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Climate Change & increase in Population in Pakistan – The Missing Link

The real paradox

While much is said about climate change and the accelerated increase in population in Pakistan, the link between the two is often overlooked

The real paradox
Pakistan’s population is expected to swell to 403 million in the next 31 years. — Photo by Rahat Dar

Juxtapose these statistics against these facts: Pakistan is the 7th most vulnerable country affected by climate change. The infamous Karachi heat wave of 2015 resulted in more than 1200 fatalities. The intensity and persistence of heat all over the country is continuing to grow. Nawabshah, Sindh, had a temperature peak recorded at 50.2 degrees Celsius in 2018, the highest temperature ever recorded globally in the month of April. According to the Inter Press Service report, Pakistan’s Battle Against Climate Change, “Pakistan has faced around 150 freak weather incidents as a result of climate change in the past 20 years: flash floods, smog in winter, forest fires in summer, melting glaciers, heat waves, landsides, displaced population, etc”. It further states the floods of 2010 affected 18 to 20 million people and flooded one-fifth of Pakistan’s land mass.

The cost of climate change is heavy on the already weak and struggling economy of the world’s 5th most populous nation. Yet, while much is written and said about climate change and the accelerated increase in population in Pakistan, the link between these two is often overlooked.

“Neglecting this link is missing the very essential point of why Pakistan is facing impacts of climate change,” says Dr Zeba SatharCountry Director of the Population Council in Pakistan. She adds that those with large households and those living in poverty are frequently those living on the margins that are affected, if not devastated, by extreme climate eventsShe adds that people with large households, as opposed to those living in poverty, are the ones that are frequently affected, if not devastated, by extreme climate events. “If you do not factor in who is vulnerable to climate change, how can you tackle issues like risk aversion and adaptation?”

“If the current population growth rate is not controlled, common sense says that the load on the current ecosystem will increase dramatically,” according to Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CEO of Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Pakistan. “What we need is a more responsible growth rate that can sustain the ecosystem. Ecosystems include health services. If they collapse, there will be a resulting increase in incidences of malnutrition and stunted children,” he says.

Sheikh shares that urbanisation is a key aspect in all of this. “Districts with less forestry, less agriculture, less vegetation and less water are the districts where poverty peaks, as does outward migration.”

Sheikh is also concerned about the rate of urban growth which is double of population growth rate. “Urban sprawling, irregular human settlements are connected to migration towards urban areas mostly from climate change-impacted areas.”

Dr Farid Midhet, a population and health expert, says: “Pakistan-specific population-related problem is migration from rural to urban areas. This results into squatter settlements without any civic facilities. Karachi’s 40 percent population lives in such areas, which have no facilities for drainage or waste disposal”.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has a semi-literate population and a largely lawless society, “which results in population overgrowth and environmental damage at the same time”. He believes that Pakistan is facing an environmental crisis, “which is probably going to worsen with time as population increase is completely unchecked”.

Dr John Bongaarts, vice president of the Populations Council, is of the opinion that given the urgency of the problem and the lack of political will, less conventional approaches to limit climate change should be given higher priority. “Addressing rapid population growth is one such policy that has thus far been ignored by the international climate community. The expected addition of several billion people to the planet by the end of this century will make it much more difficult to slow or halt climate change.” Bongaarts adds that studies show slower future population growth could reduce global emissions by an estimated 40 percent or more in the long term. “Over the next few decades, overall emissions from low income countries such as Pakistan are likely to rise rapidly because of a rise in emissions per capita from rapid industrialisation, as well as because of increasing population.”

Research by LEAD states that the geographical location and socio-economic fragility of developing countries makes them more vulnerable to the environmental, social and economic ramifications of climate change and the lack of resources and capabilities to adapt to the changes worsen the situation — people who live in poverty around the world, then, are hardest hit by climate change.

Thus, while developing countries like Pakistan are least responsible for the dramatic changes in global climate, our communities suffer the most.

“It is also a very political issue, and for developing countries, it also becomes an issue of justice,” says Dr Adil Najam, Dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. “My emissions, living affluently in the USA, driving 30 miles each way to work every day, surrounded by cheap oil and technological waste, are very different from the emissions of a poor Pakistani living in a remote village. Not only is the quantum of emissions different, but the type of emissions is different — the first are luxury emissions and the second are survival emissions.”

