Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, states Newton’s Third Law. Whether that is applicable to meteorology is perhaps questionable, but to a layman’s eye that would appear to hold true in respect of changes in weather in Islamabad. The city has become what is known as a ‘heat island’ because of an increase in local atmospheric and surface temperatures, and there is a causal link between that and the rise in human activity. Simply put, there are a lot more people living in the city and their activities are having an effect on the local climate. The key formula to understand relates to ratios. Residential ‘bulk’ has increased from 60 per cent from Floor Area Ratio (FAR) 1:0.5 to 170 per cent at FAR 1:1.7. The FAR is used by planners to calculate and limit the intensity of land-use as well as measures a range of impacts.
Some may be surprised to learn that Pakistan has a Ministry of Climate Change and it has been busy producing a study titled ‘Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of Islamabad’, which was launched by the United Nations Human Development Programme (UN Habitat), on June 5. It contains some startling facts that bear close consideration. The mean annual temperature change in the capital between 1960 and 2010 was by one degree centigrade, but in the central area of the city, the temperature rise in the same period was 3.5 degrees centigrade — a rise which is double the global average. The report is clear as to why this is so: there has been a significant deviation from the city masterplan, a revelation that will come as no surprise to anybody living and working in the city for the last 20 years. There is a surfeit of industry, brick kilns, cars and habitation, all of which exceed recommended limits. The population is unhealthy and the old saying ‘as you sow then so shall you reap’ has never been more apt. Expect no improvement in the foreseeable future.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2015.
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