Temperature tale of Quetta


QUETTA – Quetta, capital of Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, was famous for its chilly weather, natural beauty and lofty mountains covered with blankets of snow.
Situated at an altitude of 5,500 feet (1,675m) above sea level and stretching over an area of 2653- km, Quetta has become a city of more than 2 million. But, very unfortunately, during last five decades Quetta has not only lost its peace but also the cold in summer and chilling winters.
Analysts, besides citing a number of reasons behind variation in climate of Quetta, hold extra-ordinary population growth, heavy traffic bulge, emission of greenhouse gases and rapid chopping off of trees responsible for “climate change”.
“One can observe a drastic change not only in the climate of Quetta but also in other parts of Balochistan,” says an 80-year old Muhammad Gulzar resident of Quetta, who has witnessed the changing climate living through most part of the climatic changes himself.
He says couple of years back it used to get very cold in Quetta valley but now it appears as if there is little winter despite the fact that December is about to end. “We have witnessed heavy snowfall in Quetta in winters and the mountains around Quetta valley used to be covered with snow,” he recalls, adding that owing to heavy snowfall in winters, one could see snow on the peaks of Chiltan and Mordar mountains even in summers.
Quetta city was initially designed for 50,000 people by British rulers but after 1950, its population increased manifold and in later decades of the century following Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, Quetta saw a large influx of refugees. A rough estimate says currently Quetta city is being inhabited by 2.8 million people. There are more than 0.2 million vehicles and rickshaw plying on the narrow roads of the city, emitting carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels.
Temperature records from 1931 to 2012 compiled by Metrological Department shows a huge difference in temperature in various months and years.
On Dec 14, 1970 highest maximum temperature had been recorded 25 C while on Dec 21, 1950 the temperature had dropped to minimum minus -18.3 C. Similarly, on Feb 26, 1953 the highest maximum temperature had been recorded 23.7 C while in Feb, 1, 1970 it had dropped to minimum minus -16.7 C. In 1998 Quetta witnessed highest maximum 42.0 C and minimum minus 0.3 C in May, 1989 and -6 in Sept 1962.
Director Regional Metrological Center Quetta, Saifullah Shami says although climatic change was contributing in temperature rise in Quetta but ever growing population, cutting of trees, emission of greenhouse gases and uncontrolled and unmanaged pollution are the immediate factors. “These have affected entire eco-system in Quetta which requires urgent attention of authorities concerned so as to stop this environmental degradation,” he added.
Pakistan has the least contribution to global warming and ranked at 135th position in carbon dioxide emissions yet, it is faced with severe climate changes and has been ranked 3rd in the list of most vulnerable countries to climate change.
A recent report from World Bank warned Pakistan of the existence of five major risks related to climate change: rise in sea level, glacial retreats, floods, higher average temperature and higher frequency of droughts. Besides other impacts of increasing temperature, it has created dearth of water, dried crops and orchards located in the outskirts of the Quetta city and has also inflicted health issues.
“Quetta-city used to be free of mosquito in 1935 but with the passage of time, increase in population, lack of attention on the part of govt, the city has become a host of issues,” says Dr Irfan Baig, an environmental expert.
He says Balochistan and some other parts of the country were badly hit by a long drought from 1997 to 2003. “The drought raised temperature and the impacts of climate change were noticed not only in Balochistan but also in Afghanistan, Seistan-Balochistan of Iran and Rajasthan of India in 2003,” he added.
Baig says variation in weather has been observed not only in Quetta but also in other parts of Balochistan, including Nushki and Chagai districts where temperature has increased.
“After 2003 climate change rapidly showed its impacts that is evident from the fact that even orange and palm trees can now match with the climate of Quetta,” he said, adding that it had been observed that now winter is falling late December as compared to past.
Baig regretted over government’s lukewarm response towards this serious issue and devising no plan and formulating no policy to mitigate the impacts of climatic change that would cause serious repercussion in coming days.


