PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Fifty-year-old Mohammad Imran is busy coating the roof of his house with a white paint in Peshawar’s summer sun continues to glare down at him.
In the summer, temperatures in Peshawar can go up to as high as 40 celsius and residents in the city have been turning to a variety of different methods to cool down their houses and one of the most affordable methods is painting their roofs white.
“Sometimes the outside temperature in my area [rises] up to 40 degree Celsius but coating the roofs with white paint can help me to fight the scorching summer heat,” says Imran as he applies the brush to paint the roofs. “All this I am doing to avoid air conditioner (AC) since I couldn’t afford heavy electricity bills of the AC.”
Electricity in Pakistan can be extremely expensive with average bills going up to as high as $80 per month – well above the average income of nearly $54 for most Pakistanis – when an air conditioner is being used sporadically throughout the month. In addition, he says, the power outages and low electricity voltage are also a major issue in his area.
Imran, who lives in a rural district situated some 100 kilometres to the west of Peshawar, Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has kept the roof of his house painted white for the past 20 years. And he is not alone – many people in remote villages in Pakistan are coating the roofs of their houses with white paint as a measure to keep them cooler. Imran says nearly half of the roofs in his village are painted white for cooling purpose.
Imran wasn’t, in fact, aware that using less electricity is one of the measures that need to be taken to reduce rising global temperatures. Word Bank report suggests renewable energy resources can help in combating climate change.
According to the United State’s Department of Energy website, materials used for painting roofs to keep the rooms cool are reflecting more sunlight and absorbing less heat than a standard roof.
The website says, “Standard roofs can reach temperatures of 150 F or more in the summer seasons while a cool roof under the same conditions could stay more than 50 F cooler and save energy and money by using less air conditioning.”
The traditional practice of painting houses a cooler tone, according to US Energy Department, helps reduce the usage of air conditioning.
Dr Shafiqur Rehman, environmentalist and former head of Peshawar’s University’s environmental sciences department, states that the use of cool roofs by locals in rural communities of Pakistan can, in fact, help with combatting the excessive use of fossil fuels.
“Decreasing the use of power will ultimately help decrease the use of fossil fuels since Pakistan is one of the countries depend on fossil fuels. A website trading economy that compiles reports from official sources suggests Pakistan’s energy consumption from fossil fuels was over 59% of the total energy consumed in Pakistan.
Furthermore, the Climateanalytics.rog reports suggest the share of fossil fuels in electricity production in Pakistan has decreased from 72% to 63% between 2000 to 2015 while the renewable energy resources producing electricity has increased from 0% in 2010 to 0.8% in 2015.
Rehman said Pakistan needs to work more on awareness and sensitizing people on the climate crisis. “We have slightly improved electricity production from renewable energy resources but we have a lot of capacity in getting electricity from renewable resources so the country needs more work on it.”
Amar Guriro, a journalist who has been covering environmental issue for several years, thinks Pakistan hasn’t taken the climate crises seriously despite the country being amongst the countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis.
“We have departments made for the climate-related works but they have yet to take the issue seriously,” says Guriro. “The government needs to control, both, the emission of carbon and use of fossil fuels for producing electricity.”