Incoming heatwave

Climate change is caused by an increase of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. In Pakistan, environmental degradation and climate change are affecting the national economy, livelihood of the poor and sustainable development adversely. The ever growing population, unplanned rapid urban expansion and dependence on natural resources puts immense pressure on the environment that triggered climate change. Moreover, a lack of awareness on the part of the general public regarding environmental issues has further aggravated the situation.
According to the National Forest Reference emissions level findings, the country on the whole is maintaining 4786 million hectares (5.45 percent) of area under forest cover. This meagre forest cover area is due to the ever growing population and the dependence on the natural resources coupled with deforestation. All of this has reduced the country to the level of one of the most vulnerable to climate change effects.
Ever-growing environmental challenges have obvious socio-economic challenges. Heatwaves impact crop cycles, floods, drought and degradation of water and air quality also pose a negative impact on the quality of life. In order to cope with the challenge of climate change, such matters should be addressed on a priority basis.
The government has already taken multiple measures. Plantation is the most appealing strategy to expand forest-covered area in the country. Forestation will obviously increase the absorption capacity of greenhouse gases, regulate water flows and protect coastal communities from extreme events and sea level rise. Additionally, they also improve migrating plant and animal species routes to resilient habitats. There must be a call for immediate and serious interventions supported with the commitment for ensuring adequate financial flows to improve and enhance the overall forestry, wildlife and biodiversity sector.
Only last year, the country had suffered very heavily due to adverse climate change effects. Snow clouds had burst, glaciers had melted and the country had experienced unpredictable rains, resulting in one of the deadliest floods. These floods took a heavy toll on people who were swept away, standing crops were washed away over a vast area, large number of houses were heavily damaged or totally collapsed and a large number of people were left homeless after surviving the onrushing flood water or rains.
All this had happened quite unexpectedly. Most government agencies were unprepared and people were unaware of how to cope with the calamity. Most impacts could have been avoided had the state developed a damage-control framework to implement in such times. In fact, our state of helplessness drew the attention of the United Nations and other developing who provided assistance at the various international forums. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself visited Pakistan, went to the flood and rain hit areas in different parts, met the affected people and called upon the international community for providing maximum assistance to Pakistan for relief, the rehabilitation of affected people and in effectively combating climate change. A number of friendly countries also came rushing to providing assistance through the provision of cash and relief goods.
In view of the bitter experiences and lessons learnt by the top brass and the agencies concerned, it is good to note that all agencies topped by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and official forms and departments down the line at the federal and provincial levels have already geared themselves up and are making hectic preparations to face any upcoming challenges.
For the summer of 2023, the NDMA has issued guidelines telling authorities that heatwaves, forest fires and glacier lake outbursts can trigger floods. Based on the vulnerability of different regions, all respective disaster management authorities, line departments, rescue agencies and local administrations are required to make preparations timely so that they can combat the situation effectively while also minimising potential losses which be incurred.
Furthermore, they have also been directed to carry out extensive awareness campaigns for sensitising the public about the likely dangers associated with heatwave-like conditions and for taking all preventive and precautionary measures. Additionally, people at large have also been asked to remain hydrated, drink sufficient water, avoiding exposure to direct sunline, remaining informed and keeping track of local weather conditions. On its part, the Pakistan Meteorological Department has also warned the people at large that the country was likely to witness higher than usual temperatures during the summers.