The end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012, precipitated a spate of movies focusing on the Armageddon theme, while social media spread stories that generated sporadic panic. While much of what we saw was fiction, our planet and its surrounding protective envelope is in reality undergoing a metamorphosis, whose long term effects (unless remedied) may be catastrophic for life on earth. These changes began manifesting themselves imperceptibly as early as the late nineteenth century, becoming more and more apparent as time went by. Amongst the many that have been recorded, there is an increased frequency of earthquakes, freak weather and an alarming recession of ice caps. Combustion of fossil fuel, use of chemicals and refrigeration gases has depleted our planet’s protective ozone layer and in one reported case, a major earthquake shifted the earth’s crust by a few centimetres. The effects this will have on our habitat is something for scientists to evaluate.

I was amazed to no end, when on a recent visit to a friend’s agricultural holdings in the Punjab, I was asked by a rustic tiller of the soil if there was a world catastrophe of unimaginable proportions round the corner. When I asked the wizened old timer as to where he had acquired the notion, he said that he had observed a shift in the timelines related to sowing and harvesting. To minds not familiar with farming, this meant that there had been a change in the arrival and departure of the seasons.

My encounter with the rural weatherman set me thinking to the point of half-heartedly acknowledging that there had actually been such a shift in time. I seemed to recollect that seven decades ago, winter chills appeared along with woolies somewhere in October and spring seedlings were planted late in January so as to bloom in March. There now appears to be a time shift of around thirty days in the onset of winter and a similar delay in its departure. If this observation is true, then perhaps there is a need for people concerned to adjust the universal calendar by the requisite number of days. I doubt if such an adjustment has ever been done, but perhaps in this millennium there is a need to carry out this exercise.

Talking of weather, Murree and Nathiagali happen to be the favourite rest spots of our current rulers. They often grace these resorts by helicopter and occasionally by road (advice of security staff permitting). It is for this reason that much of Murree Road and the Murree Expressway is in excellent shape. It appears that the residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad have the same passion for spending their weekends in cooler climes. While the roads are emptied of all traffic during VVIP movement, the route to Murree and beyond becomes a nightmare for local residents as nose to tail unruly traffic creates a gridlock that doesn’t allow even emergency vehicles to get through.

Residents of communities in and around Barakahu (a suburban town that lies astride this route) thought that their prayers had been answered on the news that a bypass had been planned for vehicles bound for the hills. Then came information that instead of a bypass, an overhead bridge was on the drawing board. This was followed by sight of road building machinery widening the existing road section that passes through the aforementioned town. I marvelled at the ‘Gotham-like’ wisdom of those responsible because an overhead steel girder pedestrian bridge had just been made operational and which would have to be dismantled to widen the road. I entered into a wager with a local resident to the effect that the simple act of widening this busy asphalt strip would either be abandoned half way through or if luck was with the residents, would take more than a year or even two to become usable. I have so far been proved right to the detriment of the local population, which undergoes the agony of waiting for up to an hour, stuck in traffic.

And while we are on the issue of roads, this week’s piece would be incomplete without mentioning the plight of a major suburban landmark known to all and sundry as the Simly Dam Road. This road serves around 80,000 households, leads to a major water source for the residents of the Federal Capital and to the site of the new National Zoological and Botanical Gardens. I would invite the PM to drive on this route accompanied by his worthy Minister for CAD in the hope that perhaps this will turn the fortunes of this forgotten area.