Pakistan, a nation with a rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes, is grappling with a formidable trio of challenges: (a) the rapid increase in population, (b) the environmental pollution, and (c) the water scarcity. The intertwining nature of these issues is posing a significant threat to Pakistan’s sustainable development and wellbeing of its people.
Now there are countless problems and risks, difficulties and challenges associated with the speedily increasing population, environmental pollution, and water scarcity. The future is therefore at stake. So, in order to overcome these dangers, we immediately need a unified approach, coordinated homework and comprehensive strategy for controlling the population growth, conserving the available water, and protecting the environment.
Every one of us has the responsibility to play a role in order to face these challenges. But the children and youth have to proactively play their part in not only meeting these challenges, but also spreading awareness and educating the elders for saving our country from a disaster to happen.
Pakistan’s population has increased manifolds. On August 5, 2023, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved the results of the 2023 Digital Census. According to this census, Pakistan’s population has increased to 241.49 million with an annual growth rate of 2.55 percent. This has obviously placed immense pressure on Pakistan’s already limited resources, and feeble economy.
From agriculture to healthcare, the growing population is straining the ability of our country to providing basic necessities to its citizens. This is also contributing to swelling unemployment as well as economic pressure. We have a burgeoning workforce, but unfortunately the job market is unable to absorb this workforce. This has heightened the competition amidst limited job opportunities. Moreover, the education sector and healthcare systems are facing challenges in meeting the needs of a growing population. Our schools are overcrowded. Healthcare facilities are limited as compared to our population.
Rapid urbanization is another cause of the uncontrolled population. Cities’ infrastructure, civic amenities and transportation services are insufficient to accommodate the day by day increasing load of people. Thus, the cities are facing challenges relating to housing, waste management, and other problems, which is affecting our overall living standards.
Take air pollution for example; the unregulated industrial growth, vehicular emissions, and burning of fossil fuels, and crops are contaminating the air in our cities especially Lahore and Karachi. Smog in Lahore and adjacent cities is now a regular phenomenon. Air Quality Index above 151 is unhealthy, while above 301 the air is hazardous for breathing. Last year, IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, ranked Lahore the most polluted city. This is causing health hazards, shutdown of businesses, schools, and other activities. Not only the health of our citizens, especially children and youth, is being affected, but also ecosystems are getting damaged. The result is the climate change, which has become a threat to the earth globe.
Water pollution is the bigger source of concern which is the direct result of inadequate waste management and inappropriate industrial discharges. It is causing contamination of water sources, posing serious health risks. Deforestation, erosion, forest fires, improper agricultural practices, and inadequate waste disposal are causing severe soil degradation, which is directly affecting our food security as well as the agricultural sustainability.
Thirdly, Pakistan is facing the worst water crisis. On one hand, India is using the water bomb with a design to deprive us of our legitimate share of water under the Indus Basin Treaty, while on the other hand our own mismanagement is contributing to our predicament. In addition to the unchecked river and rain waterflows down to Arabian Sea waste much of our water resources; underground water streams are hurriedly receding. This underground resource is unable to bear the burden of drinking water usage, particularly in the urban areas. In Rawalpindi city alone, more than half of the population is facing the underground drinking water scarcity which is as bigger a threat as South Africa’s Cape Town city has been facing for the last many years, where the citizens are now having almost zero level of underground drinking water.
Agriculture, a crucial but pivotal sector of our economy, is heavily dependent upon water. In order to meet water needs, our farmers are over extracting the underground water for cultivation. So, the depleting water resources are threatening food security, and economic stability. Some regions suffer from acute water scarcity; others face the consequences of mismanagement. This may reduce our crop yields, affect livelihoods and exacerbate food insecurity. This may also deteriorate ecosystems, impact biodiversity and the health of aquatic environment.
What Should Be Done?
Entire nation will have to gear up the already in-place family planning program to control population growth. While the responsibility rests with the government, our children and youth, especially school, college and university students need to go one step ahead and spearhead the awareness drive for protecting the environment, saving water, and adopting Zero Waste Management lifestyle. We have to conserve water by all means.
Industries must adopt cleaner technologies, and vehicular emissions need to be regulated to reduce air pollution. Renewable energy, better irrigation techniques and water-saving technologies can help in reducing all kinds of pollution. Ask your parents to timely invest in solar, wind and hydropower projects.
This cannot happen unless you the educated youth adopt careers in relevant fields where your expertise is required to meet the environmental challenges, especially aimed at fighting the triple threat of population, pollution and water. You, the children, who surely are the future builders of Pakistan, cannot spread awareness unless you yourself are educated in the relevant fields. Only a proper, relevant and sufficient education acquired on scientific and technological lines will be helpful in the awareness campaigns, changing the behaviors, and promoting the sustainable practices.
Dear friends, Pakistan stands at a crossroads. You the children are the special focus of attention, because it is you, only you, who have the ability and the will to undo such challenges facing the country right now. Don’t forget that the hazards of speedily increasing population, environmental pollution, and water scarcity are formidable, but it is only you, your proactive approach and participation in the awareness campaigns that can pave the way for a sustainable and prosperous future. The urgency of action cannot be overstated, as the consequences of inaction may jeopardize the wellbeing of current and future generations. With you in the lead, for sure, Pakistan can overcome these challenges, and build a resilient and sustainable future for its people and the environment they inhabit.
I Wish I Would Be a Bird
Syeda Zainab Ali
When I looked up at the sky
Watching the birds freely fly
That voice of mind I heard
I wish I would be a bird!
I would fly high and high
Then I’d reach the top of the sky
I would roam in the garden
And play with a butterfly
No more study, no more school
That life would be better and cool
Enjoy the breeze and warming sun
Can’t imagine how much it’d be fun!
“That’s not all,” then I was told
You would’ve been caught and then been sold!
The hunters would hunt you for the food
A fried bird is good for the mood!
“Oh no, oh no!”, then I cried
I really don’t wanna be fried!
Thank God, that I’m a human being
This is what for I feel pride!