Najam feels that the poor will pay twice if their population growth remains high, “mostly because the rich — whether in rich countries or the rich within our own country — have been gluttons in usurping the resources the poor need for their survival.”

He feels that the lens through which countries like Pakistan have to view population growth is “adaptation”. “More people living in a changing climate will mean that more will need to adapt to the new Age of Adaptation. That will impose burdens of new costs on the country and, most importantly, on the poorest communities in the country. My general sense remains that we should focus on people and the well-being of people rather than on the numbers or growth rates of population.”

The answer, then, seems to lie in adaptation. Najam says that adaptation is about coping strategies — what we do to cope with heat waves or floods or melting glaciers or droughts. “Adaptation is best defined as the failure of mitigation. Mitigation is about reducing emissions. Adaptation is about developing resilience, and that is about development.”

Given that the poorest are also the most vulnerable to climate change, and that is also where the largest population growth tends to be, he feels that it is imperative to think of reducing population growth not as a strategy to reduce emissions, but as a strategy to enable people to have more development, to build the resilience that they will need to cope with the inevitable impacts of climate change. “More population will not only mean that more people will have to deal with these impacts; it also means that the meager resources will have to be shared between more people and that each poor person will have less to build their resilience on.”

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/real-paradox/?fbclid=IwAR0Mdls77E-i3YfDXCBGod86OmiWAamNKOAesy0JACBxjUz1dM9clY0qXeI#.XS2I5egzbIW

Waterways choked, Karachi on brink of floods with each rain

Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi faces the threat of floods each time it rains, due to rampant construction, pollution and encroachments blocking its natural ravines and storm-water drains

Akhtar_Colony_drain

In July this year, Pakistan’s teeming port city Karachi braced itself for disaster after the meteorological department forecast 50-60 mm of rain in a day. With the knowledge that even 20 mm could bring the city of 23 million people to a standstill, officials prepared themselves for a never-seen-before deluge.

“It was the first warning of its kind. The 2013 urban flooding taught us that we must be prepared this time,” said Ajay Kumar, assistant director operations, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), in Sindh.

Fortunately, the rains of the 2015 monsoon were less than expected and did not result in casualties and destruction of property and infrastructure as in 2013 when scores were killed in flash floods that paralysed one of the world’s most populated cities.

The crisis was averted this time but it could return with the next heavy rain, fear residents.

In 2013, Kumar recalled, storm-water drains (nallahs) in the country’s commercial capital had overflown following torrential rain, inundating areas like Saadi Town, Gadap Town and Amroha.

While rains are a blessing in other, better-planned cities like the capital Islamabad, in Karachi the story is different. The nuisance value overshadows the joy, owing to overflowing gutters and clogged natural ravines.

“An estimated 60% of Karachi’s population lives in informal settlements, with no access to sewers. People dump sewage into ravines that were for clean water, not for waste,” explained Roland de Souza, executive member of the group Shehri – Citizens For A Better Environment. “So when it rains in Karachi, it overflows.”

“It did not rain as much but at least the warning helped expedite the cleaning of the nallahs by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC),” added Kumar.

But that’s not really helpful, said architect and urban planner Arif Hasan. While it is a good idea to clean the drains, “it will not really help (check) the flooding if the drain water does not have a passage to go into the sea. Whenever the tide is high, the problem will return.”

Major road and housing projects have been built in Karachi, causing enormous damage to the environment. Mismanaged construction, pollution and encroachments have blocked Karachi’s water passages.

What will happen to a city of Karachi’s size and its choked up drainage system if there are torrential rains? The question remains unanswered.

In Karachi, human greed is destroying life, says ecologist Rafiul Haq. “We have built buildings on water bodies, started using strong detergents excessively and non-biodegradable plastic bags. All this clogs our drains.”

The vein-like network of Karachi’s natural ravines and manmade nallahs as well as the sewerage drains are a confused mess. At the time of Pakistan’s formation in 1947, Karachi had some 400,000 residents but the population exploded in following decades. Inefficient administration, uncontrolled reclamation of land for construction and pollution have resulted in the destruction of natural drainage.

