By Rahmat Karim Baig
Man has made so many wonderful advances and inventions in the field of technology but at the same time he is inviting countless issues unwittingly – a negative aspect of his own doings. We do avail of them, we enjoy ride on vehicles and cover long distances in short time but we at the same time throw a number of harmful gases in the atmosphere and inhale them which affect our respiratory system, bringing unimaginable health issues that were unknown in the past. Diseases are rampant everywhere and patients crowd the clinics in scores every day.
We have switched over to new varieties of food, junk food and fast foods and know nothing about their harmful effect. We take tea many many cups a day but know nothing about the genuine or otherwise nature of that product which is said to be not pure tea but a mixture of wastes that are free to be collected from slaughter houses, grain processing mills etc. and mixed with some amount of tea leaves and dyed as pure tea. We get vegetables from markets that are said to be grown on fertilizers which quickens their growth in half of the original ripening time. Almost all that we find in the bazaar including chicken are thus rapidly grown and marketed but the govt. agencies take no notice of the situation.
The environmental change has heated up the atmosphere and the coldest regions are now as hot as unbearable for man and ecology. The glaciers have melted rapidly and cause GLOFS and destroy human settlements. The rate of melting of glaciers is now much higher than the past and shrinking of glaciers leaves the land vulnerable and Glofs hit the soil so badly that in the higher altitude of the Hindu Kush valleys and side valleys one cannot see any sign of wild life for reasons known to Wild Life department only. The smaller glaciers have disappeared altogether and the larger ones are shrinking at an accelerating pace. Man has failed to preserve the landscape that he had inherited. He cut off all the Juniper trees for fire, the birch trees of the high altitude regions for heating their houses in winters. In the past there was a control system in each commune and it was known SAQ system, and there used to be a community paid warden to look after the natural resources of the hill sides and pastures but this is no more observed. Due to mass cutting of juniper trees there must be some rules or an ordinance to ban this completely illegal and the culprits be fined as was done in the past by the commune system.
The Gujoor tribes of lower Chitral have multiplied many times over and as a result of overpopulation migrated to the high altitude valleys and this community is playing the principal role in the destruction of wildlife habitats as well as the wildlife itself.
The traditional rules of the past have gone with on the demise of the older generation and ours has to think for a new strategy in the light of scientific knowledge and the Environmental Protection Agency should be activated and strengthened to visit vulnerable parts of the country and chalk out some guide lines for environmental protection of the fragile ecology of Hindu Kush range.
The over population of the country has become a burden for the poor resources. Our tracts of lands don’t produce as much grain as they did and due to shortage of water and drying up of springs, a good amount of crops have dried prematurely. Alfalfa fields have completely dried and there is no stock of this product with the farmers. It was the main fodder for live stock in winters as well as a source for cash. We see many vegetables and fruit trees get diseases of unknown nature because the air has become over polluted, unhealthy and poisonous and we know nothing about the level of pollution in the air in which we are breathing.
The wild life is equally suffering from the polluted air and a number of wild life have become extinct e.g. the wild pigeon that was very common when we were young but now for many years, we have not seen one in any part of Chitral and the same is the case with many other birds that used to live in the hillsides and sang in early mornings, have become a thing of the past as they could not breath in our polluted air and have suffered . The disaster wrought by man for the sake of getting tasty food, easy conveyance, easy medication, etc. have polluted our surroundings. If you go to bigger settlements or even smaller ones you will see garbage of countless waste articles that lay scattered all around. They go into cultivated plots, water channels and cause damage to the growth of crops and vegetables, many plastic items are eaten by cattle and plastic balls are found after slaughtering domestic animals. The chicken that were raised in the past in our houses are no more to be raised at any cost for unknown reasons, most probably from pollution, absence of waste management by the communities, unawareness of the people.
In and around school buildings there are heaps and heaps of waste that is disposable but nobody cares. There must be a district Vigilance team to be appointed by the Ministry of Environment to visit villages, schools, Madrasas, Health centres, Bazars, markets, and such other public places to inspect the level of waste management who should have the power to impose fine on Institutions and communities. Unless we take stern steps towards cleanliness and implement it we cannot get rid of this curse. We must change our attitude and rethink our social behavior to make some improvement for our own sake as well as for the next generation.