KARACHI: More than 71% of Sindh’s population does not have enough food to eat even though nearly 14 million acres are being cultivated for crops.
This food storage has caused Oxfam, Pakistan Fisher Folk (PFF) and others to put their heads together and do something. On Thursday, they launched a campaign, ‘Harvesting Food Security and Justice in the Face of Climate Change’ at Regent Plaza. This will focus on improving the environment and bringing about a change in policy.
After the 18th Amendment was passed, food security became the responsibility of the provincial authority.
Shahbaz Bokhari, an Oxfam manager, said that the government is incurring Rs5.2 billion in losses every year because of climate change.
“Sindh has a ministry for national food security and research but no policy has been made. Only a draft is available. There’s a food shortage in Sindh but no policy to fix it,” said Jamil Junejo, PFF’s programmes manager. “An institution needs to be set up at the provincial level to counter the food shortage.”
Talking to the people
Junejo believes that the first thing they have to do is make the society recognise problems caused by climate change. “When society is mobilised, then networks and forums can be formed to pressurise the government to make policies.” He added that there were a lot of ways one can voice their opinions. For example, he said, that an individual can file a complaint to the United Nations about food insecurity to exert pressure.
The campaign will focus on six districts in Sindh, including Karachi and Hyderabad.
What is causing climate change?
Saeed Baloch, the PFF’s general secretary, thought that global warming was the main culprit. “There has been an overall rise in temperature by two degrees,” he said. “If this continues then there will be one to two metre rise in the sea level. Fishermen will not be able to fish or live in coastal areas.”
There has also been a rise in the sea levels along the coast of Pakistan, according to a report by the meteorological department. This will increase risks to coastal areas and lead to greater cyclonic activity in the Arabian Sea. “Although the recent cyclone did not hit our coast, the fishermen said they had never witnessed such high tides since 1999,” said PFF Chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah. “Even though it was not coming towards us, it still caused destruction.”
What about pollution?
While many people believe that industrial waste is the main reason behind pollution, Riaz Sheikh of Szabist feels otherwise. “Energy houses have contributed to deteriorating the environment,” he said. “The increase in number of power plants in the future is only going to aggravate the situation.”
Aly Ercelan, an economist and environmentalists believes that the coal projects in Thar are leaving dangerous exhumes in the air. “A solution for that is burning of coal overnight so that it doesn’t penetrate the air, but for that the government needs to spend extra which they are not willing to.” He added that the furnace oil in Karachi Electric, will be changed to coal which would be detrimental to the environment.
The problem of overfishing was also highlighted at the event. “If they continue to fish at the same rate they are right now then by 2048 the oceans will not have any fish left,” said Shah.
He also talked about the acute water shortage because of which growers are unable to get a proper share of water even after 21 days. “It is quite worrisome that the crops are being destroyed due to the persistent water shortage,” he said. He linked the problem with the overall temperature rise, which is the main factor, affecting the life and livelihoods of the communities.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2014.
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