Rina Saeed Khan

Rina Saeed Khan

The author is an environmental journalist based in Islamabad. She most recently authored the book, "From Mountains to Mangroves: Protecting Pakistan's Natural Heritage" on her travels throughout Pakistan. She tweets @rinasaeed (twitter.com/rinasaeed)

A paradise in peril: Destroying Naltar for the sake of promoting tourism

I had heard about the pristine beauty of Naltar since I was a child, but somehow had never made it to this remote valley, located around 40 kilometres from Gilgit. Perhaps a lot had to do with the fact that the road to the valley is barely passable by jeep, and it takes around two hours to get there from the Karakoram Highway. However, this month I finally made it to Naltar, and I was not disappointed. The bare Karakoram mountains, the rocky landscape and the dusty road was soon forgotten as we turned a corner and emerald green ...

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Pakistan’s wildlife: Going, going, gone!

As we go about our busy lives, completely dependent on fossil fuels from the vehicles that transport us to the houses we live in electrified by thermal power plants, we remain blissfully ignorant of the damage resource extraction and unchecked development has done to the flora and fauna of our planet. How conveniently we look the other way as yet another housing estate gobbles up even more rural land and old trees are cut down to make way for roads! Scientists have now rung the alarm bells that we humans are driving the sixth mass extinction on Earth. A new ...

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Apart from planting trees, what is Pakistan doing to fight climate change?

This week, the House of Commons in the UK became the first parliament to declare an ‘environment and climate change emergency’. The symbolic move, recognising the urgency to tackle the climate crisis, was largely the result of a mass movement organised by the new group, Extinction Rebellion. This group, led mostly by young people, says that time is running out in order to limit global warming to 1.5C and thus demands that solutions be implemented. Supporting them is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old school girl from Sweden who started the #SchoolStrike4Climate, inspired a global movement and has now been nominated ...

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Pakistan is in a climate crisis but its minister incharge is a bigger cause for concern

As a journalist who regularly covers climate change related issues, I was taught early on by my former editor at BBC, Alex Kirby, that: “Your job is to communicate the science, not to do it, and if you do not know much about it, you will probably be better able to understand your readers’ ignorance and confusion about the subject. But never overestimate their knowledge, and never underestimate their intelligence.” I have always tried to communicate climate change in the easiest possible language, but the primary intention has always been to remain cognisant of the scientific facts. You cannot dumb-down climate ...

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Iran and Iraq may not be tourist hot spots, but they offer a spiritual journey like no place else

I was recently invited to a trip to Iran and Iraq by a group of close friends from Lahore, and as I had never been to these states before, I decided to take the opportunity to visit the shrines frequented mostly by Shia pilgrims. After all, how else was I going to be able to travel through war-torn Iraq (where the Islamic State has only recently been defeated) and gain access to the heavily sanctioned country of Iran? Mesopotamia – the cradle of civilisation and home to many Imams of the Islamic world – has been off-limits to most ...

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Pakistan’s melting glaciers: Our climate change crisis will destabilise Asia’s rivers

Pakistan is fortunate to be home to three great mountain ranges: the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush. In fact, on the drive up the Karakoram Highway from Islamabad to Gilgit, I often stop at a place near Jaglote town where these three ranges actually meet. One can see the grand vista from the road, which could easily be missed if not for a sign nearby which reads, “The junction point of the three mightiest mountain ranges of the world.” The Karakoram includes the K2, the world’s second-highest peak, and is the most heavily glaciated area on the planet apart ...

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COP24: Time is running out and this may be our last attempt to save our planet

The UN Climate Change Conference 2018, or COP24 as it widely known, started with a bang and ended with a whimper two weeks later in Katowice, Poland. The bang came at the high level opening ceremony on December 2nd where celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sir David Attenborough warned negotiators that “time is running out” for the world to take action to control global warming. Unfortunately, their warnings were not taken seriously as the Paris Rulebook that was finalised at Katowice on December 15th actually ended up watering down the Paris Agreement, especially in terms of finance, loss and ...

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Declared ‘intangible’, the heritage of Kalash is over 3,000 years old – but will it survive the 21st century?

‘Ishpata Inn and Restaurant’, says the sign to a roadside hotel in Bumburet Valley in the Chitral district. Ishpata means welcome in the Kalasha language spoken exclusively by the endangered Kalash people, an ethnic group that has lived in three secluded valleys of these towering mountains for centuries: Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir. There are only around 4,000 Kalash villagers left in Chitral. They are one of the last peoples of western Asia to retain their aboriginal culture and have survived many waves of invaders, refusing to convert to Islam. Their neighbours across the mountains in the north-western region of ...

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Why reverting to the karez system might save Balochistan’s water and drought crisis

In an arid country like Pakistan, water in the form of rivers, glaciers and groundwater is life – it is what gives us sustenance. When there is too little, we have droughts, and when there is too much, we have floods. This is how it has been for centuries in this part of the world, and it remains how it is in Balochistan, home to the 7,000-year-old Mehrgarh civilisation. Pakistan’s largest province is currently in the midst of a drought, and yet some districts have been flooded as well. I was part of a group of journalists from Islamabad who ...

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The stone crushers of Taxila: Are we ready to lose pieces of our history and heritage?

Taxila valley, which lies just beyond the Margalla Hills bordering Islamabad, is a picturesque, rural place with sleepy villages nestled below its green hills. Located less than an hour’s drive from Islamabad, the area is famous for Khanpur Dam and a series of archaeological remains which were declared as world heritage sites by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) back in 1980. Ideally, Taxila should be preserved as a tourist destination steeped in history, but over the years, stone crushers (a machine used to break down large rocks into smaller rocks, gravel or rock dust) have been ...

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