Climate change, pollution leading to rising illnesses in capital

Devcom director says large number of people know about climate change, but few know how to mitigate it

Our Correspondent May 26, 2018
Islamabad. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: With the capital witnessing a ‘late’ spring this year, the combined effect of climate change and increasing pollution is leading a steep rise in the number of illnesses suffered by the residents of the capital.

This was stated by Devcom-Pakistan Director Munir Ahmed while addressing a seminar on climate awareness organised by the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) on Friday

Referring to a study recently conducted by Devcom-Pakistan, Ahmed said that 95.4% of Islamabad’s residents surveyed have seen radical changes in the city over the past three decades.

These changes, apart from the doubling of population to over two million, includes the loss of vegetation and green belts, shortage of water, increase in environment-unfriendly housing units, an increase in traffic on the roads — which have not only created a traffic mess and left little space in the car parks and contributed to an increase in air pollution — has led to several diseases relating to breathing and eye infections.

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The rise in average temperatures, owing to climate change, have also altered the lifestyle of the capital’s residents such as an increase in the use of electrical appliances and room-cooling units. These, Ahmed explained, have immensely enhanced the emission of greenhouse gases in the city.

Coupled with the loss of green cover in the capital has enhanced the impact of increased local temperature.

Even as the population of the capital more than doubled from just 805,235 in 1998 to over 2.07 million in the recent census, public medical hospitals have not increased. As a result, there is a shortage of medical facilities per the population ratio available. This, Ahmed said, had added to the problems faced by locals.

The increase in population and temperatures led to a corresponding increase in demand for clean, drinking water. The availability of clean drinking water has fallen by up to three-times than what was available two decades ago.

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But with supply dwindling, it has led to the creation of another crisis which is also impacting the health of the capital’s residents, especially those hailing from the poor and marginalised sections of society living in the suburbs.

Pointing to the Devcom study, Ahmed said that residents report falling ill far more frequently, with the frequency increasing by four to five times over a period of two decades.

The silver lining in all this, Ahmed pointed out, was that a significant portion of the capital’s population, or 44%, were well-aware of climate change and its impacts.

However, they were unaware of what they could do to mitigate it. This, he said, is the opportunity available to affect real change.

To this end, he said that it was disappointing that less than 40 per cent of the capital’s residents have heard about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPAs), including development experts and those who are working with the civil society organisations.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2018.

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