Ecosystem degradation through the depletion of natural resources like water, air, soil and habitat is bringing about destructive effects on the environment endangering biodiversity, wildlife and food security. With the rising population and availability of meager resources to excel in this domain, the environmental issues continued to aggravate over the years.
Massive tree cutting resulting in floods, using agricultural land for housing societies and ill-planned cities and towns have further aggravated the situation. Therefore, the natural resources that provide the basis of our existence are massively under pressure as we witness the water table going down rapidly and agricultural land shrinking due to unruly construction.
According to recent World Bank findings, climate change-related disasters have affected over 75 million Pakistanis during the last three decades in terms of agriculture and bio-diversity damages incurring estimated losses of over $ 29 billion (roughly $ 1 billion per annum). As Pakistan is a signatory to numerous international agreements and protocols, there was a dire need to focus on this area diligently.
Therefore, the present government efficiently pleaded the case of developing nations at the Conference of Parties (CoP-27) held in Egypt this November and sailed through successfully in getting created multi-billion funds to cope with climate change challenges. “Agriculture and bio-diversity play a critical role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Asad Imran, Director Sustainable Agriculture and Food Program at WWF.
“Eco-degradation and climate change are issues of our major concern as Pakistan are among the most vulnerable countries to these phenomena.” He said climate change is also a major threat to our food security as it is seriously affecting agriculture, forests, and fisheries. “Increasing sea level is another threat that may submerge many parts of coastal areas in Sindh province badly affecting Indus delta and highly productive cropping areas.” He said modern agriculture is characterized by input-intensive practices with enhanced usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. “This tendency has also badly affected our land’s natural fertility and contaminated groundwater.” To avert these damages, Asad Imran pleaded to use organic fertilizers and develop insects’ resistant seed varieties.
“Ecological degradation may lead us to food insecurity by reducing agricultural productivity.” Likewise, bio-diversity has significant value for humanity at all levels because of its role in ecosystem services. In future, it is expected to cause a major loss of some species and changes in genetic biodiversity. “It is affecting our lifeline – the water resource- as we see the water table going down and reducing canal water availability for irrigation,” Imran said. “It may also alter our agriculture output including the seasonality of crops’ quality and productivity, caused by plant diseases and pest attacks.”
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its report on the world’s biodiversity has warned all countries that all species supporting the food systems and sustaining people, would not be recovered if lost once. It stated that out of some 6,000 plant species cultivated for food and contributing to global food output, only nine species account for 66 per cent of total crop production. “Eco-degradation is affecting our overall crop productivity. Even a one-degree increase in temperature directly affects productivity and South Asian countries are the worst affected,” said noted environmentalist Dr Mahmood Khalid Qamar.
“Despite being rich in natural resources, Pakistan is still a victim to environmental degradation and we need immediate measures to avert its damages,” he said. Since 32 percent of our population lives in urban areas and if the current growth rate of urbanization continues, the country’s urban population will surpass its rural population within the upcoming decade. “Our green cover is rapidly vanishing. Massive tree-cutting results in land erosion and aggravates floods as we recently witnessed,” said Javeria Qais, a climate expert at the University of Central Punjab (UCP). “Recurrence of recent flood phenomenon may again damage our most needed crops like maize, sugar cane, cotton and rice. This may land us in serious trouble in terms of food security,” Javeria said.
As Pakistan expressed gratitude for creating the “Loss and Damage Fund” for climate justice, Punjab Secretary of Environment Usman Ali Khan has urged collective efforts to cope with environmental and climate change challenges. He said the Punjab government has chalked out strict measures to control eco-degradation and environmental issues including action against smoke-emitting vehicles and industrial units.
“Ingenuine industrial activities resulting in the emission of poisonous gases and effluent cannot be supported as it steadily leads to eco-degradation,” he said. “There is a need for advanced and pollution-free technologies to avert further eco-degradation.” He said, on directions of the Punjab government, the environmental monitoring teams have been deployed at Ring Road localities including Sagian, Babu Sabu, and Thokar Niaz Baig entry points for action against smoke-emitting vehicles. “Therefore is no ban on entry into the city by vehicles carrying construction goods. However, the transporters must get their vehicles cleared from the environment monitoring units as pollution free.”
Quoting an example of the worst biodegradation, Khan referred to fruit trees like guava, mulberry and mango that were declining at a fast pace in the suburbs of Lahore and other big cities. Keeping in view this situation, there is a dire need for collective efforts by all stakeholders to protect biodiversity for a secure future for the coming generations.