Pakistan and India face common threats. Climate change is the biggest one – Prism

Collective action may be what is needed to secure the lives and livelihoods of future generations.

Climate change is no longer limited to books or scientific articles; It is a reality knocking at our doors.

The longest and suffocating summers that bring record heat to South Asia are just an example. The toughest conditions are yet to come, and the entire region is not prepared to face the challenges.

While they may seem isolated, the growing cases of extreme weather are omens of major climate change for South Asia. Unlike transnational challenges such as security and trade, climate change cannot be deterred by conventional methods or unilateral initiatives. Instead, synchronized common action is the viable path to sustainable progress to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Let's look at some of the common environmental challenges facing Pakistan and India and propose strategic measures to address them.

Heat waves

During the last decade or so, the frequency of extreme weather events, ranging from scorching summers to icy winters, has increased. Nearly half of these events were heat waves, exceeding previous historical highs and resulting in a worldwide wave of mortality. The researchers point out that "the trend in global warming has contributed to the severity and probability of 82pc of record days worldwide."

In Pakistan and India, heat waves have become normal, an expected part of summer. In fact, last year, Pakistan registered the highest official temperature recorded in the world – 50.2 degrees Celsius in Nawabshah – and a week later, that record was broken when Jacobabad reached 51 ° C.

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In 2015, a strong heat wave hit Karachi, breaking records of 40 years and causing almost 2,000 victims. When Edhi Morgues and the cemeteries began to reject the bodies, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency attributed the event to climate change.

In India, more than 30 people died this summer because the heat wave after the heat wave resulted in temperatures close to 51 ° C. The storms and rain brought little relief, as hundreds of thousands faced the heat brutal.

Survival and wet bulb effect

Experts warn that several areas in South Asia, including the Indus Valley in Pakistan and much of India, would cross the survival threshold for 2100.

Survival capacity was measured against what is known as the wet bulb temperature, a factor based on both humidity and external temperature. It turns out that while our bodies are good at keeping cool in the heat, when you throw moisture into the mix, things go wrong.

At 35 ° C, it becomes impossible for the human body to cool through sweat, and enters survival mode. A few hours of sustained exposure to wet bulb conditions, and he has imminent death, even in young and healthy adults at their best.

While heat waves have traditionally gained a foothold in the Indian subcontinent between March and July, their intensity, frequency and duration has steadily increased.

According to Elfatih Eltahir, professor of hydrology and climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "the future of heat waves looks worse even with significant mitigation of climate change, and much worse without mitigation."


By far the most dangerous natural hazard that devastates Pakistan and India almost annually is flooding. In the last 65 years, Pakistan has suffered 30 major floods: the super flood in 2010 only affected 20 million people.

In India, hundreds are killed and millions are displaced annually, as the monsoon intensifies the short and heavy periods of rain. This year alone, the storms caused by the monsoons killed about 270 in India and left more than one million displaced.

The continuous rise in global temperatures means a greater risk of flooding, as glaciers melt at a faster rate than normal. Glacial Lake Explosion Floods occur when a large amount of water is suddenly released, usually in a glacial lake. They are often a precursor to flash floods: a massive stream of water that accelerates as it flows downhill, destroying everything in its path.

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In recent years, urban growth in Pakistan and India has exceeded expectations. However, as more and more people flock to cities, ruined infrastructure and poorly constructed settlements are becoming commonplace. Add to that a crumbling drainage and sanitation system, and it will end with the perfect recipe for urban floods, like the ones we've seen in Lahore and Karachi this year.

The situation is similar to the other side of the border, where the rains hit the main towns and cities, leaving dozens of dead and large swathes of infrastructure (roads, bridges and railway lines included) underwater.

Water stress

Pakistan is home to around 47 percent of the Indus basin, and India about 39 percent. The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) has been in force since 1960. Leaving aside recent political disputes, the IWT has managed to survive the test of time, but does not address climate change comprehensively. On the other hand, at the time it was enacted, many of the raw realities we know today were not understood.

According to the Pakistan Water Resources Research Council (PCRWR), Pakistan officially crossed the water shortage line in 2005. The United Nations Development Program and the PCRWR have issued warnings about the next groundwater shortage in just six years.

According to some estimates, Pakistan is the fourth largest user of its groundwater, and more than 70 percent of drinking requirements and 50 percent of irrigation needs are met by groundwater extraction. Due to excessive pumping, it is estimated that groundwater could fall by up to 20{7be40b84a6a43fc4fae13304fce9a2695859798abfc41afd127b9f8b21c5f9c5} by 2025.

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Among the main contributors to water stress in Pakistan are poor management of water resources and poor provision of water service, including irrigation and drainage services. In addition, the lack of reliable water data, subsequent analysis and the consequent poor planning and allocation are leading to environmentally unviable water extraction methods, which causes an alarming reduction in groundwater.

In India, water stress is mainly attributed to massive population growth. Another cause is the lack of sufficient urban water treatment facilities, which prevent the usability of river water for drinking and watering.

Like Pakistan, groundwater overextraction has also been recognized as an important contributor to water stress in India. It is estimated that twenty-one Indian cities, including Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad, will run out of groundwater by 2020.


The region of South Asia has historically been one of agriculture and livestock. In fact, the image of the trusted old farmer who sacrifices his body and soul for the earth has been idealized over the centuries. But increasingly unpredictable weather patterns have begun to disrupt agricultural activities.

In Pakistan, agricultural productivity is one of the lowest in the world. Adverse weather conditions caused a loss of almost 1.5 million tons of wheat during the rabbi 2018-19 season.

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In India, thousands of tons of ready wheat were lost due to an unexpectedly heavy monsoon spell. According to a World Bank report, the agricultural sector accounts for more than 40 percent of employment in Pakistan, and almost 50 percent of all labor in India is dedicated directly or indirectly to agriculture.

