KARACHI: On the global call for a climate strike by young Greta Thunberg of Sweden back in September 2019, this year, too, many environmentally conscious climate activists gathered at Bagh-i-Jinnah, also known as Polo Ground, here on Friday.
Their banners, placards, etc, matched with this year’s theme #NoMoreEmptyPromises. Similar strikes were being organised privately across Pakistan — in Islamabad, Lahore, etc.
Besides discussing what was done about the demands they had presented in 2019, they also wanted to know what else was being done about the Bundal and Buddo islands’ issue, urban flooding, heatwaves, etc.
Climate activist Ahmad Shabbar told Dawn that they organise two such climate strike marches in September and in March every year now. “In 2019, 23 cities all over the globe participated and Karachi was one of them. Climate change does not discriminate. You may be rich or poor, you will feel it,” he said.
‘Greenwashing of issues’
“After 2019, the world including us experienced the pandemic ... we had record rains here in Karachi, record winters, too, though short, and heatwaves. More is expected this year also. There were certain demands that we had shared with the federal as well as Sindh government. So they were Pakistan-level and Sindh-level demands. But we haven’t really seen much happening other than tree plantations. Our government is into ‘greenwashing’ of issues just like they are into whitewashing,” he regretted.
Karachi activists join global movement to raise awareness about environmental degradation
“The environment is a very political issue. Crude oil, food sources all depend on climate. Thus climate needs to be given the most importance,” he said.
Aadil Ayub, another activist, was wearing a yellow shirt that had the words ‘Pakistan Climate strike’ written all over it.
“It is known that Pakistan is the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change. We face climate devastation, which is getting worse and worse, but not many, especially those making the decisions here seem to care,” he said.
“And since those who really do care about the environment are not included in the government committees that make all the decisions concerning climate, this is how we show and highlight our concerns, by holding such climate strikes,” he said.
“The decisions made here for improving the environment are not very people-centric. They are development-centric. All that is done here is to show facts and figures to like we are a climate-progressive country internationally, nothing more,” he said.
Call to include civil society in decision-making
Environmental activist Yasir Husain also said that the government was anti-environment and anti-people.
“The civil society is to be included in government meetings. It is required by law. But it is not done here,” he said.
“The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency [Sepa] is not doing environmental protection here. It is more into environmental destruction rather, and is one of the worst departments in the Sindh government. The same is the case with other provincial environmental protection agencies. They are all into making money,” he said.
Tofiq Pasha Mooraj, who is lovingly referred to as ‘maali’ by his fans, said that climate change was a very serious issue but it had been on the back burner, unfortunately.
About holding the climate strike twice a year, he said it should be done even more often. “I wish I could take out time every Friday and like Greta go on strike and sit on the footpath with my banner. The cause warrants being in your face to raise awareness,” he said.
And there was someone like that right there. She was Noor-ul-Huda Daudpota, who called herself a climate communicator.
The young lady had painted “Climate crisis” on her forehead with a red marker. “I work for climate change. I have been talking about climate emergency for a time now,” she said.
And she has been doing it also through her actions. “I don’t buy clothes until I need them. I am a vegetarian. I made my own compost from vegetable and fruit waste. I use no plastics. I don’t buy makeup, I don’t buy shampoo, nothing that is packaged in plastic because I live a zero-waste life. I also carry with me a zero-waste kit with reusable utensils, containers, bottle, etc. I live a sustainable life,” she announced, while inspiring so many others to follow in her footsteps.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2021