Pakistan is one of the hardest hit countries by global climate change. due to increased vulnerability of monsoon, temperature, Himalayan glacier melt, and its impacts on Indus river flow, extreme events like drought and floods, decrease the capacity of water reservoirs that have significant effects on the local ecology, biodiversity, and agriculture, which leads to food insecurity and inflation.
Threats posed by changing climate in Pakistan
Because of these reasons, Pakistan is ranked 5th on the global climate change vulnerability index. This means Pakistan has a unique status to fight climate change on multiple frontlines to protect the rise in sea levels that can submerge Karachi, Tatta, Badin cities, along with coastal highways and possible ramifications for the heart of CPEC Gwadar, which can jeopardize the US $58 Billion projects.
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The current PTI government is expediting the internationally acclaimed billion tree tsunami project in all provinces to fight global warming and climate change. However, care must be taken to plant those trees which are environmentally friendly, as some trees are not good to fight climate change.
For example, Eucalyptus trees were introduced during the British era and then again in the ’80s and 90’svia collaboration with the USAID by the government for agro-forestry and control floods near roadsides because of its efficiency to pump out water very fast (100 to 1000 liter per day from the ground) that is not a good idea as many experts fear that the per capita availability of fresh water in Pakistan will further decline to 860 cubic meters by 2025 and the country may reach absolute water scarcity by 2040, and planting eucalyptus like trees will further enhance the water scarcity of the country.
Eucalyptus trees are already invasive in many parts of the country that are creating a mess by exhausting the surrounding soil in addition to water use efficiency. The government should immediately ban such trees plantations and should announce an eradication plan for eucalyptus in order to save water and agricultural soil.
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A battle that needs to be fought immediately
The trees grown in the billion tree tsunami project should also be evaluated for carbon stock. A tree with better carbon stocking (carbon sequestration) will be good to reduce the effects of global warming as it will reduce the surrounding temperature by quenching CO2 from the atmosphere.
Climate change is not coming, it’s already upon us, and the future generation will depend on the decision regarding climate change and global warming we take today. Therefore, the government must prepare a comprehensive awareness campaign to let a common person know about the implications of climate change and should be included in the syllabus from grade 5. The recent floods in Europe and central China, where the total annual rainfall poured in just 4 days is a stark reminder of what climate change has stored for us.
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Pakistan cannot afford another disaster like the 2010 floods that brought unprecedented devastation and the water remains for 6 months in the southern plains of Sindh. Therefore, the government and non-governmental organizations should devise a plan for renewable energy projects and prioritize the green economy to overcome climate change and food insecurity.
The writer is an Associate Professor at the University of Agriculture, Peshawar, UN-SDSN member for Pakistan, primary coordinator for Pakistan and water task force (HUC) South Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.