There is now some realisation in the private sector in Pakistan of importance of having more and more sports facilities
In this series of articles on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) & sports, we will discuss the role sports play in achieving Goal 13, the Climate Change and Goal 11 of SDGs, i.e. how to make countries inclusive, healthy, productive & resilient.
Before ringing the alarming bells of climate change and its devastating effects on Pakistan in near future, let's look into speedy urbanisation of Pakistan where sports is largely ignored in the development paradigm. It's an established fact that sports contribute to sustainable & resilient planning of human settlements and the capacity to sustain societies.
There is now some realisation among the large builders in the private sector in Pakistan of the importance of sports facilities. They now highlight them in their marketing campaigns. A few have come up with facilities but there is a lot to be desired in terms of their maintenance, access to local community and availability of trained staff.
We know that there are several ways in which sports and supervised physical activity contribute to the development of healthy nations. A healthy urban system & ecosystem have a significant effect on physical activity participation. Being a resident of Islamabad, I have observed increased participation of the local community in walking and cycling over the last few years because of improvement in walking tracks in sector area parks, Margalla tracks.
The SDG 11 is also referred to as the "Urban SDG". Just like Islamabad the other cities should also develop green spaces and cycling opportunities, thus contributing to SDG 11.2 & 11.7 because green settings play a role in creating healthier cities with more sports opportunities for urban youth.
Within Islamabad and other major urban cities of the country the public school facilities are either locked in the afternoon or evening shift classes are organised for the remaining students. Most of these schools have ample play areas which are underutilised. In case the education department lacks the capacity to utilise the available space, these areas may be opened for local communities as safe sports places for effective utilisation.
Provincial sports authorities and those at the federal level should make it compulsory for the sportspersons with national appeal and recognition to participate in public awareness campaigns regarding promotion of SDGs. For instance, any sportsperson with public recognition must promote the idea of travelling in public transport or travelling together for offices in pooled up cars instead of personal transport, thus reducing traffic and use of expensive fuel.
The large public and private universities in cities should promote cycling as a means of transport for students within the university campus. Similarly, the locks on mega sports facilities like PSB should be removed and such facilities must be utilised fully by the public when not in use by professional athletes.
SDG 13 covers climate change and its challenges in detail. The goal also covers how sports and physical activity reduces burden of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which are linked with climatic factors such as increase in temperature. Climate Change Mitigation (SDG 13.1) combines educational & environmental interventions to support physical activity. In this context UN Climate Change (UNFCC) has developed a plan called "Climate Action Sports" to empower and encourage all sports organisations to take part in reaching global climate change goals.
I am well aware of the fact that neither our sports bodies nor our policy makers have any clue of using sports to achieve SDGs. These write-ups are an effort to draw their attention to the importance of sports for achieving the SDGs through cost effective measures.
Pakistan has the largest number of glaciers anywhere in the world outside the polar region. Climate change is eating away Himalayan glaciers at a dramatic rate. Since 2018 more than 300 lakes have formed, out of which 33 are considered hazardous where 7 million people are at risk due to glacial lake outburst flooding.
A lot of local and international mountain trackers visit Pakistan to explore its mesmerising north.
Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) was founded in 1974 and is affiliated with PSB, working under the patronage of Gilgit Baltistan Council Secretariat. ACP is also the sole representative of Pakistan in the World Climbing & Mountain Federation. The ACP is doing a good job by promoting winter sports and mountaineering in the country.
ACP must ensure that all national and international mountaineers, trackers and participants of winter sports should ensure environmental cleanliness, thus contributing towards SDG 13.
Most of the sports federations and government organisations are unaware of the fact that enough donor money is available for projects related to climate change. Pakistan is way behind in designing such innovative projects where sports, particularly mountain climbing, are used for achieving SDG 13.
We hope and pray that sports bodies in Pakistan use sports for attaining SDGs in effective and innovative ways.
Aamir Bilal is an eminent sports analyst with expertise in sports management and sports for development