Drastic changes in climate patterns do not bode well for the city
ahore, the second largest city of the country, has experienced drastic changes in its climate patterns in recent years. The year 2022 saw an increase in extreme weather phenomena such as rising temperatures and smog, which together with its perennially polluted air are leading to numerous health and environmental concerns.
One of the most noticeable changes in the city’s climate has been the rising temperatures. In 2022, Lahore experienced an average temperature increase of about 2 degrees Celsius, making it one of the hottest years on record. The increased temperature is due to a variety of factors, including urbanisation, deforestation, and increased use of fossil fuels.
The rising temperature is not only affecting the health of the residents but also the agriculture, as heat stress can cause a reduction in crop yields.
Another alarming phenomenon witnessed in Lahore during 2022 was the thick smog that engulfed the city for several months, beginning early October. Smog is a mixture of smoke and fog, and it is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and industrial emissions. Smog can have serious health impacts, including respiratory problems, eye irritation, and headaches. In 2022, the smog was so thick that it led to road accidents and flight cancellations, causing inconvenience and economic loss to the residents.
Lahore’s air quality has also been deteriorating in recent years. The city has seen a significant increase in industrialisation, which has led to an increase in the emission of pollutants in the air. In 2022, air quality in Lahore was classified as ‘hazardous’ for several weeks, meaning that the air quality index (AQI) was over 500. This can cause serious health problems, particularly for children and the elderly. The increase in air pollution is also affecting the climate by contributing to global warming.
The Pakistan Country Profile (PCP) report, published by the World Bank, provides a comprehensive overview of the country’s climate and climate-related challenges. The report highlights that Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. This entails significant risks to the country’s water resources, agriculture and public health. The report provides an overview of Pakistan’s climate, including the country’s temperature and rainfall patterns; and examines the impacts of climate change on various sectors such as water, agriculture, energy and health.
The report further says that Pakistan has already experienced an increase in temperature by 0.6 degrees Celsius and a decline in precipitation by 4 percent over the past century. The report highlights that the country’s water resources are under threat due to climate change, with projected changes in precipitation patterns and increased glacial melting.
As per the report, the country’s agricultural sector is also vulnerable to climate change due to increased water stress, soil degradation and pest and disease outbreaks.
The Pakistan Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan is a comprehensive document that outlines the country’s strategy for adapting to the impacts of climate change. The document highlights the country’s vulnerability to climate change impacts such as water scarcity, droughts, floods, heatwaves and landslides.
The strategy and action plan are organised into four key pillars: (1) understanding and managing risks and vulnerabilities, (2) building resilience to climate change impacts, (3) promoting low-carbon development; and (4) enabling implementation through governance and capacity building. Each of these is further divided into specific goals and strategies that aim to address climate change impacts across various sectors in Pakistan.
nderstanding and managing risks and vulnerabilities requires a comprehensive climate change risk assessment framework and improving climate change data collection and analysis.
The focus should be on enhancing disaster management and emergency response systems to better prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
The resilience of key sectors such as agriculture, water, health and infrastructure requires promoting climate-resilient agriculture practices, enhancing water storage capacity and irrigation efficiency, and improving health systems to cope with climate-related health risks. Environmentally friendly transportation systems and green buildings and promotion of ecosystem-based approaches in new residential and commercial developments are also a necessity.
Furthermore, greenhouse gas emissions can be kept low by promoting the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, improving energy efficiency in buildings and industry and promoting sustainable transportation.
One of the most important aspects of enabling implementation is through governance and capacity building. This aims to strengthen institutional and governance structures to support climate change adaptation and mitigation in Lahore. This includes improving coordination and collaboration among government agencies, civil society, and the private sector, and promoting public-private partnerships to support climate action.
The changing climate patterns in Lahore call for urgent action on the part of the policymakers. Here are some recommendations:
n Promote Public Transport: Lahore should prioritise the development of a public transportation system that is affordable, efficient and environment friendly. This will not only reduce air pollution but also ease the traffic congestion, leading to a more sustainable transport system.
n Promote Renewable Energy: Policymakers should encourage the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydropower to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. This will not only help in reducing emissions but also improve the energy security of the country.
n Encourage Green Spaces: The government should encourage the creation of green spaces in the city such as parks and urban forests. This will help in improving air quality, reducing the urban heat island effect, and provide recreational spaces for the residents.
n Strengthen Environmental Regulations: Policymakers should enforce environmental regulations more strictly to reduce industrial emissions and promote sustainable production. This will help in improving air quality and reducing the environmental impact of industries.
n Promote Climate Education: Climate education should be promoted at all levels of education to raise awareness and encourage action on climate change. This will help in creating a more informed and engaged citizenry that understands the urgency of taking action to address the climate crisis.
— Ahmed Ahsan
The writer is a development sector professional with nearly a decade of experience in communications and reporting. He has supported the implementation of The World Bank’s Disaster and Climate Resilience Improvement Project (DCRIP) and ADB’s Flood Emergency Reconstruction and Resilience Project (FERRP) in Pakistan