Friday June 21, 2024

March for our lives

By Editorial Board
July 24, 2023

The Climate March Karachi 2023 that took place on July 16 at Frere Hall could not have come at a more appropriate time. Activists and organizers pointed to how local authorities were seemingly unable to prevent climate disasters such as floods, heavy rainfall and extreme heat and how their own development projects are exacerbating environmental harm. Others pointed to how pollution from plastic, sewage and industrial waste and irresponsible construction was damaging the Indus Delta and its communities and criticized the national obsession with Thar coal in an era where the world is moving or must move towards renewable energy. The Malir Expressway project in particular came under intense scrutiny, with calls for the project to be abandoned as it is a cause of ecological damage and is not benefiting local residents.

This summer is showing just how disastrous things will get if climate change remains unaddressed, with extreme heat threatening millions across the globe. China, Southern Europe and the US are all battling a wave of extreme heat that has already broken several temperature records and is forecasted to break even more in the coming days. The situation is especially grim in Europe, where the record heat has contributed to wildfires in Greece and Switzerland. What is even more concerning is that such extreme weather phenomena appear to be becoming the norm, with Europe experiencing a heatwave that led to over 61,000 deaths in 2022, and are expected to intensify according to experts. If we look closer to home, record high rainfall in Lahore a few weeks ago led to flooding and several deaths, echoing the events of last year’s flood catastrophe.

Given all these events, the march and its messages could not have been better timed. There is an urgent need to promote sustainable solutions to the emerging climate crisis, including when it comes to commercial, residential and infrastructural developments, waste management and energy. While Pakistan has called for climate reparations from the rich countries, any funds we do receive have to be backed by sensible policy at home. And, while we have made some steps towards addressing the climate crisis, including expanding public transport and solar energy, the manner of our urban and infrastructural development is highly unsustainable and causing great environmental damage. Our natural ecosystems are vanishing at an alarming rate, leaving us more prone to global warming and, as a result, flooding. Building in a manner that accounts for environmental impact means prioritizing vertical development and initiatives such as urban forests. The Clifton Urban Forest in Karachi, for example, covers 220 acres and is home to several plant and animal species. Such initiatives not only preserve wildlife and help beautify cities, but can also act as a barrier against urban flooding. Few things are as good at absorbing water as trees, making preserving natural landscapes a key counter-flood measure. Including environmental impact assessments is increasingly a requirement to attract international funding, making such assessment both an environmental and economic priority. According to reports, the Asian Development Bank has backed out of the Malir Expressway project following complaints from local farmers about environmental damage and displacement. As the world becomes more conscious of the environment and the consequences of environmental damage become more apparent, we must change our policies and priorities accordingly.