Pakistan

Pakistan, IN southern Asia, is situated on the Arabian Sea. Pakistan shares borders with Afghanistan (to the north and northwest), Jammu and Kashmir (to the northeast), India (to the east and southeast) (796,095 sq. km.) and Iran (to the west). Pakistan has an area of 307,374 sq. mi., and supports a population of approximately 150 million. Pakistan's topography is varied, with mountains to the north and west, and includes four regions: northern plateau, Baluchistan plateau, southeast desert, and Indus plain. The Indus River, the major river in Pakistan, divides the southern part. Only 5 percent of Pakistan's land has forests, although trees are an essential resource for rural communities and wildlife. Extensive logging in northern areas has resulted in slope instability with the potential for soil erosion and water pollution. Overgrazing results in desertification and soil salinity.

Pakistan's climate is mostly dry, with extremes in elevation and temperature. In the mountain regions of the north and west, temperatures fall below freezing during winter; in the Indus Valley area, temperatures range between about 90-120 degrees F (32-49 degrees C) in summer. Precipitation (often in July and August) is scarce in most of the country, ranging from more than 20 in. annually in the Punjab region, to less than five in. in the arid southeast and southwest.

Pakistan already faces complex environmental problems of air, water, and soil pollution, as well as overuse of natural resources causing deforestation, desertification, and energy and water shortages. Ten percent of households lack access to improved water supply, and 38 percent lack improved sanitation. Air pollution and water shortages are common in the south, with increasing health problems. Warmer temperatures could increase the incidence of heat-related illnesses, lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution causing respiratory illnesses (diminished lung function, asthma and respiratory inflammation especially in those persons already susceptible), and increase the risk of contracting certain infectious diseases from water contamination or disease-carrying vectors. Rising sea levels associated with global warming will cause problems on the Indus delta and coastal plains with the loss of land, displaced coastal villages, and population displacement. Flooding and storm surges associated with sea-level rise could increase the incidence of water-borne diseases.

Pakistan's environment minister, speaking at the United Nations, voiced concern for climate change impacts on the environment, the economy, and humans. Some problems already experienced include decreased agricultural productivity (arid land and decreasing water supply) and melting glaciers in the Himalayas in the northern part of Pakistan. The minister indicated Pakistan's major goals include water management, improving energy production, changing agricultural practices, tree planting for carbon sequestration, and establishing a committee for research, advising, and action. Like all preparedness measures, financial resources are necessary for development and implementation. While the future is a concern for Pakistan, solutions for current water quality and energy deficiencies are taking priority.

The University of Peshawar is home to the Department of Environmental Sciences (DES), formed by the university in collaboration with the Pakistan government's Environment and Urban Affairs Division in 1987. DES educates at the graduate level and postgraduate level in Environmental Sciences, Public Health Safety, Natural and Occupational Hazards, Applications of Remote Sensing to Environmental Monitoring and Hazard Mapping. The University of Peshawar uses geographic information systems for planning and natural resources management, performs research, and informs government policymakers in sustainable industrial growth, resource conservation, and environmental preservation.

sEE ALsO: Carbon Sequestration; Desertification; Salinity.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. "Climate Change Affecting Pakistan's Environment: Faisal Saleh," Daily Times, www.dailytimes.com.pk (September 26, 2007); Pakistan Department of Environmental Sciences, www.upesh.edu.pk (cited November 2007).

LYN MiCHAUD Independent Scholar

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