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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman on Wednesday said the budget allocations for climate change are overtaken by the current economic crises.

The climate change lifestyle shift requires a push from civil society, political leadership, and other stakeholders, she added.

While speaking at a press conference over the recent incidents of forest fires in Swat in Tehsil Kabal and District Bari Kot and the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP), Minister Rehman said that the fires in District Bari Kot are still raging while other seven sites of the forest fires have been controlled by the provincial teams on ground.

The provincial authorities are on alert for any more eruptions in the high-risk zones. There have been several incidents of forest fires reported and dealt with in the MHNP in the last three days. She said the SOPs for Prevention and Control of Forest Fires has been established on the directives of the Prime Minister’s Office, focusing on the timely response to the forest fires.

She said the control room established by the MOCC has been fully active and has mobilized the staff for ground and aerial response to the incidents.

At least, three of these have been reported only today in the Margallas.

She said, the prolong heat wave across the country has aggravated forest fires in Balochistan, KPK, and Margalla Hills in Islamabad. In view of these incidents, SOPs for Prevention and Control of Forest Fires have been established on the directives of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The SOPs direct actions for Risk Reduction, Prevention and Immediate Response on low- and high-intensity forest fire outbreaks for the federal and provincial authorities for immediate response and action.

Last year, the IWMB and the CDA fought fires that damaged an area of 189 acres. This year, despite more fires, our combined vigilance has controlled the damage to 45.42 acres in total in the Margallah Hills National Park.

She said the task force had recommended immediate elevation of all forest fires to disaster grade level, which now triggers NDMA/PDMA responses too, among many other preventive protocols and response actions. Because of the task force the provinces have amended their forest laws to enhance penalties for arson.

Furthermore, “installment of Watch Towers with fire watchers (nigehbaan) during the fire season, clearings of Fire Lines for flammable materials have reduced the risk due to forest fires. Moreover, creating fire ditches, involvement of local communities and establishment of control rooms in all forest fire zones in all provinces with communication networks, equipment and staff are important measures.”

“For immediate response, SOPs on forest fires have been chalked out by the Task Force. Many of the important climate change issues were raised at the international platforms at Davos and Stockholm+50.

These SOPs include alerting all relevant provincial and federal authorities depending on the severity of the fires, deployment of fire-fighting and rescue staff, to carry out announcements in Mosques and Schools to alert nearby populations and carry out rescue operations during severe situations to prevent harm to local communities.”

Shifting the focus towards World Oceans Day, she expressed her concern over plastic waste ending up in the oceans through different water bodies or direct dumping, “there is a serious littering problem all throughout the country and most of the plastic litter among other things, is dumped into the Arabian Sea. According to the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, more than 90pc of industrial wastewater is dumped into the sea without treatment.

This is wreaking havoc to our marine environment. To make matters worse, around 2.6 million tonnes of plastic waste is mismanaged and makes its way into the Arabian Sea through our coastlines. Governments around the world are recognizing the need to develop national action plans to have coordinated efforts to deal with dumping of waste, especially plastics into the oceans. For Pakistan the loss of biodiversity should be an urgent call for frameworks that help the country to regenerate marine ecosystems, while protecting the livelihoods of vulnerable communities.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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