WITH the effects of climate change unfolding everywhere, it is a pity that the collective sense of purpose needed to tackle the threat remains absent. The immense havoc wreaked by the activities of man — especially industrialisation — are in evidence in the changing weather patterns and frequent extreme events that often leave tragedy in their wake. It was encouraging, therefore, to note that last week, Pakistan joined 187 countries in marking the Stockholm International Water Institute’s World Water Week. In Punjab, the heart of agricultural activities, amongst the more publicised of related events was a tree plantation drive in the Sheikhupura region, organised by the WWF-Pakistan and the provincial irrigation department. Here, it was noted yet again that Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change even though it is not a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. This point cannot be overemphasised with the global realities before us as well as the fact that the country has an economy that is heavily based on agriculture.

This particular effort may have been organised by an international forum, but the PTI government must be given due credit for having consistently made the protection of the environment a priority. The issue is one over which the world has no choice but to come together, regardless of the part that individual countries may have played in bringing us to this pass. As a nation that is still developing, Pakistan in particular faces the double jeopardy of diminishing food-growing capacity (due in part to rapid urbanisation) coupled with a high rate of population growth. With a fairly long ‘to-do’ list on the state’s agenda, it is vital that development and regeneration activities be tightly targeted and balanced, and that resources be used wisely. The planting of trees is essential to ensure a reliable supply of freshwater and mitigate the effects of climate change, as is selecting the right species so that groundwater levels do not deplete. The resources being steered by the state should include greater research.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2021

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