Change or perish

Published: May 9, 2012

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban

A total lack of respect for the land, and the environment as a whole, pervades Pakistani society to the core. Everywhere you glance, you will find filth, rotting garbage and criminal rapine of natural resources. No one seems to spare even a thought for sustainability and whether the resources that are being plundered will run out. And when they run out, what next? How future generations will cope with this is, of course, farthest from people’s minds because most of them don’t even care much about the present. There is, however, nothing which can, foreseeably, be invented to replace the actual earth on which all life ultimately depends to survive.

Hydroponic cultivation of crops in a mineral nutrient solution without soil is possible but not all crops — for example, grain — can be viably grown under such conditions. Without grain for basic nutrition, hunger pangs would soon become the norm for the wealthy as well as for the multiplying legions of the poor who are edging closer and closer to malnutrition and, in some regions, starvation. Numerous reasons exist for hunger and in the case of Pakistan, this has to do with a lack of income.

Pakistan is a country with a large agricultural base and more than enough land area to feed its burgeoning population many times over if — here comes the crunch — the land was productively and sustainably utilised and water resources were sensibly husbanded. Immense areas of cultivable land are currently wasted all over the country. Massive neglect of previously productive mountain terraces — in areas adjacent to Islamabad and northwards all the way to Giligit and Hunza, then eastwards into Azad Kashmir — serves as a prime example of how communities are increasingly moving away from the land which sustained them for centuries. If modern agricultural methods were introduced and actively employed, they could inject huge amounts of much-needed fresh food into the market and this, in turn, could keep prices at affordable levels.

Economic sense is largely absent from rural as well as urban areas in these days of rampaging consumerism. Men prefer what is perceived as an ‘easy life,’ working as chowkidars, drivers, etc, away from their indigenous mountains where life can be cruel and harsh. Yet, if they were taught and came to understand just how productive their land can be, there would be no requirement for them to migrate to the cities in search of money which, contrary to expectations, does not purchase the luxuries they expect to gain.

Furthermore, the women are left to hold the fort and tend to the children. Rarely do they have the faintest idea of agricultural work aside from tending to the milk-producing animals. Many of these women end up sitting at home and waiting for their men to send them money from the cities. With this money they buy often expensive and low quality fresh food from the local bazaar!

The same can be said of some rural areas in the plains, too, although women in the plains work harder on their own land and on the land owned by the local landlord. However, in most such cases, there is little or no discernible improvement in their lifestyle other than the purchase of unnecessary consumer goods such as television sets.

If this country — or indeed, the world as a whole — and the populations living off of it are to survive, then things must change and they must change soon.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Ali Tanoli
    May 9, 2012 - 10:49PM

    System shall perish sooner than later Madam Zahra.Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 9, 2012 - 11:31PM

    As another contributor to ET described Pakistan as ‘functional anarchy’ which is pretty accurate seeing that governance in any form is non-existant, so forget Pakistan. As for the rest of the world many will take heed and many may not. What is evident is that there are difficult days ahead.

    Recommend

  • leila rage
    May 10, 2012 - 12:01AM

    a lack of respect for LIFE pervades this sad and hopeless nation.

    Recommend

  • John B
    May 10, 2012 - 12:24AM

    PAK lands are controlled by feudal land lords and it is in their best interest to keep the domestic agriculture output at demand level and export output at market competition rates. The PAK government procurement policies are aimed at making sure that the prices are high for the land lords’ benefit.

    PAK is systematically plundered by the vested interests and bulk of the populace who work on these lands have nothing to gain even if every square inch of the land is productive. Hence there is inefficiency in productivity, in a nut shell.

    Recommend

  • Amjad
    May 10, 2012 - 3:17AM

    @Ali Tanoli: I wouldn’t be too down on environmental awareness. Yes the Third World inlcuding Pakistan is behind and there is little care about the environment. However, the new generation is becoming more concerned about the state of hygiene and the discharge of effluents from factories. I don’t think the older generation can change but clearly the future of Pakistan is in the hands of these motivated young people.

    Recommend

  • Benbane Head
    May 10, 2012 - 4:40PM

    Shouldn’t we get out of the mess we are in before we think about cleaning the rubbish? We need to live first and then we may be able to deal with environment.Recommend

  • A S
    May 10, 2012 - 6:04PM

    Well done Zahra. I mean dead right. Change for the better never came to any people by itself. Change comes when people change their habits. Change bad habits for the good. The educated, intellectuals and all the concerned will need to bring about change in themselves first and then set about propagating the message to the masses. Do or die. Change or perish. Perish remaining slaves to others.Recommend

  • dasmir
    May 10, 2012 - 6:33PM

    This writer doesn’t know what she is talking about.is it about environmental degradation or rural urban migration or agricultural practices.a very poorly writen article.She should have concentrated on one issue though all other issues are relavant.But a deeper analysis,solution,effect could have been easily fitted into this article.Waste of valuable space and poor reflection on editorial control.

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