Oxygen (O2), water, food, shelter and sleep are five basic needs of human being to survive on the earth planet. History verified a person can survive without food at least for the 21 days. It is evident from the longest fast of Mahatma Gandhi from 18 September to 8 October, 1924 for the first Hindu-Muslim unity fast. Whereas, water is a different tale, scientists believe a mortal can survive without water at least a week in cold conditions, whilst in summer or hot weather settings these time period seems to be maximum 3 days only. Sleeping and shelter are also basic needs of a living person and utmost bearing capacity of a man-kind without sleeping is at least 144 hours, although without shelter human being can survive at least a week or longer. Among all other needs the O2 is more crucial for the living souls because without O2 human being can survive only 2-3 minutes. So, considering the more importance of O2 for life, I am discussing here the case study of O2 availability for people of the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).
Geographically, GB is transitional zone between the South and Central Asia. The area distinguish weather or climatic zones between South and Central Asia due to its geographical terrain and mighteous mountain ranges. Nature bless the area with huge natural resources including pristine glaciers, permafrost, rivers, lakes, wetlands, peatlands, rangelands, unique biodiversity, forest, agri-land and suitable weather conditions for live and survive. According to ecologists the GB can be divided into four major zones like alpine scrub zone, sub alpine forest zone, montane temperate forest zone and montane subtropical forest respectively. Whilst, physically the area offers diverse altitudes such as minimum 914.4 to maximum 8611meters (above sea-level). As we know that the atmospheric pressure and O2 availability also altering with changes in altitudes. Generally, it is known that the higher altitudes like mountains or high lands posses least oxygen level. The reason behind slightest O2 concentration in higher altitudes is earth gravity, because its holds most O2 close to the earth surface. So, geographically GB is natural oxygen deficient area due to its high altitudes.
As we know that the plants are only source or living bodies on earth, which can produce or replenish O2 via photosynthesis process. GB have a total 9.4 % forest covered area and among this 9.4% forest, there is only 4% natural forest and mostly this forest is ever-green. While rest 5-5.4% is social forest typically comprise on fruits and fuel wood trees and this forest is deciduousness (lost their leaf in winter season from October to March every year in GB). It is record that the photosynthesis of deciduous forest in GB almost zero in winter season from October to March every year. So, no O2 available from these deciduous plants in winter season for human consumption. Rest only 4% natural ever-green forest locally provides O2 for the people of the area.
Like other parts of Pakistan, GB is also electricity scarce region and mostly people of the area are using fuel wood and LPG for cooking purpose. While in winter season additional need of energy is require to combat with harsh and prolong winter season. So, people of the area cuts huge amount of social as well as natural forest to meet heating and cooking needs. It is also found that the poor people of area are also using coal, plastics or plastics materials, old tyres, waste oil and other burning-able waste materials during winter season to meet their heating and cooking needs. Additionally, the high number of the customs unpaid vehicles are emerging concern for the region and for the availability of the O2 in winter season. As we know that the burning of fuel wood, LPG, waster material or vehicle fuel ultimately contribute several gases such as carbon monoxides, hydrogen, methane, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and other gases. These gases also need a huge amount of the O2 to make stable oxides, molecules or compounds in atmosphere. From the above anthropogenic activities available O2 either reduce fastly or react with other gases and makes difficult for human being to access O2.
In winter season mostly people of the area prefer to stay inside heating room and errand to eat red meat. It is evident the consumption of red meat in GB dramatically increase during winter season to combat harsh cold weather conditions. Aged buffalo, sheep, yak, goat meats are common available options in winter season while some people prefer to eat chicken. The aged buffalos are importing from Punjab or other parts of the country at the age of nearing to die while sheep, goat and yak are local livestock breeds but all these meat are rich with cholesterols.
Medical science reveals that the without movement or continuous stay in same place may reduce or deplete available oxygen in human body, tissues and in blood. This is state is know as “hypoxia” or lacking of oxygen in human blood or tissues. O2 deficiency cause several disease including heart attacks, lung infection, hypertension, fatigue, short term memory loss, body, muscles loss and eye sight problems etc. O2 deficiency in blood cells may be damage heart muscles and ultimately weak heart and its functions and services. In recent past, it is recorded that the heart attacks cases abrupt in GB particularly in winter season. Probably the high heart attacks in GB during winter season not only due to the quality of food items, least movement or less social activities as well as O2 deficiency in winter season because they area have less ever-green forest and mostly high altitudes areas or O2 deficient zones. In this regard, GB health department need to investigate O2 deficiency factor and its influences on heart health. Ecologically this O2 scarcity can be reduce with plantation of the local ever-green plants such as Cedrus deodara, Juniperus macropoda, Quercus ilex, Pinus gerardiana and Pinus wallichiana etc because these plants provides O2 throughout the year.
Although, individually actions or efforts such as maximum uses of vegetables, regular use of hot water and green tea, regular exercise, cycling, running, walk and continuous medical inspections probably reduce cardiovascular diseases and possible coping strategies.
The contributor is a PhD student of Environmental Sciences at Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, I University of Chinese Academy of Sciences I Nanjing, China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Ifarasatwwf@gmail.com.