The more I learn to appreciate the fragile beauty of the mountains and hills among which I live, the more do the vast majority of the population appear set to destroy the environment they profess, at least in public, to care for and, now that the tourist season has arrived, this unwarranted decimation is in full swing.

It used to be, not so many years ago at that, that off the main road in the Bhurban area, the natural wilderness was unmarked by the plastic debris of the rabid consumerism which passes for ‘modern’ life but, unfortunately, this is no longer the case as not only tourists but indigenous people too, thoughtlessly toss their garbage any place they happen to be: adults and children snack on chemical laden junk food, dropping the plastic or foil wrapping at will with empty soft drink bottles and cans following suit. This scenario is repeated, probably thousands of times over on a daily basis throughout the Galiat region and, of course, across the length and breadth of the country, irrespective of city, town and village, mountain, forest, desert or seashore. Everywhere there are people, and in this grossly overpopulated land that really does mean ‘everywhere’, there is garbage and, on the whole, nowhere to dispose of it properly even if, on an outside chance, someone actually wanted too.

There is, it must be said, an exceedingly small number of rubbish bins in Murree itself, all of them way too small to be of much use if, that is, you happen to be able to spot one as they are certainly not prominently emplaced and a few in Nathia Gali too but the miles of twisting, turning road linking these and other Galiat villages together are minus garbage bins of any description. Some people do, after picnics and the like, collect up the garbage generated and take it away to goodness knows where, but these people are definitely in the minority and, let’s face it, the local authorities who simply collect garbage from populated places and then dump it wholesale on the nearest convenient mountainside are not setting any kind of civic example!

Household garbage generated in villages, hamlets and by those residing in the houses scattered across mountainsides like so much wedding confetti and often only visible when they switch on the lights after dark, is not collected by anyone at all and those who live in such places are not, judging by the highly visible evidence, environmentally minded as they throw whatever it happens to be over their boundary wall and that, shamefully, is that!

This none biodegradable garbage has accumulated horrifically over the years and the population of jackals, wild dogs, even wild pigs now, rats and other scavengers has multiplied likewise and, in some areas, people are afraid to go out in the dark in case they are attacked by the very creatures they are, through sheer ignorance, encouraging to hang around and breed. No one, it seems, gives a damn about the existing and long-term cumulative consequences of their actions in regard to spreading filth and encouraging vermin. Ladies may, often do, sweep their houses and courtyards twice a day, they may scrub down furniture, do endless washing of home interiors and clothes in a visible effort at enforcing cleanliness and hygiene, but it all adds up to naught if they persistently spread garbage all over the place, as the results will - eventually and like stray chickens - come right back home to roost.

Teaching civic sense is not included in the educational curriculum although, if anyone had any sense it should be as, if a child is not going to learn this at home and on the whole he/she unfortunately isn’t, then it should be taught in school if, one has to admit, the teachers themselves are even aware that such a thing as ‘civic sense’ is a necessary survival tool in a world where an increasing amount of food, drink and almost anything else one can think of, is inevitably sold in plastic or foil wrapping or, in many cases, in both.

It does not seem to enter people’s heads that they are actively destroying and polluting the environment on which they, and everyone else on this increasingly godforsaken planet, depend for their long-term survival. Environmental problems, and the resolution of environmental issues, are purely the purview of a few caring NGO’s and hardy individuals who, unless something serious is done to tackle the massive problems arising from environmental pollution and destruction, just cannot cope with the fallout of what can, realistically speaking, be termed gross human negligence and, when they dare to try, the very people they are actively trying to help, decry their efforts with scathing disdain.

Such is the society of today: a society in which it is increasingly a case of every individual for themselves and to hell with the environmental world around them and, to be frank, to hell with anyone else in it too. Something should and must be done to clean up, regenerate and ultimately safeguard the environment from the predations of crass humanity before it is too late!

    The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.

    Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com