Handling the Second Wave of COVID-19 with Responsibility and Care
The COVID-19 remains a threat which is now hitting the globe in a second wave. Pakistan is facing the rise in cases and we must deal with this latest crisis with responsibility and care. With elevated air pollutions in cold weather, nurturing the environment is mandatory.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19 wreaking havoc across the globe. With more than 1.25 million dead and more than 49 million cases at the time of writing, the situation is still evolving with a second wave underway. Pakistan is experiencing a rise of cases again in this second wave and recently the government has issued restrictions again with a second lockdown on the horizon.
The issues regarding responsibility and care during this pandemic is clear. The rapid spread of the virus is due to the large-scale gatherings which took place earlier in the year despite warnings by the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Safety was flouted with lack of wearing masks and social distancing, despite known facts about the aerosol airborne transmission and distancing becoming a critical factor in controlling the spread of the disease.
With the onset of the winter season which ushers in colds and other forms of infections, it is mandatory that we follow the WHO guidelines some of which are featured here in their graphical form for your awareness. You can cut these as mini posters to remind yourself and others of these required practices. These include washing hands, wearing masks, disinfecting infected areas, covering your face while sneezing, social distancing and staying away from those who are diagnosed with COVID-19.
Besides individual care, we must take care of the environment, as one of the key dangers is due to air pollution which reaches a peak in our urban centers during the fall and winter seasons. With pre-existing lung and pulmonary conditions such as asthma and COPD, the risks for COVID-19 transmission and seriousness of impacts becomes greater than before. This is especially true for our urban centers such as Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi which experience rise in haze, smog and persistent fog during from November till March in the past decade. With these considerations, indoor pollution and care of the environment is becomes especially important as well.
Addressing Climate Change and Environmental Degradation with Afforestation Drives
With climate change impacts on the rise we are facing challenges including rise of spread of diseases, and here the role must be understood. The loss of biodiversity from deforestation, climate change and loss of biodiversity habitat, there is greater human-to-wildlife contact which leads to potential increases in virus transmission. We must restore our forests and ecosystems which will address both these ongoing crises and those arising in the future.
Deforestation is at the root of most of our environmental degradation and climate change evils and curbing it in the time of the COVID-19 crisis is even more important. The results, which will of course rejuvenate Pakistan, increase biodiversity habitat in all sorts of ways will bring our communities and together and unite them for just causes. Urban forestation must complement existing efforts by our government such as the Billion Tree Tsunami campaign. Additionally, in such plantation drives, we enhance the civic duty and responsibility that is incumbent on our youth. Pakistan sits well below a precarious 5% forest cover, against a required 25%; this cannot be simply be reached by the government and authorities due to limited resources.
In these rather challenging times, it good to remind ourselves of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) who stated: “If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani).
Practically implementing such timeless wisdom first shows the commitment of the government and authorities in restoring the natural beauty and well-being of Pakistan. It would also project our nation as a peace loving and environmentally conscious member of the world community. Hence, top authorities should be involved in declaring the spring season to include active plantation campaigns supported by the government. Since the upcoming plantation season is next spring, it should be declared now, alongside, for heavy plantation so that this flows literally from the top leadership. The Prime Minister, for example, could possibly announce this on national and international media, for planting activities done without clustering in groups and following of all safety protocols including social distancing.
A top-level coordinating body should be formed under the Chairmanship of a high ranking official, which exclusively handles and monitors this on a regular basis as the implementation period is short. The other option is to entrust the whole responsibility to one Department that can supervise the implementation of activities from the top right down to the grass roots level, addressing all problems along the way.
The rest of the campaign should focus on involving people at the grass roots level and promote water conservation. City Governments should be entrusted the responsibility of identifying places, supplying plants and assisting people so that Pakistan is literally transformed to a greener cleaner nation. At an individual/family level, people should be encouraged to use water saved in the kitchen, for example, after washing edibles such as vegetables, fruits etc. or after ‘wuddoo’ (ablution) for watering plants.
Regarding forestation, we must have vegetation within our surroundings and especially the cities as well. We should preserve vegetation and should plant trees in this pandemic, as thousands of trees have been cut, especially in cities in the last ten years. This has led to the loss of a healthy environment and as such by restoring them, we also build defenses against pandemics like COVID-19 and ongoing dengue fever.
