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Unless Pakistan Adopts Clean Energy, 2050 Holds A Grim Future

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Year: 2050, Pakistan

The year 2050. We used to hear about the dangers of climate change and global warming. We were cautioned by some of our own that climate change is for real. It would happen unless the right measures were taken immediately. Unless plans were made and priorities set to tackle climate change and mitigate its causes, it would drastically affect the future. And show up, it did. Climate change is real today. And for once, everyone agrees.

Today was the third week of experiencing extreme temperatures in Karachi in the month of December. What used to be the start of winter in Pakistan is now a tough weather onslaught, with temperatures soaring above 4o-degree Celsius. People have died from sun strokes and dehydration. Water reserves are running low. The city municipal administration supplies water only twice a week now.

The Cape Town Water Crisis. Source: YouTube

The Tharparkar and Baluchistan regions in Pakistan are experiencing severe drought amid a scarcity of water. The Pakistan armed forces and rescue agencies have evacuated the people from the area after deciding that those working for relief missions were themselves falling victim to severe weather conditions. Some agreed to leave. Others vowed to stay in the region they had lived in their entire lives, with their ancestors and children. They couldn’t be forced to leave.

Millions have been displaced along the coastal belt of Sindh due to rising sea levels, amid losses of lives, livestock and property. What was once an agrarian economy gets only 10% contribution to the GDP from agriculture because of frequent floods; down from a staggering 53% contribution to the GDP from the agriculture sector during the years 1949 to 1950.

Year: 2017, Pakistan

News article clippings. Sources: Thompson Reuters Foundation, Dawn News

Mining has begun in Thar’s 9,600km coal fields. Coal, at present, contributes 0.1% to the total energy generation in Pakistan, according to the Pakistan Business Council. However, with recent ambitious energy projects involving coal powered stations, this could rise to 24% by 2020, says Tahir Abbas, an analyst associated with Karachi-based brokerage, Arif Habib Ltd. According to Muhammad Younus Dagha quoted in Gulf news report , secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power, the Thar region could produce enough coal to generate 12 gigawatts of electricity within 10 years. This is sufficient to resolve Pakistan’s energy issues which have been crumpling the economy. According to a Dawn News article, the average shortage of energy in the country stands at 4,000 MW. At peak times, this figure reaches up to 7,000 MW.

The energy crisis in the country is real. However, meeting this energy shortfall through coal is a slow poison. Coal is the dirtiest possible means of energy generation that exists. It’s a short-term solution to Pakistan’s energy woes. The energy crisis might be resolved, but we will be inviting greater perils our way.

According to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics, burning coal releases the highest amount of carbon dioxide in the air, among all other fuels.

Pounds of CO2 emitted per million British thermal units (Btu) of energy for various fuels:

Coal (anthracite) 228.6
Coal (bituminous) 205.7
Coal (lignite) 215.4
Coal (subbituminous) 214.3
Diesel fuel and heating oil 161.3
Gasoline (without ethanol) 157.2
Propane 139.0
Natural gas 117.0

Table Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In addition, when burnt, it is responsible for releasing the following emissions, according to another U.S Energy Information Administration study:

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2), which contributes to acid rain and respiratory illnesses
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to smog and respiratory illnesses
  • Particulates, which contribute to smog, haze, and respiratory illnesses and lung disease
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the primary greenhouse gas produced from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas)
  • Mercury and other heavy metals, which have been linked to both neurological and developmental damage in humans and other animals
  • Fly ash and bottom ash, which are residues created when coal is burned at power plants.

According to a report in Lead Pakistan, a climate change thinktank and research organization based in Islamabad, Pakistan, the country is already among the worst affected by climate change. Floods and drought have already severely impacted many lives and delivered a major blow to the economy. According to leading economist Ishrat Hussain, quoted in Thompson Reuters Foundation news, the economy of Pakistan grew at a rate of 2.9% per annum during the last five years, against the projected rate of 6.5 % if flooding had not disrupted the country, causing human and economic losses.

Then why is Pakistan investing in coal powered energy plants when it’s one of the principal causes of climate change and global warming? Are we not being ignorant to the perils it will bring to us?

With an abundance of sunlight in the country, Pakistan needs a Clean Energy Revolution. A sustainable means of energy generation that can solve all the energy woes of the country, without damaging the environment. According to an Express Tribune news article, the country has the solar energy potential of generating 2.9 million MW of electricity, which is 725 times the energy shortage it faces today. Besides solar, Pakistan can tap into other alternative energy generation sources which are clean and sustainable, and can easily solve Pakistan’s energy crisis. The Pakistan Alternate Energy Board (AEDB), in an interview, puts the wind power generation potential at 340,000 MW (85 times the energy shortfall), and an Express Tribune report states the hydroelectric power potential to be 100,000 MW (25 times the energy shortfall). This is more than sufficient to meet Pakistan’s total peak energy demand of 21,000 MW, according to Dawn News.

Unless we act upon it today, climate change will be our next big terror. With abundant resources of renewable, clean energy, Pakistan’s decision of tapping coal reserves to meet the energy shortage is a decision made without due diligence. Unless climate change mitigation policies are enforced, and we start paying heed to the threat of global warming, soon we will have none to blame, but our own selves. It is a matter of securing our futures and protecting the generations to come. If we continue on the present thread, and climate change impacts us for the worse, it will be too late to rectify our actions.

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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