By Naseem Sheikh
CLIMATIC CHANGES are actually happening and the Earth is heating up, the glaciers are melting and water is being consumed by the growing population. With the scarcity of water, there is less food to grow and South Asia is the most vulnerable region of the world as its population is growing far too quickly and the glaciers in the Himalayas depleting very fast. For Pakistan, the bad news is that the River Indus is 30 to 40 per cent dependent on the Himalayan glaciers.
It’s not Pakistan alone that has experienced record-breaking extreme weather events recently, as during the last couple of months extreme weather has struck around the world with startling ferocity. In addition to this the monsoon downpours were some of the heaviest seen in recent years. Flooding in Indonesia, drought in South and North Korea and landsliding due to heavy rains in Bangladesh, shifts in glacial melt and rainfalls are threatening crops, intensifying water scarcity in Pakistan are matters of great concern.
Monsoon patterns have been disturbed severely by these global changing. It should not be called a monsoon season as the precipitation has been 50 per cent below normal all over Pakistan. Normally as much as 80 per cent of South Asias rainfalls during the June-to-September monsoon. But by the end of July dry weather has been observed all over the country. This shortage of rain is further leaving a negative impact on food commodities as food items shortfall is the resultant inflation.
The monsoon is brought by large-scale wind patterns that transport heat between the northern and southern hemispheres. The reduction in seasonal rainfall in South Asia over the past 50 years may be the result of tiny chemicals emitted into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, according to US scientists. In monsoon season seasonal winds fluctuate widely and scientists have been developing new models that may help farmers prepare for water-supply disruptions and mitigate loss of life and property. Record monsoons last year had caused flash floods in Pakistan displacing almost 20 million people and causing more than $9 billion in damage.
According to the WFP, nearly half of Pakistans (180 million) population is at risk of going short of food due to the recent surge in world food prices. India, which is already battling to contain double-digit food inflation, now faces further price increases due to food shortages for its 1.2 billion people, some 42 per cent of whom live in poverty. This furthers a key chain reaction in the form of disease induction.
Giving poor people proper access to safe water and sanitation would save 2.5 million people a year from dying from diarrhoea and other diseases spread by a lack of hygiene, according to charity water Aid.
India has been drying out for half a century, and air pollution thousands of kilo meters away is partly to blame. The Thar “Golden” Desert receives the lowest rainfall in the country and has largely saline groundwater at levels 100m below the surface.
Recent flood in India, Bangladesh and Japan threatens the rice crop, many countries soya crop is also affected by the rain shortage. According to the UN estimates, salinity affects some 60 per cent of coastal farming lands. In recent decades, rising sea levels have encroached on vast tracts of low-lying arable lands, making them too salty for some rice varieties to grow and diminishing crop yields.
On the other side, severe flooding across North Korea has killed 88 people and left tens of thousands homeless, and is threatening to make the poverty-stricken country’s already chronic food shortage still worse.