LAHORE: I hope it’s no news to any Pakistani that their country was declared the most vulnerable to effects of climate change back in 2006. It was assessed by the World Bank that Pakistan’s environmental degradation is equivalent to six per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Mass migration was predicted by environmental groups from all around the world. Back in school, we remember studying a natural phenomenon in which birds fly over to warmer areas as soon as the first brown leaf from a tree falls on the ground indicating the arrival of winters. In Pakistan, this phenomenon takes place among human beings. Extreme high temperatures cause people to move and force themselves into a nomadic lifestyle. We know such people as Internally Displaced Persons.
The catastrophic flooding that Pakistan is facing every year would remain a huge trigger for migration as the emergency response system continues to function the way they do — as poorly as possible. Everyone is affected but those people who have lower assets, such as no ownership of land, are much more likely to move than those who do own land in response to extreme weather conditions, inclusive of heat stress.
A tremendous amount of suffering is faced by the agriculture sector of Pakistan due to extreme temperatures and it wipes out more than a third of the income of an average Pakistani farmer. A complex yet clear migratory response is seen as a result. All these things are not foreseen to undergo change overnight, believe me, and climate change will be increasing the frequency as well as intensity of these huge weather events putting Pakistan’s already dwindling resources into graver danger.
Policymakers need to look into these matters more deeply and with utmost priority. They have to reshape their approach towards the prevention and management of natural disasters and the slow poison (no more slow, perhaps) that global warming has become. The government needs to work on more localised levels and help households in diversifying their livelihoods to prevent mass migration.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2014.