Tuesday, February 21, 2017

American Tourist Ranks Pakistan Among Top 10 Favorites After Visiting 196 Countries

Cassie De Pecol, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for traveling to all 196 countries of the world in shortest time, has put Pakistan at number 5 among the top 10 "must visit" countries.

Other countries on De Pecol's top 10 list are: Mongolia, Bhutan, Maldives, Vanuatu, Oman, Tunisia, Peru, Costa Rica and USA.

Lahore Fort Source: Telegraph

De Pecol said people must visit Pakistan “to get a true sense of raw, authentic Asian culture, and for the food.”  Earlier, in an Instagram message at the start of her Pakistan visit she wrote: “My time here in Pakistan has just begun and has been one of the many wonderfully educational and culturally enriching experiences…. Don’t judge by its color or a country by the media", according to media reports.

De Pecol, a Connecticut native, left the United States on July 14, 2015, and just completed her 196-country tour Feb 2, 2017 — beating the current Guinness record of three years and three months, according to Today.com.

De Pecol needed money to finance her expedition. She found her first nonprofit endorsement through the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism, and after that, she decided to reach out to big and small companies and independent investors to contribute to her mission. “A lot of people think it’s so easy to find a sponsor to travel,” she today Today. “One of the most difficult aspects of this expedition was trying to find funding through sponsorship.”

Here's a Pakistan Pictorial:

Find more photos like this on PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

World's Most Polluted Countries: China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

The 2.5 micron particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution of air accounts for the world's highest number of pollution-related premature deaths in China and South Asia, according to a report titled "State of Global Air 2017".

Source: State of Global Air 2017

PM2.5 Pollution Deaths:

More than half of the 4.2 million deaths attributed to PM2.5 pollution occur in just two countries: India and China. The next two countries accounting for the highest pollution-related mortality are Russia with 136,900, Pakistan with 135,100 and Bangladesh with 122,400 deaths in 2015, according to the report.

India and Bangladesh experienced some of the largest increases in PM2.5- attributable mortality, on the order of 50% to 60%. India (1.09 million deaths) now approaches China (1.11 million deaths) in the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5.

Source: State of Global Air 2017
Nearly all (86%) of the most extreme concentrations (above 75 µg/m3 ) were experienced by populations in China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Among the world’s 10 most populous countries and the EU, the biggest increase (14% to 25%) in seasonal average population-weighted concentrations of ozone over the last 25 years were experienced in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Brazil.

The report said decreases in exposure in Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Pakistan were offset by population growth and population aging, resulting in net increases in attributable mortality.

In the United States and the European Union, reductions in exposure over the past 25 years have offset the contributions of population growth and aging, resulting in net decreases in PM2.5-attributable mortality (by 17% and 22%, respectively).

A similar pattern contributed to a net decrease of 34% in PM2.5-attributable mortality in Nigeria, although the reductions in exposure were likely due to factors different from those in the United States and EU. Within the EU, this pattern held in all member countries except Italy, Greece, and Malta, where attributable mortality increased from 1990 to 2015, according to the report.

Haze Under Himalayas Source: NASA

South Asia's Vulnerability:

South Asia is particularly susceptible to pollutants that hang in the air for extended periods of time. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently released images of dull gray haze hovering over northern India and Pakistan, and parts of Bangladesh. It is believed that emissions from solid fuel burning, industrial pollutants and farm clearing fires get trapped along the southern edge of the Himalayas. NASA Earth Observatory explains this phenomenon as follows:

"The haze visible in this image likely results from a combination of agricultural fires, urban and industrial pollution, and a regional temperature inversion. Most of the time, air higher in the atmosphere is cooler than air near the planet’s surface, and this configuration allows warm air to rise from the ground and disperse pollutants. In the wintertime, however, cold air frequently settles over northern India, trapping warmer air underneath. The temperature inversion traps pollutants along with warm air at the surface, contributing to the buildup of haze."

Urgent Actions Needed: 

South Asian governments need to act to deal with rapidly rising particulate pollution jointly. Some of the steps they need to take are as follows:

1. Reduce the use of solid fuels such as cow dungwood and coal to limit particulate matter released into the atmosphere.

2. Impose higher emission standards on industries and vehicles through regulations.

3. Increase forest cover by planting more trees.

4. Encourage the use of more renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, etc.

The cost of acting now may seem high but it will turn out out to be a lot more expensive to deal with extraordinary disease burdens resulting from rising air pollution.

