Climate crisis in Pakistan
Engr Sabir Hussain
Pakistan has received more than 464% of monsoon rain last year in just few weeks as compared to last 30 years. At the same time, Pakistan’s glaciers are melting at a rate never seen before. These two outcomes of the climate crisis have merged to produce a terrible super-flood that has devastated the country and as a result 50 million people have been internally displaced, 90 percent of crops in Sindh province have been damaged and many people lost their lives. One of the core reasons of floods in Pakistan is the rapidly emerging climatic changes.
According to German Watch, Pakistan has been ranked globally in the top 10 countries most affected by climate change during the past 20 years owing to its geographical location. As per the Global Climate Risk Index annual report for 2020, Pakistan has lost 0.53 percent per unit GDP, suffered economic losses worth US$ 3792.52 million and witnessed 152 extreme weather events from 1999 to 2018.
Climate crisis is a major threat to sustainability of life on earth. In addition, global warming is a major source of environmental disaster which is the main cause of floods in Pakistan. The uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gas (GHG) to outer atmosphere means the accumulation of more heat trapping gases which leads to increase earth’s temperature. Moreover, the disturbance created in natural cycle of melting of glaciers and rainfall results in unmanaged floods. The main sources of GHG are plastic and organic waste. These two waste streams impact significantly the GHG emissions in its entire life cycle.
According to Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) reports, waste and consumption directly impact climate change. Plastic is one of the energy intensive materials to produce and its global footprint recorded in 2015 was 1.7 billion tons of equivalent carbon dioxide and if the same consumption continues it is estimated to reach 6.5 billion tons which is equivalent to emission from 1640 coal power plants.
Similarly, plastic bags are one of the core reasons for the blockage of drains, leading to urban flooding. In addition, the tragic fact about plastic is that only 10% of plastic can be recycled. Similarly, food waste is another significant contributor to climate crisis. In fact, food waste contributes roughly 10% to global greenhouse gases and it is estimated that 40% of food goes to waste produced globally. As per a research, cities around the world generated 2 billion tons of waste in 2016. Thus, only reduction of these two streams can significantly reduce carbon emission.
For the first time in Pakistan, on the request of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, the Government of Sindh imposed ban on the production, sale, purchase and use of black polyethene bags in 1994. Later on, other provinces also imposed ban on polythene bags but the manufacturers and factory workers strongly opposed it arguing that employment of thousands of workers depended on these polyethene bag manufacturing industries and the production of paper bags would lead to cutting of many trees which was more dangerous. Therefore, the government was compelled to lift the ban and plastic business continued.
Recently, Pakistan Environmental Protection Council (PEPC), in its 10th meeting decided to impose ban once again on the import, manufacturing and selling of plastic but the concerned authorities badly failed to implement the order practically in the country.
In short, the ultimate solution to climate crisis is to adopt zero waste approaches. It will not only create new job opportunities but will also be proved helpful to cope with global greenhouse emission. Similarly, the world has already adopted these new approaches towards waste management that is why the act of replicating the same concept in Pakistan is the only solution to deal with environmental disasters frequently faced by the country.
The writer is a project engineer at APP. He did BSc Electrical Engineering (Telecom) from the COMSATS University, Lahore Campus and MPhil in Space Science from the University of Panjab, Lahore. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.