Environment threatens Pakistani state: US report


An aerial view shows water covering huge areas in the southern Punjab province. -AFP Photo

WASHINGTON: Environmental woes as witnessed in Pakistan’s devastating floods threaten the unity of the nation, exacerbating the threat of extremists, a US government report said.

The study prepared for US lawmakers warned that Pakistan’s ecological problems would likely get worse due to climate change, potentially inflaming tensions with nuclear-armed adversary India.

The report said that Pakistan faced critical risks to food security in the coming decades due to a number of reasons including water scarcity, population growth and mismanagement.

“The combination of these factors could contribute to Pakistan’s decline as a fully functioning state, creating new, or expanding existing, largely ungoverned areas,” the Congressional Research Service said.

The growth of lawless areas of the type seen now in Pakistan’s tribal northwest is “not in US strategic interests given the recent history of such areas being used by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups,” it said.

The Congressional Research Service is tasked with advising US lawmakers, although its reports do not necessarily reflect US policy. The Pakistan report was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists.

Pakistan is suffering from the worst floods in its history, affecting 14 million people. Some Islamic groups have tried to raise their profile in the relief operations after criticism of the government response.

While the report was written largely before the flooding, it warned of future disasters as climate change leads to a melting of Himalayan glaciers, the source of most of the water in the Indus River.

But Pakistan’s environmental decision-making is held up by corruption and rivalry between civilian and military leaders, the report said.

The report noted that the United States has increasingly sought to assist Pakistan on water and other environmental issues.

The United States last year approved a five-year, 7.5 billion-dollar aid package for Pakistan, hoping to stabilize the nation at the frontline of the fight against extremism.

Water has increasingly been a point of friction between Pakistan and India, which have fought three full-fledged wars since their separation at birth in 1947.

Many Pakistanis accuse India of stealing water; India denies the charges and says that Pakistani mismanagement is to blame. -AFP

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