Indigenous tree species should form the key components of any of the plantation you do, not as there are scientific and health reasons for doing so. As is unanimously voiced by experts, this may take time; however, is the only way to ensure a long-term stability of our environment.
Bringing in exotic or “alien species” oftentimes creates unpredictable damage to not only the growth of our forest ecosystems and the environment, but also affects all living things. Take the example of the infamous Paper Mulberry in Islamabad which literally wreaks asthmatic havoc on us each summer, when there are record levels of pollen released by this foreign species. In addition, this tree is rendering our existing species extinct due to so-called “allelopathic effects” – these effects inhibit the growth of local plants by secreting chemicals in the soil.
Which species should you choose for greening your gardens and community?
In Karachi and Baluchistan, what are commonly known as wilayati keeker (Mesquite) and beli were planted for the very reason that they grew fast, but this has restricted or even wiped out other indigenous trees and shrubs like Acacia senegal – local name Khor, Acacia nilotica – local name Kikar or Bhabar, Prosopis cineraria – local name kandi or jandi. These species must be replanted, and slow replacement of exotics must happen alongside.
The Northern forests in the earthquake affected areas mostly consist of Cheer (Long Needle Pine), Fir, Deodar and Kail (Blue Pine) varieties which should form the basis of reforestation efforts in the affected areas.
In the case of Islamabad, there are many beautiful trees in the area that are naturally part of the landscape, e.g. Shirin. Similarly, Sumbul trees should be encouraged as they also have economic value if the seeds are harvested as they are used to fill pillows. CDA should encourage harvesting of seeds of this tree as well. Banyan tree or Bur as is commonly known was planted for centuries. Sher Shah Suri planted these trees at regular intervals on the GT Road in sets of three with water ponds for horses. People also used to rest under these. Peepal is also a very good native tree for the purpose.
Further recommendations are: Pine – local name Cheer, Sukh Chain, and Kachnar. Local Mulberry that produces black colored fruit is a very good choice, since the fruit has medicinal qualities of healing sore throats and infections, and hence will be valuable for natural preventative defenses against pandemics and epidemics.
Staying safe from Air Pollution
One of the great dangers by the coronavirus infection is impact on lungs, hence air quality is a great concern. Due to the pandemic, there is reduction of air pollution levels globally. However, prior to this pandemic, air quality in Pakistan is deteriorating with every passing day, especially in North-Eastern areas and urban parts of Punjab. Big cities, such as Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, have very bad air quality. These cities are experiencing smog from the last three years with the smog episodes starting in early October and November. Smog is mainly triggered by less or no rainfall in the region. This is not only limited to Pakistan, but Delhi, closest major city in India, is also heavily affected by smog during the same months of the year. To make sure that your air quality is clean, use air filters, avoid smoky environments including cigarette smoking and second or third-hand smoke. Ensure that the garbage in your surroundings and indoor environments is not burned and disposed in a proper manner. Also, stay away from air pollution from both inside and outside environments. This way, you will ensure that you are not comprising your lungs from either indoor or ambient pollution sources.
Indoor and outdoor plantation can also control and improve air quality and is a good long-term solution. However, for improving air quality of urban areas, small hubs of trees count a lot. The Billion tree project is a very good effort of forestation in this regard and needs to be extended to urban centers. Afforestation contributes positively towards minimizing climate change impacts in Pakistan and towards cleaning air. Since urban air quality is more related to indigenous activities, what happens within the city or the surrounding areas, such as the industrial estates inside and around the cities, and the vehicle population on the road, is important.
As a start let us begin by saving our previous water and other resources by local practices as rains are hard to come by these days especially during the upcoming monsoon season. With regular handwashing a key requirement, saving water will be useful due to this increased demand by the COVID-19 pandemic. As is the case, much of the water is lost and to add insult to injury it is oftentimes allowed in the monsoon season to flood and kill people! A great amount of this precious being can be saved if each rain season is literally turned into a “rainwater harvesting season” and saving this will help at all levels, especially for ensuring health in the time of the pandemic. All food production rests on water, and since life is dependent on water, we do a favor to ourselves and others by switching to water conservation (See “Tips for public usage of water” for some tips).
