This year, Pakistan hosted World Environment Day on June 6. The theme of the day “Ecosystem restoration” emphasizes the need for restoration of the damaged ecosystems and conservations of the intact ones. An Ecosystem comprises of biological organisms, livening in their respective physical environments, and can be aquatic, or terrestrial. A healthy ecosystem absorbs abundant greenhouse gases and delivers numerous socio-economic benefits to the people.
Pakistan contains varieties of ecosystems ranging from the Arabian Sea in the South to the highest mountains in the North and these ecosystems provide the required habitat to the various species. Nevertheless, over the previous few years, rampant population growth, increasing energy demand, and industrial activities have caused serious havoc to the ecosystems of Pakistan.
As a consequence of such anthropogenic activities, in 2019, the Ministry of Climate Change warned that over 90 species including mammals, reptiles, and birds are vulnerable to extinction in the country. Recently, in the urban areas of the country, due to urbanization, thousands of new housing societies have been established without proper evaluation of the loss to the ecosystems. This has caused extensive deforestation and provided irrecoverable damage to the natural habitat of the various species. Likewise, in rural areas, poor implementation of environmental laws and improper monitoring mechanisms are the major reasons for deforestation.
Similarly, mangrove forests in the Sindh province are vanishing at an alarming rate. Mangroves are reported to absorb five times more carbon dioxide as compared to the rain forests and provide habitat to the various important species. Moreover, these forests act as a natural boundary to the deluges and are a significant source of earnings for the people living near the coastal areas.
According to the studies, one dollar invested in the conservation of the mangroves saves four dollars in necessary infrastructure development. Nonetheless, illegal logging, massive constructions near the coastal areas, and industrial activities are some of the major threats to the mangrove forests in Pakistan. The recent heatwaves and increase in the temperature in Karachi may be linked with the destruction of these natural carbon dioxide sinks. The conservation of mangroves can moderate the temperature of the city and also help to reduce the poverty.
Although the incumbent federal government has introduced long-desired policies to restore and conserve and ecosystems. In this regard two projects: the billion Tsunami tree project and the clean green project Pakistan are worth mentioning. Additionally, the government has provided earning opportunities to the people living in the North by encouraging the tourism sector which can reduce the pace of deforestation in those areas. But still much has to be done to have healthier ecosystems.
First of all, the government should formulate efficient policies to halt the population and urbanization growth. Second, to spread awareness at a massive level, the significance of the healthy ecosystems for our survival should be introduced in the national curriculum at all standards. Third, people should be motivated to go for renewable energy use instead of fossil fuel-based energies.
In the same way, stringent environmental laws should be formulated in the country and special rewards should be announced for those who are contributing to conserving the natural habitats. In addition, it is fact now that along with a robust health sector, and vigorous ecosystems, dealing with the pandemics could be much easier for us.