements which Pakistan has ratified must be included in the newly drafted laws or in the amended legislation. For instance, in the Paris Agreement women’s empowerment is a prerequisite to ensure environmental protection. In a nutshell, if Pak-EPA neglects to bring all the environmental departments to one table, it would be a clear-cut violation of the right to health, the rights of indigenous people, local communities, migrants, children, and especially women.
Zoya Chaudhary. Follow her on Twitter
The Author is working as a Young Parliamentary Fellow at National Assembly of Pakistan