Summary:

South Asia accounts for more than a third of all PM2.5 pollution related deaths in the world. The sources of particulate pollution range from solid fuel burning to crop clearing fires and use of dirty fuels in vehicles and industries. Recognition of the growing problem is urgent. Failure to act could be very costly in terms of human health.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Response to Climate Change

Diwali Pollution Warnings in India

Cow Dung Sales in India

India's Air Most Toxic

Pak Entrepreneur Recycles Trash into Energy and Fertilizer

Bhopal Disaster

Environmental Pollution in India

Rising Population, Depleting Resources

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia

Monday, February 6, 2017

Pakistan's Focus on Hardware (Infrastructure) Instead of Software (Education)

American theologian and author James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888) is reported to have explained the distinction between a politician and a statesman as follows: "A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation."

How does this apply to the current crop of Pakistani leaders in charge of running the country? Are they statesmen or mere politicians?

I think the answer to this question can be found in how they invest available national resources, particularly their longer term investments in education, training, nutrition and health care sectors which do not show results as quickly as building roads, metro bus, metro trains, ports and other physical infrastructure.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor:

Pakistani politicians, particularly PMLN and Nawaz Sharif, love to highlight China-Pakistan Economic Corridor  (CPEC) projects and their accomplishments in terms of motorways, metro bus, metro trains, ring roads and airports rather education and health care. And the reason they do it is because such projects can be completed before the next elections while the returns on investments in education and health take much longer to become visible.

Pakistan's M2 Motorway

In a recent piece titled "Pakistan's misguided obsession with infrastructure", The Economist magazine  said Chinese diplomat assigned to work with Pakistan on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor acknowledged this problem. Here's an excerpt from The Economist:

"Lijian Zhao, a Chinese diplomat, says China is all too aware that Pakistan needs more than just big-ticket infrastructure if it is to flourish. Disarmingly, he praises the efforts of Britain and other countries to improve Pakistan’s “software”, such as education and the rule of law. “But China’s expertise is hardware,” says Mr Zhao."

Education and Literacy Rates:

Pakistan's net primary enrollment rose from 42% in 2001-2002 to 57% in 2008-9 during Musharraf years. It has been essentially flat at 57% since 2009 under PPP and PML(N) governments.

Source: Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015-16

Similarly, the literacy rate for Pakistan 10 years or older rose from 45% in 2001-2002 to 56% in 2007-2008 during Musharraf years. It has increased just 4% to 60% since 2009-2010 under PPP and PML(N) governments.

Source: Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015-16

Pakistan's Human Development: 

Human development index reports on Pakistan released by UNDP confirm the ESP 2015 human development trends.Pakistan’s HDI value for 2013 is 0.537— which is in the low human development category—positioning the country at 146 out of 187 countries and territories. Between 1980 and 2013, Pakistan’s HDI value increased from 0.356 to 0.537, an increase of 50.7 percent or an average annual increase of about 1.25.

Pakistan HDI Components Trend 1980-2013 Source: Human Development Report 2014


Overall, Pakistan's human development score rose by 18.9% during Musharraf years and increased just 3.4% under elected leadership since 2008. The news on the human development front got even worse in the last three years, with HDI growth slowing down as low as 0.59% — a paltry average annual increase of under 0.20 per cent.

Going further back to the  decade of 1990s when the civilian leadership of the country alternated between PML (N) and PPP,  the increase in Pakistan's HDI was 9.3% from 1990 to 2000, less than half of the HDI gain of 18.9% on Musharraf's watch from 2000 to 2007.

Summary:

The history of the industrialized world tells us that democracy, peace and prosperity can not be sustained in the long run without a solid foundation of a healthy and well-educated society. Pakistani leaders must learn from history and pay more attention to accelerate human development along with building the necessary infrastructure such CPEC projects. They must allocate greater resources and maintain sharp focus to improve education and health of the people of Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Democracy's Disappointing Record on Human Development

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Pakistan's Infrastructure and M2 Motorway

Pakistan's Lost Decades

Saving Pakistan's Education, Airline and Railway

Asian Tigers Brought Prosperity; Democracy Followed

Pakistan Democracy: Neither Democracy Nor Development

Challenges of Indian Democracy

Pakistan's Economic History

Comparing Bangladesh with Pakistan

Economic and Human Development in Musharraf Years

India's Share of World;s Poor Up from 22% to 33%

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Musharraf Era Higher Education Reforms in Pakistan

Comparing 30-Year Dictatorships in Indonesia and Pakistan