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South Asia in dire need of immediate environment correction

South Asia is the most environmentally vulnerable region of the world. According to the World Bank Climate Group, the region is living through a “new climate normal”

Intensifying heat waves, cyclones, drought and floods are testing the limits of governments, businesses and citizens to adapt. Right from the Himalayas to the vast spread of the Thar desert, to the ecosystem of the Sundarbans, almost every natural feature in the region is marred with issues, some occurring naturally, while others, man-made.

The Great Himalayas

Spanning five countries; India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and China (Tibet Region), the great mountain range boasts Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga. The mountainous barrier alone impacts the climate of the region, majorly. However, in the past few years, with extensive urbanization and deforestation, the range has bore the brunt, the impact of which is visible in the climate of the entire region.

The impacts are not only restricted to the environment and loss of features, even the animal species are threatened. According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), species loss, habitat loss and climate change are some issues that are impacting the Himalayas, especially in the eastern sector. It is estimated by the global wildlife foundation, only 25% of the natural habitat in the Eastern Himalayas remains intact, which in turn has created a threat for almost 163 native species of animals.

Other threats to the biodiversity of the region include converting agricultural land for development purposes and extreme urbanization. The WWF also denotes intensive animal grazing as having a major impact on the natural ecosystems in the Himalayas.

The Expanding Thar

The Thar is a huge landmass of desert, spread over the western part of Rajasthan in India and North-eastern Sindh in Pakistan. The major concern with Thar is that it is expanding in the area every year, causing a threat to the urban areas that are on the verge of being absorbed by it. The Thar experiences extreme temperatures during the summer, sometimes exceeding 50 degrees celsius. It is one of the places with some of the harshest living conditions on earth and its expanding landmass is not a welcome sign.

According to a study published by the Central University of Rajasthan, the National Capital Region (NCR) of India would witness Thar-desert-like sandstorms and dust storms in the future, because of the expanding pervasiveness of the desert. The major cause denoted for this phenomenon is the consistent destruction of the Aravali range in the western part of Rajasthan, close to the NCR. Extensive urbanization and development of townships close to the national capital of New Delhi are causing the desert winds to flow without any natural barrier. The study denotes the desert ecology to be in extreme threat and denotes climate change, erratic rainfall patterns, and unscientific plantation drives are the major reasons behind it.

Rising sea level and water salinity in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is situated at the mouth of the Ganges River and the delta of Brahmaputra, one of the largest rivers in the world. Climate change, which has caused the glaciers to melt at a faster pace and rise in sea levels, is racking havoc in the interior of Bangladesh. The rising sea level is not only consuming the cultivable land but also increasing water salinity in the underground water.

Dhaka-based climate activist and UNICEF Youth Advocate, Farzana Faruk Jhumu, while talking on the issue with the Asian News Makers had said the water salinity issue would spiral into a much larger problem as it is constantly affecting the crops, leading to food insecurity. Immediate actions are required to address these problems, because food insecurity, in itself, poses a great threat to a nation with a huge population.

Climate change is real

These issues are just a glimpse of how things have turned ugly in a span of a few decades. Countries in the region are facing environment-related issues and every minor community has a different story to tell. Just last year, floods left an estimated more than 2 million people homeless in Pakistan. The rainfall pattern has been erratic for the past few years, which is not only claiming human lives but also washing scores of thousands of acres of cultivable land. Farmers in several regions of the country had to skip sowing the winter crop owing to uneven rains and intermittent flooding.

Wasim (name changed) is another climate activist, based in Turbat, Balochistan, Pakistan. While talking to the Asian News Makers, he raised the issue of inclement rain and early monsoon, which is ruining the date farming of the region. Wasim, whose family is one of the many from Turbat who have been facing the brunt of uneven rain pattern, that coincides with the fruit-ripening season. He says the date fruit requires dry and high temperatures to ripen and rainfall during this time hampers the crop, thus the farmers have to do without optimum yield. Several farmers are even unable to make two ends meet.

On this World Environment Day, it is important to introspect about the impact we are creating on the environment. Every regional pocket has separate issues that need attention and a much more vigilant effort is required to mitigate them, for the sake of the future.

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