Afghanistan faces a climate calamity – it’s time for the world to take notice | Shadi Khan Saif

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IIf it bleeds, it leads – so goes the media expression – and this is especially true of news from Afghanistan, which made global headlines during the presence of US forces but little as lives were lost in cause of the climate crisis.

The main attention Afghanistan receives these days is when big international aid agencies assemble posters of starving women and children for donations, or when a calamity like the June 2022 earthquake strikes.

But as you read this, many towns and villages in the war-ravaged country remain submerged by flash floods triggered weeks ago by a relentless wave of untimely rains and melting glaciers, claiming lives and destroying the livelihoods of marginalized communities who already survive on small amounts. foreign aid.

It is currently peak summer harvest season when farmers gather fruit and staple foods for the approaching winter. But it snowed briefly in the central highlands after long, crippling dry spells, when farmers desperately yearned for the usual spring rains.

Then came violent hailstorms destroying the orchards and finally rains which ruined the wheat harvests. None of these events are close to normal in terms of the climate of this landlocked country of nearly 40 million people.

Glaciers in the Himalayas are melting at an unprecedented rate, driving deadly floods from the mountains of the northern provinces to the plains of the south. These rapidly depleting glaciers are the lifeline for Afghans who rely heavily on natural streams and rivers. Despite this, there has been no development work on water conservation, storage and distribution over the past two decades at the national level. Underground levels are falling at an alarming rate as this is the only way for people to fetch water.

Before the last showers, the drought was so severe and the heat wave so intense that it led to multiple forest fires in the east and south of the country. It was a grim tragedy. Residents of the fire-hit Khost and Nuristan provinces have had to rely on local community youth to put out the blazes by carrying buckets of water and sand with their bare hands day and night.

The climate crisis is so real in the country that it will likely trigger another food crisis in the coming months. All this at a time when aid delivery is hampered and overshadowed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leading to supply chain turmoil, inflation and donor fatigue.

Are the media alone responsible for this? No. Could they do more to help? Yes. Just as the big polluters of the environment must take responsibility for the miseries they have inflicted on a population left at the mercy of the Taliban.

Before Afghanistan plunged into the current crisis, the country was promised funding from the Green Climate Fund, but with Kabul falling to the Taliban, it seems the world has simply abandoned the country. , turning a blind eye to the escalation of disasters.

Amid all this, Afghanistan’s neighbors manipulated the situation to their advantage with dodgy deals with the Taliban that would give them access to the country’s rich natural resources at ridiculous prices, supporting a flow of funding for the defecto regime. .

China also has its sights set on Afghanistan’s rich and vast reserves of lithium, iron and copper ore, while Pakistan has accelerated the import of high-quality coal at bargain prices, which does not will only accelerate the melting of the Himalayan glaciers as well as the increase in global pollution. levels. For Pakistan, a country struggling with tough financial conditions, a steady flow of coal will help fuel power plants and revive the struggling rail network.

The quest for coal even prompted the Pakistani authorities to arrange to cross the border non-stop day and night – a privilege that was not even offered at the height of the war when thousands of fatigue-weary Afghans war were fleeing the country in all directions. .

The search for Afghanistan’s untapped mineral wealth even lured Australia’s richest man, Andrew Forrest, to the country just weeks before the Taliban took over.

Reporting on the environmental disasters in Afghanistan is important, as this would serve as a catalyst for the entire green movement around the world to hold deniers and polluters to account.

The local media – the few surviving outlets after the Taliban took over – are unable or unwilling to critically report on any of this due to obvious fears of retaliation. And for the international media, the Afghan story seems to have reached a sad impasse, with nothing new or “exciting” for the international media or its consumers.

Political issues can be contested within the country, but the climate calamity facing Afghanistan is imposed from outside. It is time for the world and neighboring and regional polluters to take responsibility.

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