Restoring Balance

Restoring Balance

Both the Quran and Hadith demonstrate that environmental stewardship is an essential function of Islam. Islam conceives of a natural universe permeated with God’s grace. An attendant responsibility falls to humanity to acknowledge and honour God’s grace by preserving the vessels — the elements of the natural world — through which it flows.

Pakistan is the fifth most populated nation globally, endowed with a tremendous amount of natural resources and various ecological regions from the Karakorum-Himalayas in the North to the coastal zone in the South. The Himalayan and Hindu Kush ranges lie in the west, while the flood plains of the Indus and its tributaries are in the east. Each of these ecosystems has been bestowed with resources that have contributed to the country’s economic development. The rangelands, which cover the bulk of the mountainous landmass, have contributed to maintaining its flourishing livestock industry. The highly productive coastal zones of Sindh, with 800 species of fish and a variety of shrimps, have sustained a thriving fishing industry. Besides a valuable source of forest products, the mountainous, riverine, and mangrove forests have provided vital ecological services, protected watersheds, and maintained soil productivity. Last but not least, River Indus’s floodplains and the irrigated deserts have provided the country’s breadbasket as productive farmlands.

Last year, torrential rainfall claimed more than 100 lives and caused widespread property and infrastructure damage. Residential and commercial areas of Karachi were submerged, and power outages disrupted life for days. Climate scientists say Pakistan is especially vulnerable to wild weather and other climate change effects, including sea intrusion, unusual rain patterns, glacial melting, rising temperatures, and drought.

The Arabian Sea has also been heating up, with the average surface temperature increasing from 29 degrees Celsius to 31 degrees in just two years

The government in Islamabad says it plans to take action, but Pakistan’s climate change challenge is formidable.

The Arabian Sea has also been heating up, with the average surface temperature increasing from 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 Fahrenheit) to 31 degrees in just two years. This temperature rise has fuelled the formation of storms that push the sea into coastal communities. “The Indus River delta has been badly affected by sea intrusion that harms people’s livelihoods,” said an expert in the field.

In 2018, the total rain recorded in Sindh during the Monsoon season was just one millimetre (0.039 inches). But in 2019, it was 323 millimetres (12.7 inches), and in 2020 rainfall increased to over 550 millimetres. Smog is another big problem in Punjab province, where winters in Lahore are choked with smoke. Thousands of brick kilns contribute to the problem. There are 359 industrial units in Lahore alone, contributing to pollution. The government had earlier announced “zigzag” methods of kiln production to lower smoke levels and now claims that 33 percent of the brick kilns have already been converted to the technology, but there is to be no visible improvement.
The government also claims to be working on electric energy and mobility to reduce overall emissions and improve air quality. The government has scrapped two coal power projects and is trying to generate 30 percent of total electricity through renewable means in the coming years.

There is no point in launching tree-planting drives and promoting coal simultaneously. We need to transfer entirely to the wind and solar energy.

But the initiatives have missed the environmental issues that matter. There is no point in launching tree-planting drives and promoting coal simultaneously. We need to transfer entirely to the wind and solar energy. Imported plants are being built without environmental impact assessments, this could harm the environment.

The Quran frequently uses words that are taken to be universal environmental doctrines and thus encompass a footing for Islamic environmental ethics in an interfaith context. For instance, it is unusual to find any handling of Islam and the environment that does not conjure al- Mizan, “the balance.” It is one single note in the sura of the Qur’an known as Al- Rahman:
And the firmament He [God] raised high, and He set up the balance [mizan], in order that you would not transgress [due] balance. So establish weight with justice, and do not fall short in the balance. (Q. 55: 7– 9).

The verse relates to mizan as a “balance” that humans might violate. Both words, al-Mizan, and al-Amanah, are essential in a pluralistic context, even though we do not come across them very often in the Quran.

Will the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan pay heed to the calls for balance?

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