Published On: Tue, May 3rd, 2016

Climate Change kills more people in Pakistan than terrorism

Photo by Izhar Ullah

Photo by Izhar Ullah

Izhar Ullah
PESHAWAR:
Pakistan is among the 10th most vulnerable country in the world to the climate changes, due to which floods, rising of the temperature and drought has been frequent and the situation has uprooted large number of people.
The dependency on digging and extraction of fossil fuels is considered as one of the major factors in environmental changes. The air pollution, climate changes, acid rain and oil spills are considered mainly due to the burning of the fossil fuels.
Pakistan hopes to use coal as an alternative to imported oil. Currently coal constitutes only 6.7% of our primary energy supplies. Country’s petroleum ministry report of 2011 suggest the total coal resource potential of Pakistan is estimated to be around 186 billion tones, out of which about 176 billion tones are located in Sindh province Thar desert, considered as the 5th largest single coal field in the world. The quality /rank of coal ranges from sub-bituminous to lignite. The Thar coal is lignite-B but it is low in sulpher and ash content.
Historically the coal consumption in Pakistan has come down with increase in gas consumption. Pakistan is considered as the most gas dependent economies in the world. The largest gas reservoir discovered in 1952 is located in the country’s Baluchistan province. The report suggest that 55 TCF of gas reserves have been discovered, of which 28 are produced with a production of 4032 million cubic feet per day fulfilling the country’s need of over 1241 billion cubic feet every year of gas consumption. Country’s 27.2pc power sector is dependent on gas. General industries have 23.5pc dependency on it. Other sectors dependent on use of gas for their operations are fertilizer (18.4pc), domestic (18.7pc), transport (CNG; 9.1pc), commercial (3.0pc) and cement industry (0.1pc).
There is a great scope for large scale utilization of coal in power generation mainly to address the electricity shortfall of 4000-5000 mega watts.
Pakistan should search for alternative energy sectors like solar and wind energy, said Environmentalist Dr.Bushra Khan, who heads the Pakistan’s university of Peshawar’s Environmental Sciences department.
Coal consumption during 2010-11 was 7.72 million tonnes: cement and other industry (54.3%), brick kilns (38.9%), coke use (5.6%) and power (1.2%). Presently the cement and other industry is the biggest user of coal, consuming about 4.2 million tonnes annually. Coal briquettes could also find a ready market in domestic sector. An extensive campaign to utilize huge indigenous coal resource to meet ever-increasing national energy needs is on way.
Pakistan and China, despite commitment in-front of the world leadership to decrease the extraction of fossil fuels in last year Paris Climate Conference (COP21) , have signed agreements with China under China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC) to develop more coal-powered stations to overcome the country’s energy problem. China, one of the biggest countries emitting the excessive amount of carbon threatening the environment has to finance the coal-mining projects. The $1.2 billion so far has been issued for mining extraction. The coal-powered station would produce 1320 mega watt power.
“It’s alarming that developed nations like China not helping to overcome carbon emission,” said Environmentalist Dr. Bushra Khan, who heads the Pakistan’s University of Peshawar’s Environmental sciences department. She has the opinion that the entire world and particularly Pakistan has to control the emission of carbon due to its more vulnerable position to the climate changes.
Internationally acclaimed environmentalist Dr. Adil Najam having over 100 research papers on the issue commented on Pak-China agreements saying China, at home are reducing coal dependence very past but on the other side as business move, “they are doing the right thing just to dump the old technology [by signing such agreements they did with Pakistan].
In a conversation with this scribe, Dr.Najam said that both environmentally and economically coal is a bad idea. He argued that Coal is a fading technology and Renewable [energy sources] is already cost competitive. Smart money everywhere, moving from coal towards renewable.
“Pakistan is still smoking pipe dreams of coal.” said Dr.Najam, the inaugural dean of Parde School of global studies at US’s Boston University and former vice chancellor of Lahore University of management sciences.
Despite knowing the consequences of the fossil fuels extraction that has bind the member nations in the Paris conference to decrease carbon emission , the country‘s legislatures considering the new projects of coal mining as “energy future of Pakistan.”
In the same row, the country’s federal minister for planning and development Ahsan Iqbal, who overlooks the CPEC projects, said that all coal projects [included those signed with China] are on super critical technology meeting the environmental standards.
Commenting on the relation of fossil fuels extraction with earthquake, Professor Naveed Ahmad at Earth quake research centre in Peshawar’s engineering university partially agrees that it may cause climate changes. But he relates it with the induced-earthquake that causes floods. He has the opinion Earthquake is completely a natural phenomena but extraction of fossil fuels may trigger the earthquake.
“This [extraction of fossil fuels] can cause earthquake to happen earlier from its time.”
The extraction of fossil fuels needs injecting water into the grounds. Research suggests the seismicity can [earthquake phenomena] occurs by fluid injection into the sedimentary rocks. The injecting fluid is increasing pore pressure and fractures within rocks or soil. The entire phenomena thus, weakening the pre-existing faults by reducing frictional force that resists fault slip and hence trigger the earthquake.
Research suggests that most of the significant earthquakes in Midwestern US state Oklahoma, such as the 1952 with magnitude 5.7 intensity may have been induced by the oil production activities in the region.
Pakistan’s dependency on fossil fuels couldn’t be brushed aside that causing environmental problems. The country, however have a very little as low as 0.1pc part in emission of carbon to the world atmosphere. But expert considers the burning and more dependency of fossil fuels in Pakistan may trigger environmental problems in near future.
Pakistan has witnessed last year the severe heat waves in Pakistan’s most populous city Karachi. The waves hit the city in the month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from dust till dawn, has killed around 2000 people owing to dehydration and heat stroke as the was temperature mounted to 49 °C (120 °F). The waves have also killed number of animals in Karachi Zoo due to dehydration.
The country was gripped by one of the major floods in the history back in 2010. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated as more as 7, 22000 homes were partially or completely flushed away by the floods with loss of around 2000 lives by a recorded rain of 200 millimeters from July 27 to 30. Reportedly around 20 million people were affected by the floods in one or another way. UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has then, measured the 2010 floods as ‘worst disaster’ he had ever seen in the world.
The recent floods caused by heavy rains that killed over 80 people in the Pakistan’s war-torn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(KP) province is considered as testimony to the fact that the country would face severe impacts of climate changes in the future. Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), who deals in with natural calamities in the country, has estimated 212 death casualties across the country while over 188 have been injured from the recent rain, of which KP was the worst hit where 104 were killed. The estimates figure out damages to over 1428 homes across the country. The floods in provincial capital Peshawar of KP have also flushed away a slaughter house in vicinity of city’s ring road which killed numbers of animals.
Bushra Khan, who is involved with international agencies deals in with climate changes, lamented of no firm policy on government side for the adaptation of climate changes. He cited two reasons for lack of policy. One, Ms. Khan said, is the wider gap between the academician and policy makers of the country and secondly the country considers the events happened in the country due to climate variation as minor issue.

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