Scientific evidence shows that the climate is changing at a rapid rate. Whether we want to believe it is man-made, natural evolution or a conspiracy, we all have to deal with it. Natural disasters be they typhoons or floods  have proved that sticking our heads in the sand is not going to help us either as a nation or as a global community. We need to invest in nature to save life. Moreover the concerns that focus on environment might back lash on development sector is more of a myth as both environment degradation would ultimately lead to diminishing resources which definitely is not going to help development sector as well. 

Rab Nawaz, Regional Director Sindh of WWF Pakistan is of the opinion that the situation is very grave for Pakistan yet positive aspect is that there is a green movement going on in Pakistan. Nonetheless social and political instability have diverted the donors’ and the government’s attention towards other problems which require immediate attention.

Q: Pakistan is considered as a country likely to be worst affected by climate change. How do you see the situation?

Climate vulnerability is rapidly increasing in the country, as Pakistan is ranked number 8 on the German watch climate risk index of 2012 with the Indus Delta being one of the most vulnerable regions in the nation. Evidently, increased frequency of torrential rains, prolonged heat waves, tropical cyclones, recurring flooding and persistent drought are some of the most serious threats the region faces. These have serious repercussions on human life as well.

Q: Pakistan has signed various conventions regarding environment protection. How closely these are abide by?

Varies from agreement to agreement. Pakistan has taken some very bold steps to promote the conservation of endangered species. The government does try to keep itself abreast of the latest developments and there are number of projects ongoing, especially to combat desertification. When it comes to climate change Pakistan has ratified Kyoto protocol but it has no targets, simply because Pakistan produces very little carbon emissions. Moreover, Clean Development Mechanism projects is certainly one area that can be developed.

Q: How are NGOs playing their part for environment protection in Pakistan? What role is being played by WWF and other organizations?

Climate change has started to receive a lot of global attention recently and the civil society has been playing an active role to undertake climate related work in vulnerable areas of Pakistan. Many international, national and grassroots level organization have been involved in protecting Pakistan’s environment. Some prominent NGOs include LEAD Pakistan, IUCN, SCOPE, UNDP, TCCR, SDPI, which are all organizations WWF – Pakistan works closely with as well.

WWF-Pakistan is currently managing over 35 projects all over Pakistan, with about 14 projects in the Sindh region. On a national level, WWF – Pakistan has implemented several large scale projects. WWF – Pakistan is also planning a project on benefiting fisher communities funded by the World Bank, and a large programme on marine conservation funded by the Global Environment Facility.

Q: Pakistan is a developing country and has not attained the fruits of development, which are very often associated with environmental degradation. How do you see the dilemma in this regard?

There is a strong link between our development and the state of the environment. We have very good policies but very weak implementation of laws and regulations. It is not only in Pakistan, most countries around the world are just waking up to the fact that poor management of natural capital or is going to have a long term affect on their development. If you take USA as an example, both Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy were climatic events that have severely affected the economies of the US. The recent calamity in Philippines will cost the country billions. This history of ignoring the environment is affecting nearly every country in the world. Pakistan as a developing country needs to take this seriously since it does not have the same reliance as developed nations. If a major cyclone hit Karachi it would cripple the country but still we develop hundred of housing schemes on the sea front.

Q: Around the globe, it is feared that the focus on environment protection would back lash on development sector. Are these fears valid?

Environment protection does not limit itself to climate change mitigation and adaption, but also encompasses conserving natural resources, decreasing different forms of pollution and protecting biodiversity. Climate change, pollution, and depletion of natural resources all have serious impacts on our ecosystems and eventually on the health and livelihood of human beings. In fact, WWF – Pakistan has undertaken several studies that reveal the link between poverty and the environment showing how both affect each other adversely.

Conservation of environment is one aspect of environment protection. Since it is common knowledge that these resources are fixed in quantity and demand for them is increasing exponentially, we not only work for conservation of these resources but are also involved in investing in renewable energy such as solar and biogas, which are climate friendly.

Q:How can we cope with energy problems of Pakistan?

That is a very complicated question!. When it comes to capacity there is no problem. We have enough power, the problem is management. We are not diversifying enough in sources of energy and there is not enough research and development in this sector. Each day we are missing opportunity in solar, wind and biogas power. Unfortunately Pakistan is not looking at these and is still relying on fossil fuels as a source of power.

Q: It is claimed by various analysts that now the wars would be a result of water shortage. The subcontinent is seen as a particularly sensitive region in this regard. How do you see such speculations?

