By: Huria Liaqat
Unprecedented population growth leading to environmental hazards has become a potential threat to Pakistan’s future. Overpopulation, coupled with resource depletion, is serving as a catalyzing factor for sea level rise and migration due to unpredictable climate variability worldwide. Past and future statistics show that sea level rise at specific locations may differ from the global average due to contributing factors such as ground settling, land and soil erosion, regional upstream flood control, ocean currents, and whether the land is still rebounding from the compressive weights of Ice-Age glaciers
Pakistan being an underdeveloped country has fallen victim to the constantly increasing human-induced phenomenon like migration, overpopulation, and resource depletion. Since the population of Pakistan is increasing with an average annual growth rate of 2.87% which is higher than the global population growth rate (1.09%) dominated by the cyclic oscillations of prolonged dry spells with short wet periods, it is nearly impossible to satisfy the ever-increasing needs in both the agricultural and industrial sector for human use. Extreme climatic conditions and unprecedented weather patterns observed over the past decade in many parts of the country is now becoming a potential threat to the future GDP of Pakistan.
Approximately 10% of the total population of Pakistan is inhabited in the vicinity of the coastal zone, and over 20 % of its coastal area is relatively developed with about 40% of the industry situated near the coast. The protection of these human assets will be costly, particularly if the effects of sea-level rise are sudden rather than gradual. An annual rise in the sea level of about a few mm although is not threatening but it could have a profound indirect impact on the coastal resources and the sustainable coastal zone management. Moreover, direct loss of low-lying land areas can rapidly damage the coastal ecosystems. In addition to the rising sea level, a change in global warming will further add to the increased frequency of tropical cyclones and miseries of the coastal states.
The destruction of critical infrastructure aggravates pre-existing climatic, economic, and public health crisis. Additionally, the expansion of sea level worsens the situation of river deltas that are also at risk of land subsidence ultimately leading to the risk of river flood hazard. Not only it is speeding up the deleterious physical and ecological changes to the marine ecosystem but the global economic damage from river floods is predicted to grow more rapidly than global economic wealth by negatively impacting the GDP of a country by destructing industrial sector across the coasts. Conceptually, destruction comes in the form of massive flooding across agricultural, land, urban, and wetland areas, thereby destroying many socioeconomic activities and livelihoods of populations in these areas that will need some time to fully recover. Therefore, the dire need of humanitarian aid requires the humanitarian need from both the national and the international community to work collaboratively at local level and the government to address the immediate needs while providing support for longer-term prevention and rehabilitation efforts.
In a nutshell, in an urban setting especially along the coastlines, sea-level rise not only threatens a country’s infrastructure but also results in the higher background water levels mainly associated with the disasters such as hurricanes and superstorms. In addition to this, the frequent high-tide flooding, sometimes referred to as “nuisance flooding” is likely expected because it is not generally deadly or dangerous, but it can be disruptive and expensive. To overcome this, the economic development with a sustainable growth of GDP will not only encourage a country’s population to put more weight on factors that affect the quality of life but will help sustain socioeconomic activities, such as the implementation of green technology that will slow global warming and suppress further sea-level rise on agricultural, land, urban, and wetland areas. This way we will not only sustain our livelihood in a more environmental friendly way but we will also do justice to the nature and its resources available to us without provoking nature to inflict its grief in a ruthless way.
The writer is a student of bachelor’s in environmental sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. She is also a research intern at the Department of Meteorology, COMSATS University, Islamabad. She can be reached at [email protected]