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September 16, 2019

‘Actions in individual capacity can help fight climate change’


September 16, 2019

Though Pakistan is not playing a significant role in global warming, it has been declared one of the most vulnerable countries due to the dangers of climate change, as it was previously ranked seventh in the Long-Term Climate Risk Index by an international organisation.

Journalist and environmental activist Afia Salam said this while speaking to a group of young people at the Frere Hall on Sunday during a discussion on the impact of climate change on marginalised communities. The event was organised by Aurat Haq.

Afia said Pakistan has been facing multiple threats due to climate change. She said that as the sea levels are rising due to climate change, the country’s coastal areas can eventually be swallowed up by the sea. Citing the National Institute of Oceanography, she said sea water can one day cover the Saddar and Gizri areas.

She pointed out that the phenomenon of heatwave is another threat to Karachi due to the changing climate. During the heatwave of 2015, the temperature in the city reached up to 45 degrees Celsius, which was still lower than the temperature recorded in some other areas of Sindh, such as Jacobabad, but all the same, so many deaths occurred in Karachi, she said.

According to the journalist, a major reason behind a large number of deaths in the city during the 2015 heatwave was a dearth of trees. She also blamed the materials used in the construction of buildings in Karachi for the deaths, as they absorb heat.

Discussing how the marginalised communities are affected the most due to climate change, Afia said that many people who died during the heatwave were drug addicts and beggars who did not have proper houses. Regarding the women, she said that it was not easy for the female residents of Katchi Abadis to leave their homes during high temperatures.

She called for planting trees in parks. Pointing at some tall trees at the Frere Hall, she said that one can find trees there because it is an old park. She lamented that currently, the authorities only grow grass and bushes whenever they develop any park.

She also advised the youth not to create unnecessary hype about climate change. Karachi cannot be as green as Bangkok because it lies in an arid zone and it rains less here, she said, adding that it is unfair to compare Karachi with cities like Bangkok.

“We need to look for simpler solutions,” Afia said. She added that we often come up with grand solutions that can only be implemented by the government, and such thought patterns render us unable to take steps that we can easily take in our individual capacity.

She said that as individuals, we can easily throw plastic bags in dustbins, but many of us do not. Due to plastic bags, the drains of Karachi clog up and lead to urban flooding, she remarked.

Later, talking to The News, she mentioned that some measures to deal with climate change have borne fruit. She said people of Bagrot Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan were under threat because of the melting glaciers, but they were saved due to timely measures.

Film-maker Haya Fatima Iqbal shared her experiences of the country’s rural areas. She said the media is covering the issue of climate change only keeping the urban areas in view, due to which the problems of the rural areas in this regard are not highlighted.

“We find the news of heatwave, but the news of melting glaciers does not reach us,” she remarked. She informed the discussion forum that some villages in Chitral were destroyed due to the melting glaciers and their residents were going through trauma, as they became extremely afraid whenever they heard the sounds of an avalanche or flood.

Many participants also shared their views about climate change. When someone asked why it is being claimed that women are more susceptible to climate change, a participant replied that since climate change is decreasing economic resources, it is causing poverty, leading to child marriages, which affects the women the most.

The participants also agreed that the issue of climate change is a political one and it needs to be highlighted in political activities. The discussion was moderated by Fiza Qureshi and Tara Khan.