Rising heatwaves, floods causing increase in snakebites across Southasia

ISLAMABAD    -   Climate change is driving an increase in snakebites and envenomation deaths in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and beyond – and the community-driven solutions are leading the fightback.  In Punjabi, they call avoiding a snakebite “kakh lagna”, denoting a narrow escape. Chaudhry Waqar Anwar, a 39-year-old journalist and farmer says he narrowly escaped snake bites thrice in the fields around Gujranwala, in Pakistan’s province Punjab. Anwar recounts how snakes often hide under ready-to-harvest crops.  Recently, one had its sights on his feet as he worked in a paddy field, but he killed it with a farming implement before it could bite him. A growing crisis of snakebites has much of the subcontinent in its grip, cutting across borders and threatening thousands of lives. Recently, two South Asian journalists Al Jabber Malik from Pakistan and Diwash Gahatraj explored the link between climate change and the growing incidents of snakebites as part of a cross-border reporting workshop organized by the US-based East-West Center.  The duo’s joint research and interaction with the affected communities revealed a notable increase in snakebite cases in the region, with links to climate change-induced extreme heat and floods. On a tour of his lush farmland, Anwar explained to the two environmental journalists that his village once had acres of dunes, but the locals had converted that area to arable land.

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