KARACHI: Climate change is affecting almost all the sectors of our economy, particularly water resources, energy, health and biodiversity, with a major impact on agricultural productivity. This is due to changes in temperature, adverse effect on land and water resources and enhanced frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as droughts and floods, says new Economic Survey of Pakistan 2013-2104.
Dry land areas, such as arid and semi-arid regions are most vulnerable to these climate changes. Such regions are already facing significant water shortages and temperatures are already close to their tolerance limits.
The increasing temperatures increase crop stresses, change irrigation water requirements, and increase the risk of pests and diseases. Water demands of the country are met by Indus River System that is fed by glaciers in Hindukash Karakoram ranges which are believed to be receding under influence of climate change and global warming. The melting of these glaciers will result in increased water flows for a few decades followed by reduced river flows as the glaciers get depleted.
Despite being a low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitter (1% of global emissions), Pakistan is bearing the brunt of climate change related disasters at a high cost to its economy. It therefore, requires concerted efforts to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and relatively fewer efforts to carry out mitigation measures.
A number of measures are needed to be taken to address both mitigation and adaptation aspects of climate change through enhancing various ongoing efforts and initiating new activities, as described below.
Environmental degradation may cost Pakistan’s economy over Rs 365 billion every year of which inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene accounts for Rs 112 billion, agricultural soil degradation Rs 70 billion, indoor pollution Rs 67 billion, urban air pollution Rs 65 billion, lead exposure Rs 45 billion and land degradation and deforestation Rs 6 billion,
According to the survey, some environmental experts believe that the environmental degradation cost must have increased beyond Rs 450 billion per year.
Pakistan is facing serious challenges of environmental pollution that include, land degradation, water contamination and air pollution. Freshwater and industrial pollutions are mostly unchecked and may get worse unless economic activity is underpinned with sustainable development.
Major big challenges include: water and air pollution are causing widespread diseases, rapid recession of Hindu Kush Karakoram Himalayan glaciers are affecting the magnitude and pattern of water inflows into the Indus River System and reduced agriculture productivity in arid and semi-arid regions is due to increased heat- and water- stress as well as more frequent and intense floods and droughts.
Pakistan is a country of 188 million people with average population density of 236 persons per sq. km, which is higher as compared to many other developing countries. The country has very high migration rate to urban centers which has made the cities very congested and has made the civic infrastructure inadequate.
Air quality data recorded in cities confirmed presence of high concentration of suspended particulate matter in air (2-3.5 times higher than the safe limit). Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) is continuously increasing in major cities mainly due to increased number of CNG operated vehicles. Formation of photo-chemical smog and haze is a common phenomenon in our cities.
Brick kilns are another source of pollution in many areas. The use of low-grade coal and old tires in brick kilns generates dense black smoke and other kinds of emissions. The main pollutants from these industries are particulate matter, and sulphur.
In 1947, the water availability in Pakistan was 5,650 cubic meter per person, which kept on decreasing, first due to Indus Water Treaty,1960.Secondly, gradual decline in trans-boundary flows into Pakistan which has been alarmingly up to the tune of
10.25 MAF, and, thirdly, exceptional growth in population of the country, all making per capita water availability in Pakistan to as low as 964 cubic meters per year which is creating water deficit and hampering well-being and, at the same time, severely affecting future economic development.
The situation is aggravating due to excessive reliance on underground water which is meeting more than 60% of agriculture needs. It is not only resulting in salinity but also contamination of aquifers with heavy traces of fluoride and arsenic.
Climate change is also expected to have extreme effects on the glaciers which contribute over 70% of our water resources and may reduce the water availability by 30% to 40%. Furthermore, our productivity per unit of water and land is one of the lowest in the world.
According to Pakistan Millennium Development Goals Report 2013, access to sanitation facilities are available to 72 percent of the total population while the target is to provide safe sanitation facilities to 90 percent of the total population by 2015.
The forests cover about 5.2 percent of the land area of Pakistan but it is still short of the 6 percent MDG target. The low share of the forest area taken in combination with the large population of Pakistan gives only 0.033 hectares of forest per capita compared with the world average of one hectare.
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