If conservation is followed with conviction, it means managing through periods of pandemics that Pakistan now is experiencing along with other impacts such as droughts on a regular basis. Unfortunately, as trite as the whole idea of conservation of water has been made out to be, the time is nigh and now that such a philosophy guides all efforts in solving our current and impending water shortages. This includes water recycling and rain harvesting, which as the words imply, is a most elegant and practical means to save especially in the time of this crisis. On the other hand, given that rains are now scarce and erratic, we can also extensively employ such practices in times of epidemics and pandemics.
To start, rainwater harvesting is the gathering and storage of rain from roofs or from a surface catchment for various uses. This notion of is well documented from pre-Roman times and on all the major continents, although in industrialized countries, until recently, the practice had largely expired away with the introduction of reliable mains-supplied water. The water is generally stored in rainwater tanks or directed into mechanisms, which recharge ground water. Rainwater harvesting can provide lifeline water for human consumption, lessen economic burdens and the need to build reservoirs, which oftentimes require the use of valuable and fertile regions.
Traditionally, rainwater harvesting has been practiced in arid and semi-arid areas, and has provided drinking water, domestic water, water for livestock, water for small irrigation and a way to replenish ground water levels. However, this can easily be extended towards urban areas where similar benefits can be achieved. Rainwater harvesting in urban and rural areas can have manifold reasons. To provide supplemental water for the populations’ requirements, to add to soil moisture levels, to augment the ground water table through artificial recharge, to mitigate flooding and to improve the quality of groundwater are some of the reasons why rainwater harvesting can be adopted both in cities and rural areas, especially during the time of this pandemic.
In summary, we can improve and build natural our defenses against the coronavirus and other such dangers during this second wave of COVID-19, by following WHO guidelines and by making sure this by improving our environment. The government, besides following the usual health protocols must ensure active afforestation to rebuild our forest ecosystems and biodiversity habitats such that future animal-to-human virus transmission is limited, while also addressing climate change issues. I have outlined some sustainable measures, but for following conservation, reducing exposure to pollutants and restoring greenery which will not only prove beneficial now but also for upcoming threats, while will also improve our natural environment.
Tips for public usage of water
Individual responsibility needed in solving water crisis
Use a pan for dish cleaning, instead of a running sink tap
Avoid using a running shower; use a bucket instead
Use recycled water for gardening, such as saved ‘Wudu’ water
Monitor and repair, in a timely manner of leaking taps and pipes
Clean cars with a bucket instead of using a pipe
Employ smaller flush tanks for saving water
Consider dietary changes towards less meat consumption, which takes twice as much water to cook than vegetable dishes.
Save water via rainwater harvesting.
Writer: Dr. Farrukh A. Chishtie
Home Grown Beans
A vegetable garden, quite irrespective of size as beans can be grown in pots/containers as well as directly in the ground, should contain, along with every conceivable variety of other organic goodies, as many beans, in as many varieties, as is possible and then some more!
In our climate, even in the winter frozen uplands and mountainous regions of the north, it is a simple matter, with rotational planting, to produce succulent crops of highly nutritious beans, all year round and yes, I do mean all year round.
Take this time of year for example: You should still be harvesting pole beans, runner beans, bush beans, fresh green beans, dried on the plant beans and be sowing lots and lots of broad beans – the latter need cool, preferably cold and don’t mind being snowed on in the least – for very early spring crops of tiny whole pods, followed by larger pods stuffed with gourmet ‘baby’ broad beans, followed, in turn, by what can be astonishingly massive pods, 12inches – 15 inches in length is perfectly ‘normal’, bursting with large and tasty broad beans and which, if left to dry on the plants, will supply you with wonderful, very versatile, dried beans (often sold as ‘fava beans’) to use in a myriad of inventive ways.
There are bean varieties for every season of the year: Some like it hot, some like it cold and others relish the ‘in-betweens’ of spring and autumn.
Beans, all varieties, are natural born sun lovers although, having made this observation, I have found that they do enjoy a decent measure of afternoon shade during the height of summer.
They are also, as are many other highly productive vegetables, very hungry customers so their soil conditions need to be as rich as possible: The old maxim ‘You only get out what you put in’ could have been – maybe it was – thought up especially for beans. Hungry bean plants do not have enough energy to grow very much at all and, if they manage to survive, do not produce anything to write home about. Well-nourished bean plants, on the other hand, reliably produce far more beans than can be eaten fresh by a family comprising of at least 4, sometimes even 6, bean loving individuals and this, I promise, is not an exaggeration. If your beans do not crop to excess, it is not the fault of the bean plants but the fault of the grower.
Soil: Unlike many other vegetables, beans are very shallow rooted. This means that no deep digging is necessary when preparing planting areas as manure/compost need only be in the top 2 inches of ground. This, in turn, makes it easy to provide them with all of the nutrients they need and also keeps it easy to give them a top up feed now and then throughout their growing/producing period. The planting location must be well drained: This helps prevent mildew/fungal diseases, associated with water-logging, from taking hold.
Seed sowing: It is not necessary to soak bean seed prior to sowing but they must be kept well-watered at all times. Climbing beans should be sown 1 inch deep and 4 – 6 inches apart. Bush beans 1 inch deep and 3 – 4 inches apart. Beans, being fixers of nitrogen in the soil, are good companions for all other plants. Germination takes 7 – 14 days. Do not be tempted to sow beans closer than recommended: The plants need air circulation to keep them healthy. Beans are best sown in the spot in which they are to grow, this being directly in the soil or in suitable pots and containers. If you try transplanting them, a high percentage will probably die off as they dislike being disturbed.
Time to sow: Broad beans should be sown from mid-October to Mid-December throughout the country.
All other types of beans can be sown as soon as temperatures begin to rise in early spring throughout the coastal and plains areas and a little later at cooler, higher altitudes.
Sowing a few beans every 2 – 3 weeks on until the end of July, should provide a steady supply of fresh beans right through until winter comes with, if in a sheltered spot, crops continuing for a while even then.
The only exception to this is asparagus beans which, being heat lovers, should not be sown until early May.
Types of beans:
Green beans: There are numerous varieties of what are generally referred to as ‘green beans’ or ‘snap beans’. These can be in bush form, medium climbers to tall and extremely tall climbers. Climbing beans are sometimes sold as ‘Pole beans’ which, quite simply, means that they need poles or something else to climb up. ‘Green beans’ although there are purple, yellow, pink and green speckled and other interesting color combinations as well, are at their most delectable when pods are slightly immature. Leaving them to grow to full size often results in rather tough pods – these can take ages to cook – with, unless the variety is ‘string-less’, with a fibrous ‘string’ whose job it is to prevent the pod from bursting as the beans inside ripen and fatten and which, being tough, needs to be peeled off, from each side of the pod, before the bean pods are cooked: A fiddly job that is best avoided by harvesting green beans before they reach maturity if, that is, you want to eat them fresh. If they are being left to develop fully fledged beans for cooking or for drying, then you can leave the pods on the plants as long as you like. Scarlet runner beans have attractive, brilliant red flowers, Painted lady has bi-colored pink and white ones and both are perfectly at home in the flower garden. Purple podded beans, these look absolutely beautiful hanging in bunches on the plants, turn green when cooked which, in my humble opinion, is a shame!
Butter beans: Also known as ‘Lima beans’, can be bush varieties, medium or tall and, unlike green beans, mostly (not always) do not have tendrils with which to climb/attach themselves to whatever has been provided for them to climb up. It is therefore necessary, to secure the plants to strong supports by means of soft string of some kind: The stems are brittle and snap easily so please handle with care and provide protection from wind. These are not grown for their pods but for their yummy beans which are eaten fresh or used when dried.
Beans for shelling and/or drying: In addition to butter beans/Lima beans, there are many other varieties of bean, bush and climbing, which are cultivated for their delicious beans rather than for their pods. Navy beans, black beans, black-eyed beans, soy beans, borlotti beans, pinto beans, haricot beans, mung beans, turtle beans, kidney beans and orca beans are just a few of the most popular beans for drying to be found.
