SUCH is the ferocious immediacy of the threat of terrorism that a whole host of other issues, some that may in the long term prove perhaps equally debilitating for the country, have ended up being pushed into the shadows.
The battle against polio springs immediately to mind. Another such area is climate change, the effects of which are already being felt globally and which will have in the future a devastating effect on vulnerable terrains.
Unhappily, Pakistan joins several other developing countries in having done little to trigger climate change, but are likely to bear the brunt of the effects.
Also read: Footprints: Ignoring climate change
This was pointed out yet again in Islamabad on Thursday, as members of the Parliamentary Task Force on Sustainable Development Goals attended a presentation on the issue.
They were told that Pakistan ranks 135th among carbon-emitting countries and contributes merely 0.8 per cent to global carbon emissions; nevertheless, it is still included in the eight countries most vulnerable to climate change.
In the view of Dr Qamaruzzaman Chaudhry, a former director-general of the Meteorological Office and vice president of the World Meteorological Organisation, already “a considerable increase in intense floods, rains, extreme weather and other climatic changes has been noted in Pakistan.”
Take a look: Deal on climate change
This country is amongst the few developing nations with a ministry for climate change, and in 2013 launched its first national policy in this regard.
On paper, this was a holistic plan, laying down policy measures for mitigation as well as adaptation for sectors that include energy, transport, agriculture and livestock, industries, forestry and water resources, etc. But, as always, it is in the phases of implementation and engagement that not enough will has been displayed.
True, some effort has been made, such as the Punjab government offering farmers incentives to adapt to more sustainable and efficient methodologies, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government launching some reforestation drives.
Some universities, too, have helped raise awareness about the effects of climate change and mitigation measures. But these have tended to be few and piecemeal, and a cohesive effort to concurrently take on all dimensions of the issue is hardly in evidence.
The potential severity of the coming changes can be gauged from Dr Chaudhry’s warning that in the next 30 to 40 years, “there may be no more water in the River Indus because all the glaciers have melted.” Pakistan drags its heels over the matter at its own peril.
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2015