Why Is Karachi Climate March Being Held?

Why Is Karachi Climate March Being Held?
The forthcoming Karachi Climate March, orchestrated by esteemed civil society organizations and dedicated environmental activists, is scheduled to transpire on Sunday, July 16. Commencing at the illustrious Friar Hall, this event is poised to commence promptly at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

Karachi Urban Lab, a reputable research institute, unequivocally endorses and stands in solidarity with the Karachi Climate March, as it fervently advocates for the preservation and safeguarding of our precious environment, bountiful nature, meandering rivers, bustling cities, and cherished communities.

Now the question is why this climate march is being done? In an effort to galvanize public consciousness regarding the repercussions of climate change, Karachi is set to witness a momentous event - the Climate March. This mobilization, driven by a collective desire to safeguard our environment, will shed light on a myriad of pressing issues that pose a threat to our city and its inhabitants.

Climate concerns of Karachi

Scheduled to take place against the backdrop of escalating climate concerns, the primary objective of the march is to elevate public awareness surrounding the dire consequences stemming from climate change. Among the prominent issues to be highlighted are the scarcity of safe drinking water, the menace of urban flooding, persistent power outages, the specter of scorching heat and heatwaves, deteriorating air quality, and the subsequent surge in public health issues.

Furthermore, the march will draw attention to the perils of a polluted environment, the rampant ecological destruction, intensified weather patterns, the looming threat of storms, and the alarming shrinkage of green cover, the menacing rise in sea levels, and the onslaught of heavy rainfall.

The drying up of the Indus Delta and its devastating consequences, including agricultural land depletion, recurrent floods, and migration to urban centers, are of great concern. The climate march aims to shed light on construction projects like Bahria Town, DHA City, and the Malir Expressway, which pose significant threats to the environment. It seeks to expose the detrimental effects of environmental destruction and highlight the government's lack of action and concern. The Karachi Climate March 2023 calls for unity among citizens and urgent measures to address the looming threat of climate change.

Climate justice

Active participation in the Karachi Climate March is crucial to advocate for a system based on climate justice and thermal justice. This system aims to facilitate a smooth transition to sustainable energy sources, equitable energy distribution, and the provision of clean air, water, rivers, and a safe living environment. As responsible residents of Karachi and Sindh, it is our duty to raise our voices and address the environmental degradation that surrounds us.

Alas, the metropolis of Karachi, despite its stature as one of the largest cities globally, has regrettably succumbed to a lamentable state of squalor. Life and well-being hang in precarious balance, as our local authorities falter in their ability to furnish clean water, ameliorate air quality, and shield us from the perils of climatic upheavals, be it inundation, torrential downpours, urban flooding, or scorching heatwaves.

In the "Bhit Island" locality, the populace endures a staggering 18-hour daily deprivation of electricity, while the "Lyari area” of Karachi grapples with burdensome power outages lasting 14 to 16 hours. A disconcerting reality unfolds, with approximately 50% of Karachi confronting a daunting 12-hour span of electricity load shedding.

These disheartening circumstances beseech us to unite in our resolve, for only through our collective advocacy can we effectuate meaningful change. The Karachi Climate March stands as a powerful platform through which we can demand accountability, urging competent authorities to rectify these systemic inadequacies and restore the fundamental rights of the citizenry.

Improving water management

Urban flooding in Karachi has been a recurring issue for the past five years, with the situation worsening over time. The problem is not only attributed to infrastructure deficiencies but also to the impacts of climate change. The complexity of urban flooding in Karachi is influenced by factors such as inadequate infrastructure, fragmented urban governance, climate change, and insufficient planning and management.

The city's sewage system, which now flows into the Lyari and Malir rivers, once known for their clean water, has become contaminated and poses health risks. The drainage system, comprising 64 major and 510 minor drains, is obstructed by garbage and constructions, exacerbating the flooding problem. The city's natural drainage system has been compromised by urban settlements and development activities, making it more susceptible to flooding. The displacement of thousands of families living along the canals further highlights the impact of these practices on the most vulnerable communities.

Factors contributing to urban flooding include poor road maintenance, heavy rainfall, inadequate drainage systems, urbanization, land reclamation, inadequate waste management, and limited government capacity. The response to flooding is hindered by complex urban politics and a lack of long-term planning. The urban poor, residing in informal settlements, bear the brunt of flooding, which disrupts transportation and access to essential services. These challenges prompt us to question the kind of world we are leaving for future generations.

The urgency of climate-friendly development

The city is undergoing destructive development, with Bahria Town being constructed on illegally acquired land and displacing local communities. The construction of the Malir Expressway has further exacerbated the situation, leading to the destruction of cultural centers and natural resources. This not only poses a threat to the environment and ecology of Sindh and Karachi but also to the entire country.

The climate march aims to raise awareness about the dire consequences of environmental and climate change and to urge government institutions to take action. Immediate attention is required for the rehabilitation and compensation of flood victims in Sindh and Balochistan.

Livelihoods need to be adapted to the changing climate, and the quality of life for marginalized communities must be improved. The exploitation of natural resources in Pakistan has had negative impacts on both the environment and human well-being.

It is crucial that future development, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), prioritizes environmental protection and the transition to renewable energy sources, such as solar power, while eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

Safe, sustainable environment for all

Explaining the purpose of the Climate March, environmental leaders say, "We are protesting because we do not believe in a system that prioritizes the profit of capitalists over the protection of the environment and the benefit of the people." We want a system that provides environment-friendly energy transition, fair energy, clean air, water, rivers and a safe living environment."

In order to safeguard the environment of Karachi and Sindh, it is imperative to undertake a holistic approach encompassing various measures. These include conducting thorough evaluations and cleansing of drainage systems, bolstering the authority and capacity of local governance bodies, allocating resources for the development of new infrastructure, enhancing existing infrastructure through the utilization of sound engineering practices, fostering community engagement in the planning process, and facilitating the provision of affordable housing options.

Furthermore, it is crucial to devise comprehensive strategies for the management of sewage and solid waste, while ensuring that sustainable solutions are integrated into these plans. By adopting such a multifaceted approach, we can aspire to create a safe and pristine environment that will endure for future generations to come.

Let us converge upon this momentous occasion, as we assert our unwavering commitment to a sustainable and harmonious future, fortified by justice, equity, and the preservation of our shared habitat.

The author is an urban planner and geographer who is also Associate Director of the Karachi Urban Lab at IBA.