Selective learning from the West

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BY ABDUL SATTAR
Pakistan is already in the list of top ten countries that are likely to be badly hit by climate change but instead of scrambling around the ways to tackle this problem, we are devising unwise policies that would not add to environmental degradation in present times only but would also be catastrophic for our future generations. We are in a mad rush to catch up with advanced countries
and following the gospel of free market blindly. This growth oriented economy is wracking havoc with environment of both developed and developing countries. The West propagated this recipe
of disaster for decades. Advanced capitalist countries ruthlessly exploited their natural resources
in a bid to fulfil their gargantuan appetite for growth and profit. The result is obvious. Their seas have been depleted owing to the unsustainable ways of fishing that they have been employing for decades. Their forest cover area is fast shrinking. Their rivers, lakes, canals and even the natural springs are badly contaminated. The air has become poisonous. The concretisation of western societies and unbridled consumerism couple with the lethal tests of destructive arms and
gases have turned those societies into beautiful hells where beneath the veneer of lightening and advancement a slow death is lurking around that might annihilate all lofty symbols of modern civilisation any time. However, immense public pressure in western countries might
work and save them from this virtual destruction. This pressure has forced their governments to rein in corporate rapaciousness. A number of governments in those states are now mindful of environmental effects of any economic policy that they formulate. The politics of green
parties has created much awareness among the masses forcing their political elites to think of alternate ways of energy and sustainable methods of production but such ways are confined to their societies only. Today Scotland and Germany are employing sustainable ways to
fulfil their energy requirements. Other states in western world are also exploring sustainable ways of development. Even China has been compelled to switch over to alternate ways of production. Beijing is
ridding itself of coal power plants and other destructive ways of producing energy and manufacturing
goods. But developing countries seem to learn nothing. They are greeting the trash of developed countries, eagerly using it to poison their own environment. Our ruling elite heaps eulogies on coal power plants and describe them as harmless. We are told Sahiwal Power plant, Port
Qasim Coal Power Project Karachi, Sindh Engro Tharparkar and Hub Coal Power Project Balochistan
would generate around 1, 320 MW while Maple Leaf Power in Mianwali would generate 40MW, Thalnova Power Tharparkar 330 MW, Siddique Sons Energy Karachi 350 MW, K-Electric Coal Power Plant Karachi 720 MW and Muzaffargarh Sugarcane Power Plant 120 MW. We have not been told about the health hazards that these projects would create. Politicians have selectively criticised these projects. For instance, opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah lambasted the Punjab government for having such projects, claiming Sahiwal coal project will turn half of the population of the largest province into TB patients but his own party government in Sindh doled out the contracts of coal power plants as well. He has adopted mum on it. Six hundred megawatts Jamshoro Coal Power Project and Thalnova Power Tharparkar of 330 MW are likely to poison the interior of Sindh which has already been gripped by the
epidemic of hepatitis while one of the most polluted city on earth— Karachi—will face even more
health hazards with the installation of K-Electric Coal Power Plant Karachi of 720 MW.
It is interesting to note that our ruling elite wants to copy some of the symbols of advancement and
progress from the Western world without grasping the historical process that may be instrumental in
formulating policies for the uplift of people. For instance, our most efficient ex-chief minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif launched the metro in the most populous province of the country after coming across this in some western capitals. But he never bothered to ensure the provision of pure drinking water to more than 90 million hapless creatures who are suffering from a myriad of diseases just because of the fact that they don’ t have an access to this precious natural gift, crucial for life. He is bent upon constructing wide roads but seems to be unaware of the fact that of more than 20 million out of school children, the majority belongs to his heaven on earth called Punjab. He appointed dozens of CEOs after establishing companies in public sectors, offering them hefty salaries but lady health workers, who work under sizzling temperature and even risk their lives while performing their duties in sensitive areas, are greeted with batons and tear gas. The situation of PPP leaders is not different either. The Oxfordeducated Bilawal Bhutto loves to lead the political dynasty of his family. He does not feel uncomfortable sitting among the feudals, who preside over Jirgas that decide the fate of the couple, marrying out of their free will. The young politician has spent a significant part of his life in the Western world where states provide free health care, education and decent housing but in his political bastion-Sindh—hepatitis has turned into an epidemic, corruption is the only language that government officials seem to be understanding, thousands of schools are non-functional, majority of the people in southern province do not have an access to pure drinking
water while the footpaths of major urban areas and shanty towns fly in the face of tall claims of PPP
regarding the provision of decent housing. Another Oxford-graduate is surrounded by superstitious feudals whose archaic rituals have literary enslaved millions of people in parts of South Punjab and Sindh. Even in the 21st century some of his party spiritual personalities are venerated like deities but the enlightened captain has no problem as long as they can extract political support
from the haggard masses and help Khan to turn his dream of becoming prime minister into a reality. Our leaders have every right to get impressed by dazzling advancement of the western world. They may be fascinated by miraculous electric car, attractive tall buildings, incredibly fast trains and kaleidoscopic business environment. But people wonder as to why they did not ponder over the policies that helped the West wipe out infectious diseases and epidemics. How did they manage to banish their
priests from the political life of the nations? What principles did they adopt which helped those societies to attain almost hundred percent education, better life expectancy
and affordable housing. Before embarking upon capital-intensive mega projects our ruling elite must
try to find out the answers of these questions. Any policy without an understanding of these questions
will be as disastrous as it is today.

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