Climate Change and Urbanization

Pakistan ranks high in the countries that are most vulnerable to the climate change threat. According to ADB, by the end of 21st century, the temperature in the majority of the Asian countries will reach inhabitable levels. A temperature rise of 6 degrees Celsius is expected in the Asian countries, with an increase of 8 degrees Celsius in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and China.

We are already experiencing the climate change related impacts in Pakistan in form of hot summers, rising sea levels, unpredictable rainfalls, floods, droughts, and human displacement and these impacts will only grow worse in near future. This rising temperature and heat waves will not only endanger lives but will also disrupt the national economy, weather conditions, agricultural output, industries, and trade. It will deepen the vulnerabilities at all levels and will undermine any hope of achieving inclusive and sustainable development.

But solely blaming nature and climate change for Pakistan’s increasing vulnerability is not right. We need to move beyond our limited outlook and look at the multi-faceted reality of climate change impacts. A significant feature in this context is rapid urbanization and the related environmental degradation that amplifies Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change. Incompetent urban planning, deforestation, industrialization, incompetent engineering, and land mining for development have degraded urban ecologies that could have better endured the climate change impacts. For example, Karachi, the industrial hub of Pakistan, is facing recurrent floods not only because of rainfall variability but also due to illegal developments that choke the city’s natural drainage system.

So, one of the biggest challenges that Pakistani government and policymakers are facing today is the transformation of cities into sustainable and environmentally friendly spaces. The top-down governance, the jurisdiction of federal and provincial authorities over land use, and a fragmented structure of local governance have given city mayors and chief ministers free reign over urban planning and their actions are limited to beautification projects and free transport corridors.

Authorities need to overcome the ongoing political struggles over resources, infrastructures, and services and need to focus on climate change adaption in the context of extended urbanization that pays attention to urban design, land use, and zoning interventions. The present condition of cities in Pakistan requires a proactive action that reshapes our cities and makes them environment-friendly spaces.

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