Thursday 19 August 2010

Environmental stresses in Pakistan

Declining Per Capita Water Availability in Pakistan (cubic meters per person annually)

A very timely report from the US Congressional Research Service focusses on the nexus between security and environmental concerns in Pakistan that may affect US security and foreign policy interests.
With much of the country presently submerged beneath flood waters and outbreaks of violence reported in some of the temporary camps set up to deal with the millions of displaced people, the report's authors are right to be concerned.
The report, Security and the Environment in Pakistan, looks at the potentially destabilising efffects of demographic trends, water scarcity, limited arable land and food security. It argues that a combination of these factors could lead to a break-down of the Pakistani state and thus lead to the growth and expansion of areas without any government control.
This in turn could strengthen radical Islamist groups that already operate on the margins of Pakistani society and in areas where the government's writ hardly reaches. As the report notes: "Preliminary findings by experts seem to indicate that existing environmental problems in Pakistan are sufficiently significant to warrant a close watch, especially when combined with Pakistan’s limited resilience due to mounting demographic stresses, internal political instability, security challenges, and limited economic resources."
Meanwhile, UK-based risk analysis company Maplecroft has today released its Food Security Risk Index, which places Afghanistan bottom of the world rankings out of 163 countries, with the greatest risk to the security of basic food staples. Maplecroft uses 12 criteria developed in collaboration with the World Food Programme to calculate the ranking including: the nutritional and health status of populations, cereal production and imports, GDP per capita, natural disasters, conflict, and the effectiveness of government.

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