PESHAWAR (APP): Misal Khan, 83, who was busy like a honeybee while threshing his wheat crop at his fields under the blistering sun in his native village, suddenly collapsed after feeling dizziness due to heatstroke.
Dr Zaheeruddin Babar, Director and Chief Spokesman Met Office, Islamabad, said the plain areas of Sindh and Punjab were severely hit by heatwaves this month and its spill-over to mountainous areas up to lower Swat, Chitral, Chilas, Hunza and Gilgit were witnessed.
Due to an increase in global warming, he said, rain patterns had undergone changes over the recent years for countries like Pakistan due to deforestation and increase in hazardous emissions.
Pakistan is home to over 7,253 known glaciers, including around 543 in Chitral, the largest anywhere in the world except polar regions. These feed our rivers and contributing 75 precent stored water supply vital for the country’s agro-based economy.
The chief weather forecast official said melting of glaciers and ice-packs in lower elevations in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Hindukush region, especially in Chitral, would increase if the factors leading to global warming and climate change were not addressed.
Terming global warming an international issue, Dr Zaheer said Pakistan was among 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change. He feared that most of the South Asian countries would become inhabitable after a few decades if burning of fossil fuels like coal, vehicles’ emissions and deforestation continued with an existing rate.
Dr Zaheer said an increase of carbon dioxide in air due to greenhouse gas emissions, brick kilns and smoke emitting vehicles was largely contributing to rise in temperature and causing heatstroke besides air pollution.
Ikhtiar Wali Khan, PML-N spokesperson and Member Provincial Assembly, said vanishing of endangered Shisham, Siris and Peepal canopy trees due to urbanization have resulted in a substantial increase in temperature in Peshawar region.
Following ruthless chopping of these indigenous trees, he said, Peshawar was today engulfed by polluted air and nearly five million of its people were exposed to heat waves in its wake.
History revealed that Peshawar was lush green trees surrounded by a thick forest as mentioned by first Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Babar in his book “Tuzke Babri,” but unfortunately one finds no traces of the green gold today.
Ikhtiar Wali said today one can find withered Shisham while going through Swat Canal linking Katlang-Swabi, Michi Canal in Dargai-Malakand, Abezai branch in Charsadda and outskirts of Peshawar.
Today migratory birds like Houbara and Cranes can hardly be seen in Peshawar’s outskirts for which once it was famous and aquatic species like Masher and Trout in River Swat and Kabul were decreased due to rapid increase in water pollution.
“The green belts developed by the previous PTI Government with a cost of millions rupees taxpayers money were bulldozed for the ill-planned BRT corridor and today around five million Peshawarties were exposed to heatstroke and toxic air, he added.
The smoke and dust in air was measured between five to 10 feet higher in different places of Peshawar where PM2.5 is almost four times higher than NEQS limits. The canopy trees with 10 feet or more height have the ability to absorb high levels of carbon dioxide and pollutant gases and reduce temperatures.
Gulzar Rehman, Conservator Forests said that a first manmade forest on about 32,000 hectares with over 3.2 million plants at Ghari Chandan and Azakhel, some 10 kilometers south of Peshawar, have been raised under BTAP to control air pollution and temperature here.
Muhammad Asim, Spokesman, Lady Reading Hospital said that special beds were reserved at emergency department for heatstroke patients and a separate block for them was ready for inauguration.
Director General Rescue 122, Dr Khateer Ahmed said that control rooms prior to heat waves were established and all ambulances were equipped with coolers, ice bags, water bottles and medicines for facilitation of heat stroke victims.