The Looming Threats of Climate Change in Pakistan

Tehzeb Hussain Bercha

Global warming is having a significant socio-economic impacts on human life. Human beings, animals and plants are thoroughly linked to climate crises, and the growing catastrophic events are affecting food security, access to safe drinking water, and also creating issues related to public health.

Pakistan, a strategically significant South Asian country, has a 1,046 km long coastline border shared with the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the South and having the lofty peaks of Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindukush and the neighboring mountain ranges in the North. In between there are the vast plains of Punjab and Sindh, and the hills of Hazara, KP and Baluchistan. Pakistan is a climate-challenged country, facing imminent water scarcity.

A recent BBC report called Pakistan “the fifth most vulnerable country in terms of climate change”. The Pakistan Meteorological Department recently declared April of 2022 as the hottest month recorded since 1961. March and April were about five degrees warmer than average, which environmentalists consider an alarming threat. The country’s water resources depend on the water obtained after the melting of glaciers and the monsoon rains, and according to experts, Pakistan is one of the most sensitive terrains in terms of climate change. Pakistan’s temperature remains hot and humid, wreaking havoc on people’s living standards due to a lack of appropriate climate change management. Desert areas suffer from drought during the summer, resulting in human and animal mortality, as well as power outages due to a shortage of dams.

According to the German Watch report, Pakistan was one of the countries hardest hit by climate change between 1990 and 2010. Some parts of Pakistan’s Sindh and Baluchistan province are experiencing drought as a result of a lack of rainfall, affecting people. Animals are also affected, and people are denied drinking water and food at the same time. According to media reports, Dera Bugti district of Baluchistan has been facing drought for the last three years due to a lack of rains. The cholera epidemic in the area has killed many children and affected thousands of people. In addition, 50 livestock animals have died due to water scarcity in the Cholistan desert area of Baluchistan.

The Pakistani province of Gilgit-Baltistan is rich in natural resources, home to an impressive range of glaciers. Some call GB the most glaciated region of the world outside of the North and South Pole! Unfortunately, the glaciers of Gilgit-Baltistan are melting rapidly as a result of increasing global warming, posing a threat to human existence, according to the Nepal based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Glacier lakes are fast-growing, and they are also appearing ahead of schedule and exploding into torrents. Due to a massive GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood), cultivated areas and residences on the both sides of the Hasanabad nullah have been damaged, as well as a bridge on the Karakoram Highway on the 7th of May, 2022. The population of this village is suffering from severe problems and the government needs to take immediate steps to resettle them. Similarly, many glaciers including Batura, Hinarche and Passu are also melting due to climate change.

Moreover, Gilgit-Baltistan is a hilly region prone to frequent landslides, due to which most of the routes linking the Karakoram Highway and other districts are cut off from the rest of the world. The flow of the river Hunza was halted due to a massive land sliding, resulting in the formation of Attabad Lake in 2010. According to Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority (GBDMA), from 2010 to 2015, 306 Human casualties, 15,392 Pakka Houses, 2,351 Kacha Houses, 5,369 Cattle Sheds and 56 Bridges were damaged due to the effects of the climate crisis.

Furthermore, Pakistan’s main river, the Indus, one of the world’s few well-known rivers, irrigates neighboring provinces by passing through this region. Every year, the river takes a considerable amount of silt and sand with it, and it occasionally floods, inundating families and lands along the rivers and displacing people.

Global warming has been continuously increasing for the last 1000 years, and these changes may constitute a threat to human survival on Earth in the future. We must also make progress to address this worldwide issue. First and foremost, the world powers must consider the prudent use of natural resources (oil, gas, coal). By reducing the usage of hazardous chemicals and gases and applying eco-friendly procedures, the environmental impact can be reduced. To combat climate change, all four provinces of Pakistan as well as Gilgit-Baltistan must put an end to endless deforestation. To prevent drought in the country, large and small dams should be built to combat issues related to irrigation and the lack of electricity. In addition, the usage of fertilizers and pesticides in the fields should be taken into account. Rather than sending chemicals from industry into the oceans, rivers, lakes, or canals, alternative measures should be explored to prevent the genocide of aquatic life. In Gilgit-Baltistan as well as other provinces across the country, immediate action is required to supply safe drinking water. Furthermore, Gilgit-Baltistan is a popular tourist destination, with a large influx of local and international visitors throughout the summer. Keeping the threats posed to human existence in mind, we must move quickly to examine the causes and effects of climate change on human life so that the mountains of our Northern paradise will be blanketed with snow in the future. Human existence on this very planet depends on our actions today, and we must act before it is too late.

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