Understandably, the adverse effects of climate change on agriculture would not only severely affect national economies, but also threaten food security. The population increase in both Pakistan and India is likely to increase the demand for food, creating an imminent imbalance between the demand and the supply of food.


This brings us to another enigma related to climate change: drought. Droughts occur frequently in Pakistan and can affect up to a third of the country at the same time. Balochistan, in particular, is greatly affected by its arid climate.

While structural arrangements to combat the effects of drought are well established, issues such as lack of capacity, inability to address the challenges of sharing water at the basin level and the lack of effective decision-making further aggravate the trouble. Earlier this year, Pakistan's Department of Meteorology declared a drought in Sindh and Baluchistan: it is estimated that more than five million have been affected.

In India, droughts have led to suicide for almost 300,000 farmers in the past 25 years. Earlier this year, officials called the situation "worse than the famine of 1972". Millions of farmers simply abandon their fields and livestock and move to cities in search of work; There is simply not enough water for everyone. Meanwhile, entire cities, such as Chennai, are on the verge of a major disaster as water reservoirs dry up.


In recent years, smog has become a necessary precursor of the winter season, almost becoming a norm for the subcontinent. As large tracts of land are lit in northeast India to prepare for planting the wheat crop, columns of smoke and highly carcinogenic particles are transported across the border into Pakistan.

There is no doubt that Pakistani farmers also burn their fields to get rid of them. parali in preparation for the next harvest, but that is a bucket drop compared to the smog that is carried across the border.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for a few weeks in October and November (which coincidentally include the Diwali festival fueled by fireworks), Indian Punjab becomes an "important source of air pollution."

Thoroughly: No, India is not responsible for the smog of Punjab. This is what is really happening.

Here, it is crucial to talk about particles, or PM, which is made up of a mixture of solid and liquid drops of dust, dirt, soot and smoke that fall into two broad categories. PM 10 are inhalable particles, while PM 2.5 particles can become embedded in the lungs and even enter the bloodstream.

Prolonged exposure to PM 2.5, an important part of smog, can cause premature death in people with pre-existing conditions, heart attacks, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function and various respiratory diseases. Older people and children are the most vulnerable to these effects.

Wich is the way to go?

According to Germanwatch climate researchers, Pakistan ranks eighth in the Global Climate Risk Index, with more than 145 catastrophic events (heat waves, droughts and floods) reported in the last 20 years. On the other hand, India is among the top 20 vulnerable countries in terms of climate risk.

It is not debated that both countries, and indeed South Asia in general, are highly susceptible to the risks of climate change. Risks such as droughts, heavy rains and floods result in reduced income and agricultural production and reduced food security.

A continuous cycle of heat waves could lead to a public health emergency, where old and young people can be the victims. Air pollution and smog could catapult lung and respiratory disease rates, including asthma and cancer in the coming decades, weakening an entire generation.

Measures are needed to mitigate the effects of climate change to ensure adequate availability of water and food resources for future generations. The governments of both countries place climate change among their priorities.

In 2015, Pakistan restored the Ministry of Climate Change, while a year earlier, India expanded its Ministry of Environment to include Climate Change in its action agenda. The Pakistan Climate Change Act of 2017 and India's National Action Plan on climate change are a step in the right direction, at least at the national level.

With the rescue of IWT and the rapid melting of the Himalayan glaciers, we are likely to witness a reduction in the flow of water in the rivers. Increasing water extraction from drinking and irrigation aquifers will increase water stress, and researchers paint an alarming picture ahead: by 2025, Pakistan, for the first time in its history, will fall below the critical threshold of 1,000 cubic meters per year. In India, the availability of water per capita will be a little more than 25{7be40b84a6a43fc4fae13304fce9a2695859798abfc41afd127b9f8b21c5f9c5} of what it was in 1951.

Water stress, exacerbated by these conditions, will mean a disaster for the local population. Countries with water scarcity, such as Somalia, Syria and Yemen, have witnessed a horrible violence by limited resources.

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With each passing year, the risks of climate change not diminished for human lives and livelihoods increase. A bilateral agreement between India or Pakistan, through a forum such as the South Asian Regional Cooperation Association (SAARC), can be the crucial first step in addressing existing and emerging environmental challenges.

In order to address implementation problems due to topographic variations and state interests, the United Nations Environment Program can lead the initiative. An example of this is the dramatic change in relations between China and Japan that were transformed when the two nations began environmental cooperation through initiatives such as the China-Japan Friendship Center for Environmental Protection in the Ministry of Protection of the Environment of China, which was funded and operationalized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Both the governments of Pakistan and India are actively promoting a transition to sustainable and green economies and reducing carbon emissions and other factors that contribute to climate degradation. India plans to have more than a third of its installed energy capacity dependent on renewable sources. In addition to being the fourth largest wind power producer in the world, India also hosts some of the largest solar energy parks.

In contrast, Pakistan has established solar parks, the largest of which is the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur. A handful of wind farms have also been established in the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. The SAARC Energy Center, based in Islamabad, is supporting the development of electric battery vehicles in Pakistan and India, with researchers from the University of Administration Sciences in Lahore and the Indian Institute of Administration in Bangalore paving the way for That could transform urban transport.

These initiatives, in addition to several other schemes, can be the basis of sustainable development for both nations. Greater cooperation between higher education institutes can be promoted to help identify potential risks, adopt and improve local best practices and promote the exchange of practices and information between the two countries.

In analyzing the challenges of climate change that Pakistan and India face together, collective action, however unlikely, may be what is needed to secure the lives and livelihoods of future generations.

Are you working on climate change research? Share your ideas with us [email protected]



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