Persisting wildfires

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There has been little to no coverage on forest fires that rage across Pakistan. It is only after the enormous fire that engulfed thousands of pine nut trees in Balochistan’s Sherani district that officials started to notice the increasing trends. Multiple wildfires have recently been reported in five different districts of K-P — Shangla, Haripur, Swat, Lower Dir and Mohmand — and a total of 4 people have died with one left injured.

The situation has prompted PM Shehbaz Sharif to call upon disaster management officials — NDMA, Rescue 1122, the district administration and the forest department — to send in air support in an attempt to douse the flames. Some fires have been extinguished while many still rage on, with new fires continuously erupting in different regions across the province. This comes as no surprise since Pakistan is one of the country’s worst affected by global warming. But the consequences of surging wildfires will be detrimental for the country as majority of the population are heavily dependent on land and agriculture for sustenance. Moreover, thousands of herders, peasants and farmers depend on lands for their livelihoods. If left unchecked, wildfires could burn through agriculture land and assert added pressure on food insecurity; or it could ravage forests and destroy the little tree canopy we have left.

Despite witnessing numerous climate-related disasters including heatwaves, droughts and floods, the country still lacks a strong and coherent disaster management system whereby threats are systematically identified and averted; or, in the even that a disaster has already stricken, damages are minimised and lives are saved. Given the available resources, Pakistan is ill-prepared to fight a crisis of such severity. The government needs to focus on mitigation measures and introduce safety measures for vulnerable communities. The future is precarious and resilient systems need to be in place if Pakistan is to adapt to changing climatic conditions. We have yet to see an overarching long-term climate change plan from those at the helm.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2022.

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