World’s second largest biosphere reserve at risk

Bari Baloch

QUETTA-The mineral rich province of Balochistan not only covers 44 percent of entire Pakistan’s land mass but has also a 780-km long coastal area, a 7000 year old civilization of Mehrgarh to its credit and is bestowed with unique juniper forests stretching on thousands of acres in Ziarat, Zarghoon and Harbohi areas of the province.
The invaluable juniper forests of Ziarat are as old as 5000 years and are counted the world’s second largest and oldest forests only after the juniper forests of California. Sadly, increasing temperature, lukewarm response on the part of government in preserving ancient forests and incessant cutting of trees for fuel and other purposes have brought juniper forests of Zairat at the verge of alarming extinction. The juniper trees are facing a double count threat on the one hand from parasite infection and on the other hand by ruthless chopping off by timber mafia for the sake of a trivial amount.
Junipers are one of the slowest growing trees in the world and are therefore regarded as “living fossils”. The junipers of Ziarat are the largest block in entire region but this all is changing very fast. Approximately 247,000 acres of juniper forest trees are found at an elevation ranging from 1,980 to 3,350 meters above sea-level. Along with other specialties, these trees divert rainwater into the ground and replenishing the underground water resources which irrigate the soil and also produce medical herbs such as Ephedra and Artemisia.
Although Ziarat valley is still striving hard to sustain its cool climate, serene environment, rich fruit orchards and forest yet a huge change is evident in its weather, its temperature, wideness and thickness of forest and ever-dropping water- level during the last three decades. “Ziarat used to be famous for its cool atmosphere and scenic views not only in Balochistan but also across the entire country which now sadly presents a drastically changed picture,” says Muhammad Jaffar, a resident of district Ziarat. Quoting his forefathers, he says Ziarat and its surrounding areas used to receive heavy showers and snowfall with the advent of winter while the heavy snow on the peaks of mountains used to melt very slowly that could be seen even in the hottest months of June and July.
“Nowadays, soon after snowfall, the ice on the peaks of mountains starts melting and till March one would observe the mountains peaks without the traditional snow sheet,” Mr. Jaffar said, adding that increasing temperature and deforestation were showing their negative aftermaths on the climate of the area. A deadly parasite infection named as Mistletoe is like a cancer which has ruined the juniper forests to a larger extent as when it infects any part of the tree, there will be no other option other than cutting down the whole tree or its affected branch. No adequate concentration is paid by the authorities concerned to control this parasite that has turned to be a juniper killer. Owing to infestation, the juniper trees get dry and their smaller branches break down.
Reportedly, this Mistletoe infestation was detected in 1970s by scientist working to investigate the reasons of Juniper death and later it was ascertained that 50 percent of juniper trees are infected in Ziarat. An official of forest department says that the parasite travel through wind from one affected trees to other healthy tree that ultimately leads to the cutting down of the trees. “Besides other reasons, the impact of climate change is also contributing a lot in deforestation not only in Balochistan but also in other parts of the country. Therefore, hardly a new juniper tree is seen in Ziarat,” forest officer said.
Experts say if emergent steps were not taken on war-footings, the deadly parasite, illegal cutting of the trees and impact of climate change could not only deprive Balochistan from this natural treasure but also entire world.
Officials of Forest Wildlife Department say the forest and wildlife department will spend $ 2.3 million during a seven-year period that began in 2012 to protect the Ziarat juniper biosphere reserve, and a team of 80 workers in the forest to monitor and keep it away from being deforested though budget is not enough.
Experts say protecting juniper trees can boost the economy through tourism and they will not use the slow-growing juniper wood for fuel and the area must properly be facilitated with gas.
More and more wild plants are needed to be planted and they must be given protection until they developed into fully grown trees. UNESCO has declared Ziarat juniper forest a “biosphere reserve” Pakistan’s second, and United Nations has added the forest to the world network of Biosphere reserve.
Balochistan government recently approved three projects to protect environment, forests and slow down the impact of climate change under which in coastal areas mangrove forests would be planted, desert trees would be grown in the desert areas of district Nushki, Kharan, Washuk and Chagai which could provide shelter to the local populace from sand storm and technical and professional capacity of officials and other people would be built to play their role in protecting extinct species, trees and wildlife. The government has also directed department concerned to take immediate and effective steps for protection of the forests in Balochistan wildlife and reducing the impact of climate change.


UNDP FOCUS ON Balochistan

BARI BALOCH July 31, 2013

QUETTA – “UNDP is committed to protect valued forests and species of Balochistan as Juniper forests and wildlife in the province are very precious to the whole world and they must be protected”, this was stated by Country Director of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Pakistan Marc-Andre Franche addressing a gathering at Serena Hotel Quetta on Tuesday.
Marc was briefed on the achievements in the recently completed projects named Biodiversity Conservation and Juniper Forest Ecosystem and Conservation of Habitat & Species of Global Significance in Arid & Semi-arid Ecosystem of Balochistan.
Marc-Andre appreciated the project’s encouraging outcomes and assured their support in future for same initiatives. He said that Balochistan is a rich province in biodiversity saying that natural resources, local wisdom and knowledge were also very crucial for its sustainable management.
The five year projects had been completed jointly by UNDP, IUCN, GEF and Government of Balochistan in Ziarat and Nushki districts of Balochistan.
Officials of UNDP Faiz Muhammad Kakar and Tahir Rasheed briefed the audience about the projects and their success in carrying them. Tahir Rasheed told the gathering that his team along with the cooperation of the Forest Department of Balochistan had proposed some changes in the legal framework of the department and suggested addition of an act that would help in protecting the endangered species in the province.
The Act would soon be presented in the provincial assembly for formal legislation. He said that the Act would eliminate illegal trade and hunting of wild animals which were amongst the biggest threats to wild life in Balochistan.
They said that through the two projects sustainable initiatives had been launched which included promoting awareness amongst people, training public staff and building infrastructure for encouraging the people to avoid consuming the precious assets. The gathering was also informed that the efforts of UNDP and its partners the Juniper Forests of Ziarat had been included in the World Network of Biospheres by UNESCO.
At the occasion the Secretary Forests Government of Balochistan Khudai Rahim Ejbani thanked UNDP and donors of the project for their efforts in protecting the valuable assets of Balochistan. “The technical and financial assistance provided in the projects have been very useful for the province” he said adding that such support would be required in future ensure protection to the forests and wild life in Balochistan.
Also present at the seminar were Secretary Planning and Development Zeeshan ul Haq, Chief Conservators of Forest Department, Syed Ghulam Muhammad and Taj Muhammad, Local leaders Nawabzada Mehboob Jogezai and Sardar Naseer Tareen and members of beneficiary communities.