Snake beans: Also called asparagus beans and yard long beans, these are a hot weather ‘must grow’ climbing bean. The plants can reach an incredible 12 feet and more in height and, luckily, are perfectly at home if grow adjacent to a tree which they can climb up and ramble around in. Claimed to have an asparagus like taste – personally I think they taste exactly like the very mouthwateringly tender beans they are.
* In the absence of a wide range of bean seeds being sold in our seed stores, I have resorted, quite often, to buying dried beans being sold for edible purposes in the bazaars. Germination has been good, resultant plants healthy and crops bountiful.
Writer: Zahrah Nasir
10 ‘normal’ risks which are way more dangerous than most people think
Here are ten seemingly normal activities which can have potentially large threats to your life and safety of others as well. Make sure to be safe and care for others around you as well.
I was browsing the internet when I stumbled upon an interesting thread on Reddit, a popular online discussion forum. Someone had asked a question, “What’s way more dangerous than most people think?” in the AskReddit community. The thread received over 25,000 comments, with hundreds of horror stories revealing the underrated risks involved in everyday life. It is nearly impossible to cover everything of this large discussion thread on the risks involved, so I have picked some of the most interesting and useful things which are factually true.
1. Walking downstairs with hands in pockets
You might have done this at least once in your life, but did you know this seemingly benign act could cause serious injury or death? Here is how it could kill you if things go wrong. One of the Redditors on the thread says, “Never ever do it! A fall down even 1 or 2 stairs with no hands to catch you can break your neck”. He even claimed to have “witnessed” someone losing his life in a freak accident. “I have seen a video of a man tripping and falling down 4 stairs, hitting the top of his head on the wall and dying right there in the stairwell”, he explained.
Why should not we walk down the stairs with hands in our pockets? Imagine walking downstairs this way and you trip or miss a step. You would be fine with your hand holding the rail. However, with both of your hands trapped in the pockets, you would not be able to catch yourself. Your chances of holding anything are gone, now you would end up breaking your arms or worse.
2. A tug-of-war game
The ancient game is played to demonstrate physical strength and teamwork, but fewer people know that it could kill the players when a wrong type of rope is used. As I opened the URL mentioned on a Reddit comment, I came across some shocking discoveries. On Jun 7th, 1995, two young boys were killed while participating in a big Tug of War game attempting to win a Guinness World Record in Frankfurt, Germany. It happened when the nylon rope snapped and whipped back during the contest setting off the chain of disaster. A 9 years old boy died on spot; another 10 years old succumbed to his injuries later in hospital. Dozens of other participants also sustained serious injuries in the mishap. The use of unapproved, poor quality rope was found to be the cause of the tragic accident.
3. Rescuing a drowning person
Saving a life undoubtedly is the kindest thing. Nevertheless, helping someone drowning in deep water could cost your own life. 12 citizens of the same family drowned in Arabian Sea at Hawkes Bay beach Karachi on September 9th, 2017. It all began when one of the victims swept away by a strong tide and the remaining family members attempted rescuing each other but ended up drowning one after another. An experienced Redditor explained that how a panic and uncooperative victim can end up killing his rescuer by climbing onto their head. Being a good swimmer alone is not enough for you to safely rescue a drowning person. Jump into the water to save a life only if you have received adequate training in water rescue. Call for help and try throwing a lifebuoy or a rope towards a drowning person. Do not swim in rivers, lakes and sea even if you are a good swimmer. Always wear a lifejacket and never swim alone. Precaution is way better than the cure; it is indeed good to be safe than sorry.
4. Driving while tired and sleepy
Sleep deprivation can kill you in several ways, dozing at wheel is one of them. Many drivers involved in serious accidents were very “confident” to overcome their drowsiness but ended up crashing as they fell asleep while driving at high speed. We need at least 6 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every day. Failing to take proper rest could make you feel tired leading to experience micro-sleep episodes which could last as long as 6 seconds, which can be long enough to cause death and mayhem to yourself and others. A fatigued driver may unable to notice it until a crash happens. Drowsy driving is responsible for more than 1500 annual deaths in road accidents in the USA. It is the second leading cause of fatal accidents in Pakistan according to National Highways and Motorways Police’s statistics for the year 2018-19. Some people suggest drinking caffeinated stimulant drinks to beat fatigue, but this is not the right solution to the problem. Those drinks could only keep you stay awake but not alert. Your alertness level would be as bad as a drunk driver. Researchers have confirmed that driving tired is equal to driving under influence of alcohol. Taking enough rest can keep you and other road users safe.
