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September 21, 2019

Marchers demand emergency steps to control climate degradation


September 21, 2019

A large number of residents, environmental, civil society and political activists on Friday took part in a climate march to demand of the government to take emergency measures to curb climate degradation.

They attended the march under the banner of Climate Action Now, or #ClimateActionPk, a citizens-led initiative, with the slogan “the climate crisis won’t wait, neither will we”. The march took place in almost every major city in the world.

In Karachi, the marchers gathered at the Frere Hall, carrying out placards inscribed with slogans, such as ‘green breathes clean’. The organisers said that the climate march’s mobilisation was a joint response by a broad coalition of individuals, groups, NGOs and social movements across Pakistan.

“We already know that environmental, public health, social justice, and development groups will join us. What makes these walks unique is that no one group or organisation is behind this; rather, it is driven by citizens concerned about the climate crisis,” said the organiser in a press release.

The march’s participants said that climate change was now a scientifically established fact despite there being widespread apathy and outright denial of its reality.

Participating cities from across Pakistan had come up with their respective charters of the demand which included: declaring a climate emergency, climate justice through a national and global coalition, adopting a low-carbon economy, and ensuring grassroots level climate adaptation efforts.

The primary purpose of this march was to focus the government’s attention on the issue of climate change, said Qurrat Mirza, a known rights activist. “Globally, states and societies have become increasingly aware of the devastating impact it will have on the environment, ecological balance and livelihoods. The primary cause of these changes is our exploitation of the earth’s resources for unsustainable production and consumption practices.

“Global temperatures have risen to around 1.0°C above pre-industrial levels and this is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate,” she said.

Governments would need to coordinate and commit to policy measures “if we are to ensure survival of future generations on this planet”, she said.

Additionally, #ClimateActionPk will also put forward the following city-specific demands. For the Karachi group, it demanded to revise the Karachi Master Plan keeping in view the unprecedented environmental challenges faced by residents of this city, launch a massive afforestation and reforestation project of indigenous groundcover, shrubs, bushes and trees. The march participants also demanded reduce and regulate emissions and effluent from transportation, agricultural, resource extraction, energy and industrial sectors, and establish an urban waste management program. It also demanded the government shift to renewable energy sources and discourage fossil-fuel-based energy, and halt illegal and unsustainable land development by large real estate interests at the expense of local communities, ecology, and environment

Yasir Husain, a teacher, and new media artist, said that the last rains measuring 200mm showed that Karachi’s infrastructure is broken, leaving millions to darkness, electrocutions, drowning in drainage, animal waste, and garbage. 1200 people died when we hit 43 C in 2015.

“What can we say about Karachi’s preparedness in facing increasing weather extremes expected from Climate Change, such as five days of 45 or 50 C, or rain of 300mm or 500mm. We would have floods, starvation, refugees from Karachi, disease, chaos and massive deaths,” he said.

Aabida Ali, a political activist from the Women Democratic Front, said that climate change is likely to have a serious impact on employment in all sectors and in all regions. “These impacts include significant climate-driven migration for work, dangerous working conditions from extreme heat, job loss in rural areas due to crop failure and job loss in urban areas due to extreme weather events,” she said. “There has been increase in climate-induced events, the heatwave is one of its manifestation which Karachi experiences each year. Most of those died in recent heatwaves in Karachi were working class factory workers who came from the low-income areas in Karachi,” she said.

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