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Dawn News

KPs climate challenge


RINA SAEED KHAN PUBLISHED JUN 26, 2016 07:09AM
Pakistan is considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the
world to climate change with particular threats to water, energy and
food security, according to a recent report by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP)-Pakistan. In fact, the UNDPs
country director says that the economic losses faced by Pakistan due
to climate change are significantly higher as compared to terrorism:
Pakistan may be facing $6 billion losses due to climate change
whereas losses due to terrorism may be around $1b. Yet, despite all
these losses and the very real threats of glaciers melting, annual
devastating floods and damages to crops due to erratic rains and
droughts in the near future, most of the countrys political leaders are
still not talking about climate change at the national level.

The last time PM Nawaz Sharif spoke about climate change at any length
was at the Paris Summit back in December 2015; PML(N)-appointed
minister for climate change, Zahid Hamid, is now also the law minister, and
he is too busy with the Panama leaks to bother about climate change.
While the last PPP government, to their credit, did come up with
formulating the comprehensive National Climate Change Policy, since then
they have largely been quiet on the topic.

The only major exception in the political arena seems to be Imran Khan,
chairman of PTI, who is not only talking about climate change but is also
increasing spending on trying to tackle it. In fact, the UNDP report
appreciated the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces efforts in making
substantial increases in climate-related spending. In this years provincial
budget, the KP government has allocated Rs2b for environment and
forests.

Despite planting trees and moving to protect forests, the KP


government need to tackle brick kilns and polluting vehicles
Since coming to power in 2013, the PTI-led KP government has, in fact,
focused on what it calls its Green Growth Initiative, which aside from their
Billion Tree Tsunami project, also entails the creation of management plans
for six national parks and the installation of 365 micro hydel projects in
various districts of KP. Last week, Imran Khan gave a press conference in
Islamabad exclusively dedicated to climate change and green growth. He
actually refused to answer any questions about Panama leaks as he
wanted to devote the time allocated to speaking only about forests,
protecting the environment, creating renewable energy and how all this ties
to our future well-being.

Addressing the jam-packed news conference, Imran Khan pointed out that
the increase in global warming is causing the rapid melting of glaciers,
which will have an adverse effect on our future water needs. Pakistan can
try to protect its water resources and contribute to mitigation by planting
trees and protecting its forests. KP has taken important steps to save
future generations from the dangerous effects of environment changes, he
explained, detailing how the KP government plans to increase the forest
cover in the province from 22pc in 2013 to up to 27pc by 2018 through the
billion tree tsunami and the creation of new national parks in forested areas
like the Palas Valley in Kohistan.

Imran Khan is currently touring these undiscovered valleys of KP in a


helicopter, scouting places that could be developed into hill stations,
national parks or resorts for tourists. Three new national park sites have
already been scoped and will be established this year. He plans to continue
his travels in the next two years, to spot and develop the maximum number
of places that will not only attract tourists, but will also benefit the local
communities of these remote areas. Documentaries on his trips are being
filmed by his media head, Faisal Javed Khan, and the first film will feature
the picturesque Kumrat Valley in Upper Dir District of KP.

At the Paris Summit, their Billion Tree Tsunami project had shown enough
success to be recognised and registered with the Bonn Challenge, which is
a global partnership aiming to restore 150m hectares of the worlds
deforested and degraded lands by 2020. According to Imran Khan, 40pc
work of the Billion Tree Tsunami Project in KP has been completed and
that an independent monitoring organisation, WWF-Pakistan, has found
that the planted saplings have a survival rate of 85pc. In addition, he
declared that the 365 small hydel projects initiated at the village level in KP
to provide clean energy would be increased in number to 1,000 in the
coming years. In his view, the federal governments proposed coal power
plants will only destroy Pakistans environment. Why are we not exploring
the 50,000 MW potential of clean hydro energy that we have in our north?

Imitation, they say, is the best form of flattery; despite criticising the Billion
Tree Tsunami earlier the federal government, in its new budget, has
announced the Green Pakistan Programme, a forest and wildlife
protection and conservation programme, allocating an amount of Rs 2b (for
two financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18). Under the directives of PM
Nawaz Sharif, a total of 105m trees will be planted across the country.

Imran Khans efforts to protect the environment and highlight climate


change in Pakistan are already paying dividends. Of course, a lot more
needs to be done. Peshawar has been ranked amongst the worst cities in
the world in terms of air pollution, and the KP government needs to tackle
this urgently by taking action against brick kilns and polluting vehicles.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 26th, 2016