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Pakistan’s heat waves woes to worsen further as summer temperatures spike steadily

Islamabad, May 20, 2018 (PPI-OT): Deadly heat waves are going to be a country’s much bigger socio-economic and health problem in the coming decades, particularly in densely populated urban areas of the country, as these global warming-induced extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and occurring over a much greater portion of the country, said climate change ministry spokesperson Mohammad Saleem.

He said, “But devastating fallouts of heat waves on humans can be largely mitigated through timely and effective responsive measures.” He said that extreme heat waves, such as the one presently torching the various cities and towns of the country, are frequently cited as one of the most direct effects of global warming-induced climate change.

Mr. Saleem said that the Pakistan is most likely to suffer more frequent and intense heat waves as the average temperatures in the country are constantly increasing. Heat waves matter because they kill large numbers of people through heat stress, cause forest fires, reduce crop yields and damage ecosystems, which are not adapted to high temperatures, he emphasised.

The media spokesperson said that the World Meteorological Department’s reports show that annual average temperature in the country has jumped up by roughly 0.5°C, which has led to five-fold rise in heat wave days over last 30 years. Besides, the country’s annual temperature is well on path to rise by 3°C to 5°C due to a heat-trapping global carbon emissions.

“Such dangerously rising trends in temperatures will potentially continue to cast various negative effects on the country’s human health, spike frequency and intensity levels of extreme weather events including heat waves, cloudbursts, floods, glacial melt, agricultural productivity, water availability, coastal erosion and seawater incursion.,” the climate change spokesperson Mohammad Saleem highlighted.

He said that humans are adapted to body temperatures of around 37°C. If humidity – the levels of water vapour in the air – goes up with the thermometer, then people caught in a zone of extreme heat cannot adjust body temperatures by perspiration. And, with every 1°C rise in temperatures, the capacity of the air to hold moisture goes up by 7%. People with no access to air conditioning or a cool breeze become, however, at high risk, he added.

Quoting a study published last year in the Nature Climate Change Journal, Mohammad Saleem said that globally one in three person is vulnerable to heat wave-related health impacts. But by the year 2100, three out of four people on Earth could be subject to at least 20 days per year of heat and humidity associated with deadly heat waves, if carbon emissions from industries, transport, aviation, energy, deforestation and agriculture continue to rise at their current rates.

The media spokesperson said further that according to the study’s findings based on data about 783 heat wave incidents in 164 cities from 36 countries about 30% of the world’s population (and about 13% of the land area) experiences at least 20 days per year on which the deadly threshold is reached. By 2100, this percentage jumps to 74% of the population (47% of the land area) if emissions continue unchecked.

He pointed out that even though humans aggressively cut back on these carbon emissions, such as outlined in the Paris climate agreement, increasing temperatures and humidity levels would combine to ratchet up the intensity and frequency of deadly heat waves in various countries including Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, the good news is that heat waves are quite predictable, and “extreme temperature early action systems as being practices in Karachi have proven that they can save lives in the heat wave-vulnerable areas of the country, Mr. Saleem said. “By expanding early heat wave warning systems in heat wave-prone areas of the country, authorities can boost their ability to prevent a lot of suffering, illness, and death from heat waves through timely response and preparedness,” he said.

The climate change media spokesperson suggested that that building capacity of individuals and communities to respond to the heat stress during heat-waves by raising heat-health awareness campaigns in the country before the onset of a heat waves season can be of a great help to cope with the fallouts of the heat waves on the health of people.

Besides, expanding cool roofs, painting solar reflective paint on buildings, encouraging gardens on rooftops, increasing access to drinking water and training medical personnel, he added. Mr. Saleem also underlined the need for district-wise heat wave management plans comprising measures including no or reduced power outages, sustained provision of water, healthcare facilities in hospitals and establishment of roadside public shades to stave off human losses from their impacts.

For more information, contact:
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: +92-51-9245565
E-mail: moccpakistan@hotmail.com
Website: www.mocc.gov.pk

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Urban forestry vital for tackling urban warming: Climate Change Minister

Islamabad, August 06, 2017 (PPI-OT): Federal Climate Change Minister, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, on Sunday urged the federal and provincial forest officials to boost urban forestry at national scale to protect urban areas from heat waves and from becoming heat islands.

He told the forest officials, “Planting trees in urban centres must be made integral part of the seasonal monsoon and spring tree plantation campaigns and Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme (GPP) being implemented by the climate change ministry in collaboration with provincial forest departments to avert growing threat of heat island effect in urban areas that costs both lives and people’s livelihoods.”

The minister highlighted that urban forestry was the most viable and cheapest way to protect Pakistan’s urban areas from becoming heat islands. “Our cities and towns have now become recently hotter than their adjoining or nearby rural areas for various reasons and increasing green areas and planting more trees in the cities and towns is the most effective and cheapest way to cope with heat island effect that poses risk to lives and livelihoods in urban centres of the country,” Mushahidullah Khan noted.