Today, under the pressure of a population of 23 million plus, and a population density of 24,000 people per square kilometre, according to the World Population Review, both the water supply and drainage system of Karachi are less than satisfactory.

Rampant construction

“Rainwater in Karachi used to clear away within 10 minutes once upon a time. But then man came along, over-built, and confused the system,” said de Souza. He cites the example of Gora Qabristan, a graveyard for the Christian community, built on the city’s jugular Sharah-e-Faisal road. Over the last 68 years, the road has been raised by four feet. As a result, the cemetery becomes a pit full of water for days during the rainy season.

“A storm drainage map system is what we need. The building control authorities should check the drainage before approving any construction. A flood in a city is not a natural but a manmade disaster,” de Souza said.

Hasan explained, “There are three main outfalls of drainage to the sea from Karachi.” One of them, the Gizri Creek, has the upscale Phase 7 Defence Housing Authority (DHA), home to the city’s rich and powerful, built on it. “All that we are left with is approximately an 80 feet nallah. When there is high tide, or rain, the water cannot get out. The result is that it gets choked.”

Similarly, the major Mai Kolachi bypass has been built over a drain. “It should have been elevated to avoid problems” and to the west, the Karachi Port Trust colony was built over marshland, Hasan said.

Then there is the Kalri Nallah, near Machhar (mosquito) Colony, the largest of Karachi’s unregulated neighbourhoods, where hundreds of trucks of garbage are dumped every day.

There are several other instances. An 80 feet wide, 4,000 feet long nallah between Akhtar Colony and Defence View Phase 2 has piles of silt, overflowing sewage, mounds of garbage and an entire colony of slum dwellers lining both sides.

Blame game

Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, who is also KMC administrator, recently called for the speedy clean-up of the drains. Asked how swiftly this would be done, Syed Muhammad Shakaib, director of planning and development at the Karachi Commissioner Office, admitted that there are serious bottlenecks when it comes to implementation. “Can you tell me names of more nallahs that need cleaning? We can start working on them right away.”

According to experts, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) should take responsibility. But the blame game continues here too. “Cleaning the freshwater ravines or storm-water drains is not our responsibility. We are just concerned with sewage water. The laws are all there but if people don’t follow them what can we do?” said Nazeer Mateen, KWSB spokesperson.

Mateen admitted that water contamination is not uncommon in Karachi, with some residents stealing water by making holes in pipes and attaching makeshift waterlines to them. “Those sometimes get mixed up with sewage lines KWSB has laid. If we find out, we fix it. What else can we do?”

As the chaos intensifies in the sprawling city, residents remember the old days. “I myself have caught fish from the Lyari river and eaten it,” said a nostalgic Muhammad Moazzam Khan, technical advisor, marine fisheries, WWF-Pakistan. “No one even feels for the loss of natural water bodies. Their absence has affected biodiversity and life itself in Karachi. It has been eaten up by commercialism.”

The Goodwill Ambassadors – Shining brighter than ever

Published: October 1, 2014

These people who are making this world a better place include those who are off the silver screen and performing stage, but are remarkable human beings.

For a moment, I felt star-struck, as Alicia Keys entered the room bustling with journalists from world over. We, a varied group of journalists, had been invited by the United Nations Foundation (UNF) to report on and learn from the experience of being in the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York for the UN General Assembly and the Climate Summit 2014.

All of us are fans of the many celebrities that we saw all around us in those few days. But once done with the initial gushing and surreal feeling of being in the presence of “stars”, we not only saw these goodwill ambassadors in a different light, but rediscovered them as bigger celebrities than we thought.

Anyone who has been inside the UN knows that the gray concrete flooring and white lights give it a formidable and cold ambiance. The warmth, then, came through these stars and the work they are doing. These people who are making this world a better place include those who are off the silver screen and performing stage, but are remarkable human beings. Like celebrated humanitarian Graca Machel, the widow of Nelson Mandela, who punctured the bubble of world leaders by criticising their speeches over the issue of climate change.  Or like the lesser known unsung female hero from Papua New Guinea, Ursula Rakova, who has pioneered an environmental movement that will save lives of generations.

