The perils of climate change in Balochistan

Environmental pollution caused by combustion of coal, oil and gas poses serious threat to lives of the inhabitants on the planet. There is no denying the fact that oil, gas and coal are the main sources of energy of today’s world meeting 75% of global energy needs. These energy sources, whereas played a key role in socio-economic uplift of the people and improved quality of life worldwide, they also played havoc with environmental resources. Air pollution, water contamination, deforestation and soil erosion are some of the phenomena causing environmental degradation worldwide. About three million premature deaths occur in a year due to environment pollution, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.

Soil erosion, air pollution, water contamination, deforestation, rangeland depletion and destruction of juniper forests are somewhat unchecked but unavoidable and slow but continuous phenomena causing environmental degradation in Balochistan. These factors are not only causing irreparable damages to environment with its abiotic and biotic elements, but also inflicting losses to the provincial economy.

According to the Environmental Profile Balochistan, the main rural environmental problem in the province is desertification. Desertification although conditioned by the hyper-arid to dry climate of Balochistan, is caused by over-exploitation. The most serious urban environmental problem is the microbiological problem due to near absence of sewerage, sanitation and waste disposal.

The recent drought situation in Balochistan was the manifestation of unsustainable use of natural resources. Settlements are characterized by poor planning, contaminated water supplies, inefficient or non- existent sanitation and waste management services and air pollution. These are emerging as major issues as the population rapidly expands and urbanization accelerates. The renewable land resources include water, soil, forest, wildlife and range. Sustainable use of these resources is inevitable to protect environmental quality. Balochistan is 43 percent of landmass of Pakistan with an area of 3,47,000-sq. km. Livestock contributes about 20 per cent of the provincial GDP. It is the primary sustainable sources of living for majority of population in the province.

According to the Balochistan Conservation Strategy (BCS), the reality is that for much of its recent history, the province had to confront major environmental challenges. The shortage of water for drinking and agriculture, and degraded pastures and forests has been the subject of concern for decades. Rangelands depletion in the province has been owing to burgeoning population, land Mafia, persistent drought in recent years, overgrazing and deforestation. The deforestation and overgrazing destroyed flora and fauna besides depleting the vegetation cover of the rangelands

Government must develop an effective monitoring and enforcement mechanism to ensure proper implementation of environmental laws and standards. Integration of environment into policy-making process is key to achieving the goal of sustainable development. Efforts should be directed to streamline environment into all sectoral polices. A state of environment that safeguards public health, promotes sustainable livelihoods, and enhances the quality of life, should be the goal to be achieved by the economic planners.

The poverty-environment nexus should be addressed. The rapid environmental degradation caused by air and water pollution, deforestation and land degradation is seriously affecting the livelihood of the poor. There is a high need for adopting cutting-edge engineering practices for promotion of sustainable development in the country.

One thing should be plain to all concerned that economic development at the cost of environment resources would be a disaster in longer terms. It is suggested that ‘Environmental economics’ may be introduced as subject at Graduate and Post Graduate level in the country to highlight the merits of environmentalism and significance of environmental damages and its subsequent losses to the national economy.

Provincial capital Quetta has recently been declared the worst polluted city after Mexico in the world. There is a dire need to establish environmental tribunal in Quetta where violation of environmental rules has become a culture by all and sundry. Air pollution is an acute problem in Quetta. Traffic congestion, mismanagement of solid waste, including hospital and human waste, heaps of filth and garbage, smoke emitting vehicles particularly rickshaws and disorganized system of garbage disposal are the main factors threatening a massive environmental disaster in Quetta.

Sewerage lines and drains often remain choked and the grey and black water is frequently seen standing and flowing in the streets and lanes of the Quetta City. In this state of environmental affairs, the rains worsen the conditions in Quetta, which seems stormed by filth and garbage during rainy season.

The worst polluted air in Quetta and other cities of the province poses serious health hazards to its residents. Today, the effects of climate-change and global warming find their manifestation in the form of atmospheric pollution in Balochistan. The recurrence of drought, rise in sea level, salinity of fresh water resources along the Balochistan coast and formation of smog in urban areas are some other forms in which these effects are appearing in the province.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) provides a smoke-free and cheaper option to vehicles for switching over from petrol. CNG is thought less expensive and more Eco-friendly by the experts. The Government should ensure the installation of CNG system meeting the required safety standards and monitor the workshops installing substandard and unsafe CNG kits. The petrol or diesel-run vehicles in Pakistan cause greater environmental damages making the air pollution problem acute in the cities.

The successive governments in the past paid no attention to the worsening environmental problems in the provincial capital and today the situation has become malignant. Motor-Rickshaw is the major cause of abundant air pollution in Quetta. There are only three CNG stations in the provincial capital Quetta. Only three stations are absolutely insufficient to meet the fuel requirements of nearly 50,000 vehicles with CNG kits in Quetta. One can see a long queue of vehicles outside the CNG stations in Quetta which has been also closed recently owing gas scarcity in the province.

It is unfortunate that the people of least developed province are still not properly enjoying the CNG stations facility. Under President Rozgar Scheme, thousands of CNG Rickshaws were provided to the unemployed youth on payment in easy installments, but these Rickshaws are presently running on petrol due to the less number of CNG stations in Quetta and its unavailability in the province. The high fuel price is the key reason behind rising fares of these Rickshaws.

The provincial government should take steps to flourish and promote the business of CNG stations in Balochistan. It should ask the federal government to patronize this business in the province so that local people could also enjoy the facility of CNG at reasonable price and to ensure its availability.


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Asad Hussain Written by: