Karachi, Feb. 7: As waves from the Arabian Sea crash into the shores of Pakistan’s port city of Karachi, election candidate Ahmad Shabbar tells voters a list of growing but often ignored climate threats.
Pakistan was ravaged by monsoon floods two years ago that left a third of the country submerged, turning climate change into an international rallying cry for the government
But surging inflation and a massive political crackdown on the opposition have pushed the issue down the priority list ahead of polls on Thursday.
“One of the main reasons for me to contest right now is to highlight that climate change is not a priority for these political parties,” said scientist and engineer Shabbar, an independent with little chance of being elected.
Despite the climate conversation gaining mainstream traction after the floods — and billions pledged by donors for the recovery effort — he says the government is doing little to connect with communities most vulnerable to extreme weather events.
“Before the funds started flowing in, (politicians) weren’t really interested in having this conversation,” he said.
A small crowd gathered to hear Shabbar explain other environmental issues, such as water scarcity and poor air quality in Karachi, Pakistan’s economic capital with a population of more than 20 million.
“Climate change is evident around the world,” attendee Amna Jamil, 60, said.
The floods –- which scientists said were linked to climate change — hit hardest in southern Sindh province, where the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was running the provincial government.
PPP senator and former climate minister Sherry Rehman insists her party has “put green development and climate resilience at the centre of (its) economic agenda” while others pay “lip service”.
They say they have started with the construction of climate-resilient housing in vulnerable areas and would prioritise a developing early-warning infrastructure and a transition to clean energy.
“Pakistan is going through a climate polycrisis, so pretty much everything has to be addressed with speed and action,” Rehman told AFP.
Apart from flooding, Pakistan has been scorched by deadly heatwaves, and its smog levels rank among the worst in the world.
Professor Nausheen H. Anwar, who works on urban planning and climate hazards, said “the level of intervention required to make things work at a major scale is not happening”.
The impact of climate change has collided with Pakistan’s lack of infrastructure and poor governance to produce an ecological catastrophe, she explained.