Among the many celebrities from the performing arts who have embraced real life heroism by contributing to worthwhile causes, here are a few who made the mark this year at the UN:

1. Leonardo DiCaprio

“Honoured delegates, leaders of the world, I pretend for a living but you do not.”

Photo: Reuters

With an overgrown beard, a caveman look, DiCaprio looked different. But for once, it was not about his looks, his acting or his personal life. While friends sent messages asking why he had the bearded look, all I could hear was words that will go towards changing the life of millions.

His speech on the issue of climate change has been hailed as a game changer, calling upon world leaders for understanding and action. He began by saying,

“I stand before you not as an expert but as a concerned citizen, one of the 400,000 people who marched in the streets of New York on Sunday, and the billions of others around the world who want to solve our climate crisis”.

DiCaprio was referring to the People’s Climate March in Manhattan that brought attention to the issue like never before.

“I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems. I believe that mankind has looked at climate change in that same way,” said DiCaprio, ruffling just the right feathers.

2. Alicia Keys

“It’s not about me. It’s about we.”

Photo: Indrani Basu

As she sang the song We are here… for all of us, the theme song for her campaign, sniffs from the audience were audible. She told the crowd to hold the neighbour’s hand, a human chain, and we all did, experiencing a powerful moment.

“The song We are here is born from a very special place. The backdrop is everything that is going on in the world. There has been one issue after another: Syria, Nigeria, Gaza, Israel, Ferguson. I wanted to do something but did not know what. I used to have anxiety hearing about all of this. I would literally ache. There was a lot of what if, could we, would we! This work and this song is a dream come true,” said a visibly pregnant and highly motivated Keys.

Here, Keys pledged a million dollars to her We Are Here Movement at the fifth annual Social Good Summit. This Summit is defined as a convening of world leaders, media and technology leaders, activists working on grassroots, UN experts and voices from around the globe.

3. Emma Watson

“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Photo: AFP

We always knew that this young woman who played the genius Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series is brilliant. But her masterstroke came as she redefined feminism as the UN Female Goodwill Ambassador. Watson extended an invitation to the men of the world to fight sexism. She spoke at the launch of the #HeForShe campaign which is a solidarity movement for gender equality.

“Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend you a formal invitation,” she said.

“Gender equality is your issue too.”

“For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes,’” said the remarkable young woman.

Watson has become, through this, a champion not just for women’s rights, but also a hero of many men world over, who agree with her that equal opportunities between the sexes cannot come around if only half of humanity is invited to participate in the conversation. Watson touched upon how feminism is often misconceived and associated with “man-hating”.

4. Kajol

“Help a child reach five.”

Photo: Twitter

Championing the cause of maternal and child health, Kajol graced the 69th annual UN General Assembly summit. She has been part of an active hand-washing campaign, Help A Child Reach Five, that aims at improving health of children and guarding them against illness and death in infancy and the age group under five years.

Kajol, in a tech savvy manner, used Twitter well to get the message of propagating this life-saving habit across.

“The cause is getting requisite attention through social media. It is reaching out to a lot more people.”

5. Linkin Park

“We encourage our fans to be more vocal about these things.”

Photo: United Nations Facebook page

Humble, sober and focused, Linkin Park singers Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda are very serious about making the world a better place, and they mean it. At the Climate Summit, they renewed their continued support for sustainable energy.

“Our message is very clear. Be bold and strong. We are counting on you guys to make the change. A fan is not someone who just thinks you are hot. It is someone whose trust you have won,” said Bennigton and Shinoda.

Their organisation Music for Relief does miscellaneous work for disaster relief and renewable energy causes.

Why there’s a need to step up the worry in Pakistan

http://www.trust.org/item/20140618112014-k2m9s

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 18 Jun 2014 12:30 GMT

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Women wearing dresses and high heels ride bicycles down a street in Mexico City on March 9, 2013REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya

Stepping outside the hotel on my first day in Mexico for the recentWorld Summit of Legislators in Mexico City, I noticed rows of rental bicycles parked in a designated area. Lots of bikers could be seen along the Paseo de la Reforma, casually picking up bicycles to borrow and then park at another public cycle stand in the city.

A trailblazer project, Ecobici was launched in Mexico in 2010. Such initiatives aim to fight emission pollution in big cities.

