Biodiversity threatened by climate change: experts


LAHORE: Climate change and conservation experts on Saturday said that Pakistan’s biodiversity and ecosystem were being severely affected by climate change.

Long spells of hot weather are affecting Thar and Cholistan deserts the most, causing deaths to livestock and a wave of migration.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) country representative Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said that the four eco-regions considered the most biologically outstanding in the world are under grave threat and on the verge of collapse.

Speaking about the potential of livestock farming, he said that livestock constituted about 12 percent of the agricultural gross domestic product (AGDP) of the country and between 30 and 35 percent of Pakistan’s rural population was attached with the sector. He said that Pakistan was the 10th largest country in livestock production but much of its potential is yet to be tapped.

He emphasised the need for providing people with information relating to the growth of food and fodder, adding that farmers should be encouraged to grow grass in hilly areas for livestock.

He further said that state-of-the-art methods should be employed to produce energy and the use of biotechnology should be increased. He encouraged the production of carbon-absorbing crops and seeds which also provide for a natural nutrient to livestock and human beings.

He highlighted the imbalance in mineral composition in livestock nutrition as pointed out in different studies conducted in all four provinces.

Pakistan World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Manager Conservation Humaira Ayesha told media that livestock in Pakistan was suffering from a deficiency of energy, proteins and minerals. She said that regions of South Punjab, Thar, Cholistan and rain-fed (barani) areas were particularly in need of attention.

Ayesha added that urea, molasses and mineral blocks should be employed to overcome the deficiency of nutrients in fodder-deficient areas like Cholistan.

In response to a question, she said that lack of rain had caused several outbreaks of diseases, resulting in deaths of scores of humans and animals, in desert and barani areas of the country. The lack of rain in Thar and Cholistan has also caused many grazing fields to dry up, creating a drought-like situation in many places, she said.

Cattle farming is the sole source of income for the residents of Thar, Cholistan, Thal and Pothohar region. Rapidly changing climate, weather patterns and droughts for several consecutive years have caused serious damage to the livelihoods of the inhabitants of these areas.

Another expert Prof Dr Talat Naseer Pasha also commented on the ongoing situation, saying that Thar desert, which is spread over an area of 19,623 square kilometres, had once been a rich source of livestock. The region with a population of 1.6 million people had an estimated six million livestock animals, which now faced serious threat due to climate changes.

“Climate change is also responsible for increased desertification and shortage of water, which is happening due to the cutting of trees, unplanned developmental projects and utilisation of land for agricultural purposes,” he added.

Dr Pasha stressed the need for building small reservoirs to store rainwater, installation of small reverse-osmosis plants, solar-powered pumps, and planting of drought-resistant trees in order to cope with the harsh climate challenges.

A senior official of the Ministry of Climate Change said that the ministry has directed the provinces to take effective steps to counter the negative effects of climate change, with a special focus on agriculture and livestock.