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EDITORIAL: Raging wildfires are a global challenge. While these wildfires have been quenched or damped down at some places these are raging elsewhere, including the Margallas in the country’s capital in clear sight of the authorities who now seem to be getting ready to give these wildfires an equal fight.

At a media encounter on Wednesday, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said SOPs have been established for prevention and control of wildfires. Although fighting wildfires is not within the federal remit, forest fires have no respect for provincial borders. These wildfires are because of heatwave and dry weather.

These factors constitute a national cause and therefore invite her intervention or attention as a federal minister for climate change. The SOPs for damping wildfires are aimed, among other things, at alerting relevant provincial and federal authorities depending upon the severity of fires. And in compliance with these SOPs the provinces have amended their forest laws, enhanced punishments and made arrests in Swat and Shangla.

But to her dismay the climate change allocations have been overtaken by the present economic crisis.

Will Pakistan and other countries that frequently suffer forest fires ever succeed in overcoming and killing the demons of wildfires? There is no definite answer to it because the question what causes wildfire remains unanswered.

Is it the humans who set the forests on fire or is this the negative fallout of global warming that tends to trigger climate change? The US is one of the major victims of wildfires. Nearly 85 percent of wildfires in the US are caused by humans. Such fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris in close vicinity, equipment malfunction, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.

The sources, who lay blame on climate change as the main culprit, argue that climate change brings more drought and higher temperatures that make it easy for fires to start and spread, and as forests burn they create CO2, which in turn warms up the climate. That is a kind of vicious circle. Of course Pakistan is not responsible for global warming; it is, in fact, the innocent victim of climate change. Nonetheless, it has to be equipped with all the necessary wherewithal to fight and defeat the demons of climate change.

Its errand falls into two main areas – one, to save forests against natural causes and arson; two, it should grow more trees because trees consume CO2. Last but not least, instead of treating it as a concurrent subject the protection and enlargement of tree cover should be declared a national cause.

Presently, that’s not the case, and the task force established in the ministry headed by Senator Sherry Rehman may find itself inadequate to confront a challenge that defies a precise definition and knows no borders. It is increasingly clear that our fire-fighting approach is characterised by crisis tendencies, which if they are not damped down and managed in various ways will result in actual crisis.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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