But in Pakistan, where I come from, carbon emissions are still not a big enough problem for most people to worry about. We continue to marvel at clear skies when we travel abroad and complain about the musty pollution looming above Karachi when we land back home. Yet, we refuse to car pool. In a quest for personal space in our private cars, we often forget that we are negatively impacting the collective space, the environment we have a responsibility towards.

Mexico was teeming with parliamentarians from all over the world during the three-day summit organised by GLOBE International this month, the largest gathering to date of lawmakers on sustainable development issues. Altogether, 290 legislators from 70 countries showed up to try to find ways to address the dangers of climate change.

Not all of them stayed the whole time. “India’s legislators just came for one-and-a-half days because oath-takings are going on in India. But they came because India must be represented. It’s too important an issue,” said Narayani Ganesh, a journalist from India.

As the only Pakistani journalist at the gathering, I kept searching for the few Pakistani legislators that were supposed to come. But I found out they had canceled their plans at the last minute. The much-needed sense of urgency somehow seemed to be missing.

RISING NEED, REDUCING MONEY

A recent drastic cut in Pakistan´s budget for environmental issues is worrisome. The amount allocated in the recent budget for the Climate Change Division was reduced to Rs. 25 million ($254,000) in the 2014-15 fiscal year, from Rs. 58 million ($590,000) last year.

This is despite the Global Climate Risk Index 2014 stating that Pakistan was the third most vulnerable country to direct and indirect impacts of climate change in 2012.

Standard and Poor’s report on financial risks associated with climate change, released last month, also warned that climate change could have a big impact on the creditworthiness, economic growth and external and public finances of many countries.

Weather patterns in Pakistan are becoming more and more erratic. Frequent droughts or floods end up undermining the export base, and the adequacy of foreign reserves may become threatened as trade imbalances rise, the Standard and Poor’s report says.

This can cut the value of national currency, and could result in rising inflation, among other problems.

“Should episodes of bad harvests increase, emergency food imports may be required, once again putting pressure on the country’s external accounts,” the report warned. It classifies Pakistan as “vulnerable” – but that forgets Tharparkar, a southern desert district of Pakistan which this spring has suffered a worst-in-a-decade drought and deaths from hunger.

According to the United Nations, global temperatures are likely to warm by another 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. Hollywood flicks about an impending climate change induced apocalypse might not be as far-fetched as we think. And experts are worried.

“There are countries disappearing beneath the sea. There is no time left,” said John Gummer, a member of the UK House of Lords and president of Globe International.

He praised the Vatican for highlighting the impact of climate change on the poor in particular. Perhaps it is now time for Muslim religious leaders to promote that message, because their voice is heard loud and clear by the masses.

The threats are big ones. As a summary for policymakers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year notes, “People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalised are especially vulnerable to climate change.” Discrimination on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity, age, and disability also can increase vulnerability.

This is where women and children come in. “Bangladesh has made special plans to insulate women against the impacts of climate change,” said Mahbub Ara Begum, a member of parliament from Bangladesh. “Have you heard of our Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar (One house one farm) programme?” The programme helps safeguard some of Bangladesh’s most vulnerable, such as poor women-headed households in rural areas and landless people.

During disastrous floods in 2010, many in Pakistan were driven from their homes and some have become landless. Urban populations initially donated whole-heartedly for those hit by flooding, but now complain about how “they” are crowding the cities.

Small initiatives are promised each year, few are implemented. This month, Pakistan’s government said it will introduce legislation to help remove embankments alongside the River Indus, to help ease pressure on areas that are flooded each year. What will come of it remains to be seen.

Climate change affects lives, livelihoods, health, ecosystems, economies, societies, cultures and services. And “the more we wait, the more difficult it will be” to address it, said Jean-Paul van Ypersele, the IPCC’s vice chair, at the Mexico gathering.

It’s time everyone took it seriously – even if only out of concern for how it can impact Pakistan’s economy. The risk is if it is considered only a “development issue”, climate change won’t get the attention it deserves.

Farahnaz Zahidi is a journalist and writer based in Karachi, Pakistan, for The Express Tribune newspaper. She writes on a range of issues including human rights, women, peacebuilding and Islam.