Abdul Wahid Khan fighting for the environment’s safety in Pakistan
Editor’s note: Abdul Wahid Khan submitted his following personal story to Global Young Voices. You too can submit yours to us here.
I come from the very small village of Yarkhoon, high up in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Chitral, Pakistan. I am currently a senior at Habib University Karachi attending a BSC in Social Development and Policy program with a major in Ecological Justice and Social Movement. I was president of the Habib University Student Council and I am currently a teacher assistant at Habib.
My journey towards environmental care started with my ever growing consciousness of the Anthropocene era, in which we are living, and with the guilt I felt thinking about the damage we are inflicting on our planet earth, in the form of massive devastation and extermination of biodiversity. I started the first Environmental club in Aga Khan High School in 2009 and planted a few trees in a newly built school.
However, my major involvement with the cause of environmental protection and fight against climate change started when I got in contact with a local NGO called “Chitral Heritage and Environmental Protection Society” (CHEPS) that was founded and run by Rehmat Ali Johar. CHEPS has been working for more than ten years with the purpose of preserving the culture, heritage and environment of the Chitral region, specifically, and Pakistan, in general. Soon after getting deeply involved with this initiative, I founded CHEPS Youth Wing (CYW) along with a group of energetic and dedicated youth from every city in Pakistan. Together, we carried out different awareness campaigns in multiple cities. We started off 2017 with a cleanliness campaign with our members in Dubai, followed by the cleaning of the shrine of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in Karachi. The campaign we are running now is called “Clean and Green Pakistan” and it is going to reach every city in Pakistan. Our second event took place in the fort of Lahore followed by a cleanliness walk in the capital Islamabad and then in Peshawar. This campaign will go all the way back to the absolute north of Chitral and Hunza. We have great media coverage, from the press to the television, that help us spread our message in the hope of creating environmental consciousness among Pakistani people. Now, we have been able to put forth more than a thousand projects, visiting schools and planting trees.
I strongly believe in the importance of what we are doing because there is no other earth that we are going to get if we kill the wildlife and exhaust the resources. To this regard, one of the major achievements of CHEPS is the protest that resulted into the ban of excessive hunting in Chitral, saving thousands of birds and wildlife.
Fighting for the environment’s safety is very important to us, yet equally challenging, because at times we have to go against the capitalist idea of comfort and worldly development. Most people would not even consider environmental challenges to be real problems and many of my friends would call me names like “garbage cleaner” and the like. It’s hard to find people who will support us with our struggle with a full heart; nevertheless, there are a few people who really understand the cause and they have helped us throughout our campaigns. Most of all, it requires a lot of time and energy to raise our voice against ecological injustice and environmental degradation, and it has been difficult for me to balance my university life and environmental advocacy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There is no going back to what we have done to the environment globally, but the game changer now, in order to mitigate environmental challenges, is to come to terms with what we have done and to be extra careful about what we are going to do in our future. The era we live in is called “Anthropocene” because we have objectified the environment and have always placed nature and environment in the background, and it is about time that we change our priorities and make environmental consciousness a major part of our learning experience. I am trying to develop a curriculum about environmental awareness that can be taught in schools, as one of the mandatory classes. This would require real movements across the globe to let everyone know, from small communities to huge industries, about what the future holds for the generations to come, if we keep ignoring environmental degradation. It is a need of the hour that people come together and work across borders and across disciplines to join hands for environmental protection.
At the end of the day, I just want to let everyone know that we are guests on this earth and therefore we should act like guests: we will all have to leave the world one day but the earth will still have to host uncountable generations to come. We should not take away the possibility of experiencing nature from them, because nature is what makes the world beautiful. Instead, we all should come together to do our part and make the world even a prettier and healthier place to live in.
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV
Photos credit: chepsgreen.com