Water scarcity has become a major concern for not only Pakistan, but also all around the world. It is estimated that by 2030, 47% of the world’s population will be under high water stress. Furthermore, water scarcity, is particularly serious in Pakistan as it is one of the 30 countries in the world that is facing extreme water shortage.

The question of how the subcontinent is dealing with this phenomenon is a sensitive issue at the moment. For starters, the government has been pushing to redefine the terms of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960—the water-sharing plan struck between India and Pakistan that outlines how the six rivers of the Indus basin would be shared. Pakistan has recently contested the construction of Indian dams on rivers that begin in India but flow into Pakistan, arguing that the dams would restrict Pakistani supply. The dispute, which is currently being reviewed by the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague, will clearly impact the relationship between the two historic rivals, as water demand increases in both countries. But with pressure mounting from various groups within Pakistan, and the likelihood of instability increasing due to shortages, the Pakistani government may find itself in a difficult position when negotiating with India—it will have limited bargaining room against an Indian government that may be reluctant to renegotiate a treaty that has been in place for 53 years.

Q: People usually see scarcity of resources would result in confrontation between two South Asian neighbors. Do you see the cooperation could be a way?

For water  - yes. And yes cooperation is only way forward.

Q: There is money and setup for environmental protection in Pakistan, though comparatively a smaller one. Do you think these things are used in justified way?

Yes I think they are. There is a good ‘green’ movement going on now and I think we are seeing a lot of positive change in civil society. Our biggest challenge is to bring on board the private sector, especially the industries that have the resources and flexibility to finance cleaner development sustainably.

Q: If the environmental degradation continues, how would it affect food and water security?

Environmental degradation severely impacts food and water security as it leads to climate change. Major effects of climate change include changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level rise and temperature which in turn cause extreme weather events such as cyclones, droughts, floods and heavy rains and seawater intrusion. All these factors have affected the quality, quantity and patterns of crops grown in Pakistan. Climate change has also decreased the water flow in the Indus River over the years and seawater intrusion has severely impacted the quality of groundwater as well as agriculture in the areas. Besides climate change, even land and water pollution impacts soil quality and water quality.

Q: What other resources and areas of life would be affected?

Environmental degradation can have far reaching effects from water and food security to human welfare. Extreme weather events and changes in water quality have shown to increase health emergencies including incidence of diarrhea, malaria, and dengue fever – which are all very common occurrences in Pakistan. Besides that, fish yield has also shown a decline lately, which has impacted the livelihood of fishermen in Pakistan. Millions have also been displaced in Pakistan due to the occurrence of natural disasters which are direct result of environmental degradation.

Q: Urbanization is important yet it causes economic and environmental problems. What should be way out?

Careful planning. It simply requires a well thought out plan and some political commitment to make our urban areas more livable.

Q: It is proposed that the developed countries must pay compensation to the developing countries. Developed countries do not seem very willing. How do you see issue being resolved?

I think they are willing, however the global recession has resulted in less money available to mitigate the impacts of climate change. However, over the last few months a lot of the pledges made by developed nations have come through and there is an unprecedented amount of resources to take up this issue. There is a still a long way to go but each year sees more and more governments waking up to the reality. There is very little argument that counties like Pakistan need help in adaptation and in the coming years we expect to see a strong movement in the country.

Q: What is the situation of wildlife in Pakistan?

Variable. We have lost a few species already e.g. Gharial. On the other hand there are some very good examples of protected areas and community managed wildlife areas all over Pakistan. The outlook is not looking that good though. With a burgeoning population, competition for natural resources is going to increase and the ‘islands’ of sanctuary for wildlife are going to get smaller and further apart. Fortunately there is a very action group of wildlife supporters in Pakistan and I think wildlife of Pakistan has a bright future if the government makes it a priority. 

Q: People in Pakistan are involved in war, facing insurgency are bearing economic hardships. How can they be made to realize that environment is also important. I mean they have greater insecurities demanding immediate actions.

Terrorist attacks and political instability have devastated the nation lately and there is no doubt that there is a need of immediate action. However, as highlighted above, the environment has many spillover effects ranging from political, biological, economic, and sociological effects that are decreasing the quality of life of many, and in some extreme events, even increasing the incidence of deaths caused by these factors. Protecting the environment and conserving resources does not require much effort on one’s part, and can go a long way in decreasing the impacts of climate change for them and future generations.

Q: How has war on terror has affected Pakistani environment.

It has made it harder to access some of the areas for wildlife managers otherwise I have not seen any hard evidence that there has been a detrimental affect directly. Obviously it has diluted the attention of the government on environment and donors are more inclined to focus on rehabilitating the victims of war on terror and/or trying developing areas that have been target of it.