Wednesday June 19, 2024

Our land, our future

Our land is the only source of our survival providing food, water, air, and shelter

By Zile Huma
June 06, 2024
A man washes waste plastic sheets, collected for recycling, in the polluted waters on World Environment Day in Karachi on June 5, 2023. —Reuters
A man washes waste plastic sheets, collected for recycling, in the polluted waters on World Environment Day in Karachi on June 5, 2023. —Reuters

Countries celebrate ‘World Environment Day’ every year on June 5 to highlight environmental challenges faced by our planet and to create awareness among people to take steps for healing ‘environmental wounds’.

The theme for this year was ‘Our land our future’ with a focus on threats like desertification, deforestation, land degradation, extinction of natural species, and loss of water reservoirs.

Our land is the only source of our survival providing food, water, air, and shelter. According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, up to 40 per cent of the planet’s land is degraded, directly affecting half of the world’s population.

Pakistan is also witnessing the challenges of desertification and land degradation. There are multiple causes for these environmental challenges. First, the unbridled population growth is a burden on its resources. To meet the needs of this mushrooming population, more lands are being cleared for agriculture to grow crops and feed this huge population. The overconsumption of land for agricultural purposes is depriving the land of its nutrients.

The use of pesticides and insecticides also disturbs the natural cycle of soil ingredients and leads to land desertification and degradation. To fulfil the living needs of this bulging population, more housing societies are being built and forests are being cut. As a result of deforestation, desertification and land degradation is increasing

According to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment Coordination, less than 5.0 percent of Pakistan’s total area is under forest cover, and 1.5 per cent of these forests are lost every year. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a high population growth rate is pushing the figure for forest cover further down. Due to the loss of forest cover, many precious species are endangered. This interrupts the sustainable pattern of our ecosystems. Similarly, climate change is another cause of desertification and degradation in Pakistan.

Pakistan is declared among the top 10 countries most affected by climate change. Heatwaves, smog, and floods are frequent occurrences here. Floods carry away important nutrients from the soil and reduce its fertility. Similarly, smog causes acid rain that also changes the PH value of soil, making it acidic in nature and degraded.

Another important challenge for the restoration of land is the lack of awareness among people and their greed to grab maximum resources. Lack of knowledge and financial resources are also hindrances for ordinary people to adopt sustainable patterns to restore our land.

Pakistan can take several initiatives to restore our land. The government should adopt policies that promote sustainable land management and water conservation. First, we need to adopt a sustainable pattern of life to reduce deforestation. Housing schemes should not be approved unless at least 5.0 per cent of their area is covered with trees. The idea of vertical gardening should be promoted to restore the lost forest cover.

Deforestation should be prohibited and strict laws be imposed and implemented to stop it. The trend of organic food needs to be promoted to reduce the use of pesticides and insecticides. Food wastage should be controlled at all stages of growing, transportation, and export so that land use for agricultural purposes can be reduced. This will also not only save water consumed for growing crops but also reduce carbon emissions produced as a result of agricultural activities.

The adoption of modern techniques and technologies in the agriculture sector can also save the land from desertification and degradation. It also requires financial resources and support from the government to impart training and provide technologies to stakeholders for adoption of modern techniques and technologies.

Similarly, the construction of small dams can conserve and stop flood water from wastage. The habit of sustainable use of water in our domestic consumption like washing, cleaning drinking, etc, can be another important solution.

Moreover, indigenous research should be conducted to find local solutions to problems related to land desertification and degradation in Pakistan. It also requires investment in this field in the form of scholarships and research grants to open education opportunities for students.

Our land is our future. It requires efforts at all levels to protect it from desertification and degradation. It is now on us to take adequate steps and become a generation serious about land restoration.

The writer is a graduate of University of Oxford in Public Policy. She tweets/posts @zilehumma_1