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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