Pakistan is in the top-ten of countries most likely to be adversely affected by climate change. There are already obvious changes in weather patterns compared to two decades ago; extreme weather events are more common and their consequences especially in the form of flooding, disastrous. Mitigating the effects of climate change is not easy or cheap. World Meteorological Day was observed on Thursday 23rd March and the Director General of the Pakistan Meteorological Department was clear and forthright in terms of what Pakistan needed to do — build more dams and plant more forests.
As with so many of the problems Pakistan faces they can be encapsulated in statements of the blindingly obvious — in this case there are a chronic deficit of water storage capacity and our forest cover has been over-exploited for decades with the logging mafias ruling supreme. To their depredations are now added the effects of erosion that is stripping away thin topsoils in mountain areas. Building more dams is going to help generate more power as well as help to control floodwaters and although there are large dam projects already under way, they are slow to come to life and politically fraught — to say nothing of the international implications of their being built.
Dams and forests are long-term projects, a decade at least for both to bear fruit from any inception. The climate is moving faster in terms of change than the developed capacity of the state to respond and glacial melt on the one hand is matched by political glacial advance on the other. The two are divergent and if Pakistan is ever to address in any way the problems associated with climate change then there is an urgent need for harmonisation and a new spirit of convergence. In 2015, a heatwave in Karachi had devastating effects and many died. The radars that could give early warning of such events are years out of date and must be upgraded. Pakistan is laggardly when it comes to climate change, head in sand. For all our sakes that needs to change, and fast.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2017.
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