EDITORIAL: By now, too many interest groups and even government departments have raised enough noise for everyone to know that Pakistan faces existential climate change and desertification challenges.

Indeed, as Coordinator to Prime Minister of Climate Change Romina Khurshid Alam highlighted on World Desertification Day, “Pakistan is facing expanding desertification and recurring but intense droughts”, and that “warming temperatures, shifting or declining rainfall patterns, loss of vegetation and tree covers, unsustainable agricultural, irrigation practices, overgrazing, urbanization, ranching, mining and clearing of land and heat-trapping carbon emissions from industrial, transport and offal fuel-run energy sectors and deforestation” were major causes.

Yet now that all this is known, and has been known for a while, the next big question is what is being done to meet these challenges.

The PM’s coordinator was also quick to mention the official response, of course. It turns out that “targeted policies, investments in research and technology and fostering international cooperation” is the official way forward for “combating desertification and achieving land degradation neutrality”.

That is appreciated, even if it is quite vague. It would be better to break down some of these initiatives to provide a better understanding of exactly how bad things are and how long it is going to take to make them better; and, just how much improvement we can look forward to.

It would also be wise to acknowledge how this is the classic example of letting our own problems magnify because of a complete lack of appreciation at the government level.

As things stand, 68pc of Pakistan’s land area is classified as arid or semi-arid, which makes it vulnerable to desertification.

It’s this phenomenon that has pushed “increasing desertification in recent years and resulted in loss of fertile topsoil, soil erosion, water scarcity, lower agri output, loss of agri-based livelihoods, increase in rural poverty, hunger and malnutrition, rural-to-urban migration, habitat loss, and degradation of natural ecosystems”, in the government’s own words.

And a lot of this could, rather should, have been avoided by timely government intervention.

Agri sector stakeholders, for example, were crying hoarse for decades about just this kind of catastrophe because the government was not interested in pulling it out of the centuries-old seeding and irrigation pattern that it was, and continues to be, trapped in.

Should we be really surprised, then, that we ended up degrading our own soil and hence our natural comparative advantage and now we’ve set off a chain reaction that kills livelihoods, upsets traditional demographic patterns, pressures urban centres, increases poverty and even lawlessness; along with the twin menaces of desertification and climate change of course?

Perhaps the important takeaway from all this is that it has finally caused serious alarm at the very top. Yet, at the same time, the next important question is whether it is already too late.

That remains to be seen, of course, but there is no doubt that of all of Pakistan’s existential problems, which range from a dangerous insurgency to very serious threat of default, maybe there is nothing more serious than the worries brought to us by the world’s changing climate and increasing desertification.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


Comments are closed.

KU Jul 01, 2024 10:27am
Article doesn't do justice to reality or reasons for desertification. Think about eight agri-soil zones in Pakistan n bring forth problems of farmers of rain-fed areas experiencing climate changes.
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KU Jul 01, 2024 10:35am
As far as 'alarm at very top' is concerned, its a lie, they don't care. The neglect on building water reservoirs or adopting techniques to survive climate change is criminal, UN IPC has warned us.
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Ja Hil Jul 02, 2024 04:32pm
Don't look up!
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