Pakistan is not a major contributor to climate change but is among the countries which bear the brunt of its effects. In addition to this, an alarmingly high rate of deforestation has wrought havoc on many parts of the country.
Despite a myriad other stunning facts pertaining to the environment, some journalists feel that there is not enough awareness about the looming danger. That is why they have formed a new body, the National Council of Environmental Journalists (NCEJ), to address the deficiency of coverage given to such issues. The inaugural ceremony of the council, held on Tuesday, was attended by many prominent environmentalists and journalists.
Muhammad Ali Shah, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum’s chairperson and the secretary general of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, said that environmental protection is a global issue, but Pakistan is not doing its part. Shah said that forums like NCEJ will make a difference to the society at large. “I see countless environmental issues across the country, but there is a lack of seriousness.” He added that Pakistan’s forests are shrinking at an extremely rapid pace and floods are wreaking havoc in many parts of the country. “We had 2.6 million hectares of mangrove forest along the coastal belt. But this has been reduced to just 70,000. Nobody knows who is responsible for this. We have to take such issues seriously.”
NCEJ is first forum comprising journalists, from both print and electronic media, attempting to address environmental issues in Pakistan by raising awareness. The council consists of 30 young journalists from 21 cities across Pakistan.
The council’s president, Amar Guriro, said Pakistan is one of the countries that will be hit hardest by climate change - it has already witnessed massive floods over the three consecutive years and one-fifth of its land mass has been devastated.
“Poor environmental practices made the floods worse. If we don’t mitigate the damage we’ve done, we will witness more disasters in the future. Our lives and country are at stake,” said Guriro. “There is a need for the media to wake up and inform our citizens about environmental issues. This forum will train journalists to do just that.”
Nadene Ghouri, a UK-based journalist who worked with BBC World and Aljazeera, concurred. “Pakistan is a beautiful country. But a few days ago, I saw a dead turtle on a supposedly protected site outside Karachi. I have seen stunning picnic areas destroyed by garbage and plastic bottles. As a visitor here, it makes me want to weep,” she said. “As Pakistani journalists, you should be outraged. Why am I not seeing these issues reported in the media?”
Afia Salam, a social activist and an expert on environmental issues, reiterated this point and asked the media to do more. “Environment is a national issue and a journalist who highlights such a sensitive issue makes a difference.”
Afia advised journalists of remote areas to join the effort as local problems have national importance. “Sindh is feeling the effects of massive deforestation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. All reporters should be given space to highlight issues of national importance.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2012.