It happens when the human body loses heat faster than it can produce. Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature falls below 35°C, which should normally be around 37°C. Staying outdoors in extremely cold weather, particularly when it is raining or during snowfall can significantly increase the risk. Not wearing a jacket or wearing wet clothes for a prolonged period could make you more vulnerable to hypothermia. Once it sets in, your ability to think and move would be compromised reducing your chances of survival. Shivering, difficulty speaking, drowsiness and blurred vision are some of the signs of hypothermia. Death could occur if the person fails to receive treatment. The victim should immediately be moved to a warmer place to preserve their body heat.
You would not believe that, but mosquitos are way more dangerous than snakes. According to a Deutsche Welle (DW) news report, venomous snakes kill 80,000 people per year worldwide. Mosquitoes have known kill between 2 to 3 million people annually, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). This tiny devil can kill you in several different ways. Transmitting viral diseases as it sucks human blood is the direct cause of mosquito-related deaths. They could transmit deadly viruses including Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya (CHIKV) and ZIKA. Other than mosquito-borne diseases, this parasitic bug also is indirectly responsible for several human deaths. People have been killed while trying to kill the mosquitoes! Such accidents range from bug killer spray poisoning to house fires. In April 2019, a young woman in Faisalabad was burnt to death after her bed caught fire by a burning mosquito repellent coil. One of the Redditor mentioned the most bizarre and freak accident involving mosquitos. He said that his friend sustained a serious head injury while trying to catch a mosquito in his bathroom. He slipped hitting his head on the sink’s corner so hard ended up spending 2 weeks in a coma fighting for his life. These indirect mosquito-related deaths are not even taken into statistical counts.
7. Listening to loud music using headphones
I picked this from the thread mainly because I have had a firsthand experience of ‘headphone abuse’. It happened several years ago when I had trouble sleeping. I started listing to music every night, sometimes for hours until I finally fell asleep. After doing this for a few weeks, I started experiencing mild pain in both of my ears. Luckily, I did not do this for a longer period and never turned up the volume too high, so my symptoms subsided after I quit using the headphones. Nonetheless, prolonged usage of headphones at high volume could cause Tinnitus and permanent hearing loss. It is clearly mentioned on the headphone’s instruction manual, and on some devices, a warning sign would pop up each time you try to turn the music or radio volume too high while it is hooked up to a headphone.
Ignorance is bad but misinformation is even worse. Not knowing what to in a life-threatening situation could reduce your chances of survival but making an ill-advised move could instantly kill you. Giving unconscious person water, for example, is way more dangerous than just waiting for an ambulance doing nothing. Dousing electrical or grease fire by water, treating a serious injury or illness at home and even sharing any advice you read online or have been told by someone without verifying it first are some of the examples of how misinformation could be more dangerous than you think.
9. Drug abuse
It is not just limited to the use of illegal stuffs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Cigarette smoking, vaping and alcohol intake also fall into addictive behaviours which can potentially lead to huge health impacts. Misuse of any prescription or over the counter (OTC) medicine also qualifies as ‘drug abuse’. This includes, but not limited to, overdosing on a prescription or OTC med, using drugs for fun (getting “high”), taking a medication (particularly psychotropic drug) for a longer period than prescribed and using medication from someone else prescription for having similar symptoms. Inappropriate use of any drug could result in severe illness, organ failure, life-long disability, or death.
Last but not the least underrated risk is depression. This is the most common mental health illness affecting millions of people around the world. While it is normal for everyone to feel sad at times, extreme and persistent depression is a dangerous thing. Chronic depression can severely affect a person’s mental and physical health ruining their social life, personal relationships and professional career. Untreated depression eventually leads to suicide. Approximately 800,000 people take their own lives every year. Most of the suicides are directly linked to depression and are preventable with adequate treatment. It requires professional help as well as supportive family and friends to effectively treat a patient with major depressive disorder.
Writer: Sultan Kiani