‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ campaign launched

Four hundred students from 19 universities of Pakistan including Multan, Layyah, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, DI khan and Peshawar and youth from district Layyah have launched a “Clean and Green Pakistan Campaign” for mitigating climate change in Pakistan.

This was announced during a two day Youth Peace Conference held in Government College University Lahore, held by a youth development organization, Bargad and Population Association of Pakistan (PAP) in collaboration with Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC). International organizations OXFAM and Right Here Right Now also collaborated with the mega-youth peace conference.

The inaugural session of Youth Peace Conference opened debates on youth development with a particular focus on peace-building in Punjab in accordance with UN Resolution on Peace and Security. Speakers of the inaugural session included Punjab Youth Affairs Minister Jahangir Khanzada, Bargad’s Chairperson and economist Dr. Kaiser Bengali, Dr. Mohammad Nizamuddin Chairperson PHEC, Dr. Hassan Amir Shah Vice Chancellor GCU, MPA Nabila Hakim Ali Khan (MPA) and youth representatives Prashant Singh from Ghotki, Sadia from Layyah and Zeeshan. Salma Butt moderated its proceedings.

Minister Jahangir Khanzada said, Punjab was the first province to introduce youth policy in 2012. He stressed the youth to give a sounding call to extremism and help countering extremists who are tarnishing the name of Islam and Pakistan. He said that the extremists don’t either subscribe to law and constitution of the country or the teachings of Islam. He also highlighted the Punjab’s initiatives to empower youth including Plan X, laptops, Scholarships through endowment fund, interest free loans, foreign exposure visits, and e-rozgar scheme.

Dr Nizamuddin said that there is a need for government to prioritize youth in all its polices and initiatives, saying that as per the recent census, 43 percent of the country’s population is below 20 years, and Pakistan has no other option except to harness its youth bulge. While citing a research, he told that 80 percent of violence in Pakistan was related to youth in one way or the other. We need structural changes in our system to address emotional, social, psychological, physical and economic needs of youth; they need decent jobs, education and playing grounds.

Dr Kaiser Bengali asked students to go beyond their studies and realize the full potential of life.

MPA Ms. Nabila Hakim Ali Khan said that the country’s 64 percent population is comprised of youth, and they must be given representation at all forums including legislature and political parties, so they are heard.

Prof Dr Hassan Amir Shah asked students to stay away from extremist ideas and negative tendencies. He said that the student representative system of GCU, through 55 student societies such as Debates, Drama, Quiz, Environment etc. must be replicated in all educational institutions of the country.

In the plenary session of the peace conference, MNA Romina Khurshid Alam briefed about working of Young Parliamentarians Forum and how it is connecting itself with the youth.

There were also three parallel sessions held on (i) Peacebuilding and youth bulge in Pakistan, (ii) Youth actions for climate change mitigation, and (iii) Foundations for a new student politics in Pakistan.

During the session on climate change, the speakers included Prof. Dr. Awais Piracha Director Academic Programs Western Sydney University, Australia; Farhan Khalid, Kashif Islam, Asad Malik and Syed Ali Husnain. Seher Afsheen moderated the session.

The speakers told that Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change impacts is very high. It is world’s 12th most vulnerable country in the world. It is already a resource stressed country suffering from water shortages and ongoing degradation of agricultural land. Climate change is an additional stress to the existing problems of Pakistan. About 50 % of Punjab’s land is cultivated using water from rivers and groundwater. Eighty percent of the water in Punjab’s rivers is made up of glacier melts.

Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world. If the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Per capita water availability in Pakistan is very low at 1756 m 3 /year/person as compared to the global average of more than 7000 m 3 /year/person.

During the session, results from a survey with 150 Union Council local officials of Lahore ware also shared on awareness of officials about climate change. Almost half of the respondents of the survey (53 %) were not aware of the phenomenon of climate change. Almost half of the local officials who claimed to be aware of climate change knew nothing beyond the phrase climate change. It was recommended that Climate change awareness raising campaigns should be held.

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