By Fatima Arif
Tofiq Pasha Mooraj, is commonly recognized for his television shows Bagh Baani, Kitchen Garden and Go Camping with Pasha. However, there is a whole range of things that he has been involved in. If one has to sum up his forty plus years of work, it can be said that he has dedicated his life for a better and sustainable tomorrow. Despite all that he has done and continues to do, he has personally never called himself ‘an environmentalist’.
It turns out that his parents transferred their passion for nature to him. Both his parents were into growing plants, flowers and gardening. His family eventually started doing this commercially and he joined them when he was just a small kid. The family moved to a farmhouse while he was still in school and this shift influenced his decision to pursue horticulture academically. In 1975, while he was still in school he got a chance to study tea, coconut, floriculture and rubber cultivation and processing in Sri Lanka. When it was time to opt for a college, he enrolled at Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam. Given the political situation at the time the institute was not teaching much and on his father’s encouragement he dropped out and came back to Karachi. After his return to Karachi from Tando Jam, Tofiq Pasha got involved in his family businesses.
“I grew up in the environment and therefore, this was just a natural progression for me. Living on a farm it became second nature to me.”
In the late 80s early 90s he progressed into water conservation when he got involved with people who were already working on the subject. Working on the grass root level, he is part of the Hisaar Foundation and is now a member of Board of Directors Indus Delta Area Water Partnership, member Global Water Partnership and the Pakistan Water Partnership. Additionally, he is the focal point South Asia for Water, Food and Environment and an active supporter of Women and Water Network Pakistan.
Tofiq Pasha is of the opinion that there is a dire need for everyone to join forces and work for solutions of our environmental problems collectively.
Pakistan is an agri-based country and given that this is the core area of Tofiq Pasha’s expertise, he aptly explains the situation. His own education about irrigation practices is from working hands on in the field and in his opinion it is suicide that we are not taking the appropriate measures and investing to make high efficiency irrigation practices a norm; as these practices not only save resources but help increase the yield something that we are in dire need of.
Another aspect of environment protection that Tofiq Pasha is involved with is eco-tourism. Pakistan has immense untapped tourism potential, especially domestic tourism. In late 70s and early 80s, wherever in the world he has friend he tried convincing them to come visit his homeland. In the past twenty years the scope of international tourism has dropped given the geopolitical scenario. However, domestic tourism if concentrated on itself can help kick start the economic wheel in many of the areas. If in a group every individual spends PKR 100 in the local shops, a negligible amount for them, it alone makes the day of that small businessman. His own interest stemmed from the fact that there are many places in Pakistan that he had not seen and wanted to because his father who was well traveled domestically during the 50s, used to talk about his experience . For Tofiq Pasha, the aim of these trips is to sensitize individuals about the ecological importance, introduce them to some of the unique aspects, like the biggest canal system, the mud volcanos and to highlight the importance of preserving these natural gifts and not ruin them with trash.
When asked about his take on those who despite the writing on the wall consider climate change to be a foreign issue, Tofiq Pasha encapsulates them as greedy. If a country like Rwanda can ban polythene bags why can’t we? Despite all this, he bundles his hope for a better tomorrow in the youth and the time when this generation are in key decision making roles.
Fatima Arif is Senior Officer Social Media, WWF-Pakistan.