The Predicaments Ahead

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Little to no attention being paid to key issues

If you think the country is presently passing through a small critical phase, you are sadly mistaken. It is regrettable that intellectuals today have turned a blind eye to the challenges that Pakistan will have to face in the near future. Political clashes and debates on less vital issues have become routine on television and other media outlets, while discussions on the real, serious issues have been left on the backburner. The list of these volatile issues continues to expand with each passing day.

Among other problems, Pakistan is facing an acute water shortage. This scarcity of water is very serious, as the country’s rivers are drying up. The Chenab River, which flows through South Punjab, for example, should have an average of 60,000 to 70,000 cusecs of water, but has now been reduced to around 8,000 to 10,000 cusecs. This shortage of water will definitely have a negative impact on crops. The land used for agriculture is compressing over time due to a lack of water storage. According to agriculture experts, a 40 to 50 percent reduction is feared in the production of grain this year. Outside of agriculture, the scarcity of clean drinking water is an issue that is going from bad to worse.

Global warming and environmental pollution are among the most important issues that will emerge in the future. The temperature of the ground is rising due to global warming and the glaciers are melting quickly. Due to this, floods occur almost every year. The construction of big dams is the only way to tackle these floods. Until Pakistan is able to control these floods through dams, it will have to bear the brunt of flooding with billions and trillions of rupees not to mention thousands of lives lost every year.

Smog has been increasingly more appearing in the country over the last few years, which makes the atmosphere so dirty that breathing becomes very difficult. Pollution is the main cause of this spreading smog. Pollution is being caused by certain sources of electricity generation. A glaring example of this is the coal-powered plant in Sahiwal, which adds huge amounts of pollution to the air. The industries that are being established under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could increase atmospheric pollution as well. As part of CPEC, China might shift its industry to the Pakistani port city of Gwadar, which will decrease transport costs immensely.

China is itself already fighting pollution. The Chinese city of Shanghai is one of the most polluted cities in the world with extremely high air pollution levels. China is now in the process of moving its power generation away from coal which will leave them with redundant coal-powered power plants and surplus coal. These redundant coal-fueled power plants could be sold or rented to Pakistan and the surplus coal sold to Pakistan. Doing this would cause Pakistan to pay valuable foreign exchange to China for the import of coal and at the same time shift pollution from China to Pakistan, leaving Pakistan in imminent danger of a storm of pollution as well as with depleted foreign reserves.

The rising population is another factor contributing to environmental pollution. The cities are growing and spreading due to an explosion in population. New residential colonies are being established to house the growing population, but they have two great faults: they create pollution and destroy vegetation. In Central and South Punjab, especially in Lahore, farmland is being lost to residential colonies, which are being built with great speed by various institutions and investors. The mass housing society of Defense Housing Authority (DHA) in Multan is the worst example of the damage these colonies can inflict, as Multani mangoes, the famous fruit of the area and a major export item, are vanishing. The Multani mango orchards are under threat of extinction in the Southern Punjab city. Punjab, which was once considered as the granary of the India-Pakistan region is now losing its farmlands to these fast-spreading housing colonies. Pakistan’s Punjab is hardly able to meet the current demand for food and at times is compelled to import food, such as tomatoes, from neighboring countries, including India.

Pakistan’s Punjab is hardly able to meet the current demand for food and at times is compelled to import food, such as tomatoes, from neighboring countries, including India

There is an argument that residential colonies are necessary for the rising population of Pakistan. These rapid population increases lead to rising unemployment rates, and unemployment in turn increases the crime rate in society. The population is swelling due to the illiteracy rate and the pseudo-religious scholars who misguide the masses by wrongly interpreting their religion. The topic of family planning and birth control has become a big taboo. If the family planning crisis is not soon managed, the flood of increasing population will wash away Pakistan.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have plummeted below 10 billion dollars. The incumbent government seems to be repeating their claims of having overcome various crises, including that of electricity load-shedding. But, to overcome the power crisis, the government has installed power generation plants which run mostly on imported fuel. This imported fuel is what is causing our foreign exchange reserves to plunge.

Besides the shrinking foreign exchange reserves, Pakistan also faces precarious economic issues such as its mounting circular debt. Pakistan has, unfortunately, not paid attention to its exports during the past few years for a host of reasons. Pakistan-manufactured products cannot compete in the international market. The electricity generated in our country through imported fuel is very costly, which leads to a hike in prices of the products manufactured in the country. When products in the international market are available at comparatively cheaper prices, Pakistani products cannot compete.

If Pakistan wants its exports to compete in the international market then it must generate cost-effective electricity. Dams are the only solution for producing cheaper and more sustainable electricity in the long-term while also controlling the yearly floods that devastate the country. To that end, the construction of the Kalabagh Dam is of utmost importance. But, unfortunately, those in power have currently chosen to focus their attention on petty issues. The media and the masses have chosen to simultaneously tread the same path of nearsightedness instead of working towards the future.

 

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