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Grappling with environmental challenges

This year's World Environment Day theme being "Think-Eat-Save" speakers at a seminar organised by the Institute of Environmental Studies in Karachi underscored the need to ensure food security, prevent wastage and preserve water resources to meet future challenges. Seriousness of those challenges is evident from the fact that Pakistan, a water-scarce country, is counted among the ten nations worst affected by global warming. Changing weather patterns are to bring in their fold cycles of floods and droughts badly impacting Pakistan's agrarian economy and future food security.

Food wastage is generally associated with affluent societies. That though happens at the consumer end. In this country a lot of food goes to waste before reaching the consumers due to poor harvesting practices, crop disease control, and lack of proper storage facilities, etc. As a conference participant averred, post-harvest losses of agriculture sector are extremely high. Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food which can feed millions is destroyed. Also, worthwhile to note is the fact, noted at recent discussion on enhancement of citrus value chain production at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, that Pakistan wastes 40 percent of its citrus production in post-harvest process. Same is true of other fruit crops. Such waste would be unacceptable anywhere. In a high population growth country like Pakistan it is simply intolerable. It must not also be forgotten that food scarcity threatens to be a major issue worldwide in not too distant a future. There is no more time to be frittered away. The government needs to pay urgent attention to the issue, putting in place an effective strategy to improve farming and harvesting practices.

Equally if not more important, is the need for policy makers and planners to pay heed to the issue of environmental degradation. A presentation at the Karachi event on "Degradation of Indus Delta and its Impact on Agriculture" pointed out that that reduction in the flow of Indus River and cutting of mangroves "once having a thriving and vibrant agriculture, especially for the red variety of rice, the Indus delta now does not support sustainable agriculture." In other parts of the country, especially in the northern areas, unchecked illegal logging is a significant cause of increasing soil erosion and flash floods. Following the passage of the 18th Amendment, environment is now completely a provincial subject. Each province must devise its own plan to address its peculiar problems to protect and preserve the environment on a sustainable basis. One measure that all must take in that direction is to increase the forest cover, which is the best bet against warming and the consequent hazard of floods and droughts.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2013


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