An urban heat island (UHI) effect is described as an urban or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. Quoting a study of the UN’s Food and Agriculture (FAO), the climate change minister Mushahidullah Khan said planting trees in urban areas could help cool the temperature by between two to eight degree Celsius. This would help cut use of air conditioners by more than 30 percent, use of which is one major cause of the urban warming.

Counting key causes of the heat island effects, he said removal of green areas, rapid rise in motor vehicles, soaring building construction activities, modification of land surfaces, emission of heat from air conditioning units and encroachment on natural waterways or rainwater drains have converted the urban centres into heat islands, making them unliveable.

The minister noted that these natural waterways that snake through these urban centres provide natural cooling effect when wind passed across them during sweltering summer months. “But it is a matter of sorry that most of them have been encroached upon by land mafia in connivance with civil and municipal authorities,” the climate change minister Mushahidullah Khan remarked.

Talking about numerous benefits of urban forestry, he says large urban trees are wonderful filters for urban pollutants and fine particulates. “Large trees with widely spread thick canopy, when placed strategically, can help improve urban air quality by filtering it, remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from urban atmosphere and increase amount of the oxygen in it for improved public health,” he emphasized.

Referring to international studies on urban forestry, the minister Mushahidullah Khan said, “Trees properly placed around buildings play a vital role in reducing air conditioning needs by 30 percent and save energy used for heating by 20–50 percent. Besides, these trees provide habitat, food and protection to plants and animals, re-vitalising ailing urban biodiversity of the country.”

The Minister pointed out that stress and blood pressure are major ailments found among urban dwellers. However, these public health issues can be also significantly mitigated with the help of growth in urban trees. “Health and environment experts have already proved that spending time near trees improves physical and mental health by increasing energy level and speed of recovery, while decreasing blood pressure and stress,” he said.

For more information, contact:
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: +92-51-9245565
E-mail: moccpakistan@hotmail.com
Website: www.mocc.gov.pk

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Minister Zahid Hamid underlines forests role to combat Pakistan’s climate risks

Islamabad, July 28, 2017 (PPI-OT): Federal Minister Climate Change, Zahid Hamid, said on Friday forests are the most effective way for coping with the global warming-induced climate change impacts on the country’s critical socio-economic sectors, particularly agriculture and water.

“The important services forests provide are often ignored or underestimated by many of us as long as we wake up to the unprecedented environmental importance the forests promise to us. Trees, in fact, help protect soil and regulate water on farms, mitigate floods, regulate weather and enrich biodiversity. Besides, crops grown in agroforestry systems are often more resilient to drought, excess rain and erratic weather patterns,” the minister told participants of the launching ceremony of the Monsoon Tree Plantation Campaign – 2017.

Inaugurating the monsoon tree plantation campaign here on Friday at the Rose and Jasmine Park, the minister told participants further that more than 103 million trees would be planted across the country during next two months as a part of the government’s larger plan visualised to re-invigorate the ailing forestry sector of the country.

Climate Change Media spokesperson, Mohammad Saleem, told media that the plan aims to recover the tree cover lost because of unchecked deforestation in the country over last a few decades and bring thousands of hectares of land under trees during next five years.

The media spokesperson Mr. Saleem told media on the sidelines of the monsoon tree plantation launching ceremony, “The climate change minister Zahid Hamid apprised the participants that a national forest policy has already been approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) that will help actualize the vision of the government to boost the country’s forest cover too boost the country’s climate resilience against climate change disasters, particularly floods, heat waves, sea-level rise, sea intrusion, land erosion, land sliding, disappearing of natural water springs in mountain areas, erratic and shifting weather and rainfall patterns.”

The ambitious forest policy was hammered out under the leadership of the climate change minister Zahid Hamid and in active involvement/collaboration and support of the all federating units. Besides, an action plan has also been framed that outlines detailed measures to check deforestation and increase forest cover, the media spokesperson explained.

The spokesperson said a PC-1 of Rs. 3.65 billions have been also approved by the federal government for implementation of the Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme (GPP), which would be transferred to the provincial governments to utilize for planting trees.

Under the GPP, 100 million trees would be planted across the country at a cost of Rs. 10 billion, for which half of the amount would be extended by the provincial, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and FATA governments, the media spokesperson Mohammad Saleem elaborated.

“However, it is high time that the forests got the right value and its importance recognised by us all for the sustainability of the country’s socio-economic sectors, lives and livelihoods because it is important for the people living in these forests and exploiting them to recognise that the impact is of unsustainable exploitation of these forests but also to understand how much this exploitation is costing the environment of the country,” the media spokesperson stressed.

The spokesperson said that the climate change minister had directed the ministry’s forest officials and urged the provincial forest department officials to play their more active role in engaging public, all stakeholders, particularly educational institutions, corporate sector, NGOs and media to boost sensitise about the importance of forests in sustainability of the earth’s overall ecosystem, biodiversity, our lives and livelihoods and their role in coping with climate change-induced impacts.

He added that the minister has cautioned the forest officials that without their involvement no forest growth plan would succeed and tree plantation targets would remain hard to achieve 100 percent or surpass them.

For more information, contact:
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: +92-51-9245565
E-mail: moccpakistan@hotmail.com
Website: www.mocc.gov.pk

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