Degradation of environment and climate change has become a major global issue. However, developing countries are more affected by it and the poor within those countries are the hardest hit. Majority of Pakistan’s population depends mostly or entirely on natural resources like land, water, fisheries for its livelihood.
These problems are closely and inextricably linked with unchecked development without taking its impact on environment into consideration. Another important factor is poverty which is the cause as well as the consequence of environmental degradation.
Environmental degradation and climate change cause a loss of almost 6% of GDP according to some reports. Water, air and noise pollution have adverse effects on human health.
Deforestation is already causing floods, and salinity of land has disastrous effects on agriculture and food production in a country with already high incidence of hunger and malnutrition. Climate change, which is a global phenomenon is resulting in melting of glaciers and pollution of rivers and oceans with toxic, chemical and human waste is playing havoc with aquatic life. These are only some of the major problems resulting from environmental degradation and climate change.
The most serious and worrisome aspect is the increasing scarcity of water. Pakistan depends mainly on Indus river for most of its water needs. Mismanagement of water by the state coupled with increasing population and lack of awareness on part of the public is leading the country towards a major water crisis.
Major environmental issues for Pakistan are:
- Air Pollution
- Water Pollution
- Noise Pollution
- Climate Change
- Soil Erosion
- Water Scarcity
- Salinity of land
Currently there are many policies on paper and many past governments have promised to address all of the above issues but have not been able to have much success. We believe that it is due to lack of political will as well as the current economic system which has profit as its supreme goal. Those with money, power and connections with the powerful are able to defy or circumvent any governmental initiatives and bypass any regulatory agencies in order to continue their environmentally detrimental and harmful activities.
This issue of environment and climate change cannot be adequately and satisfactorily dealt with unless the problem of poverty is also addressed.
- Poverty has been addressed in a separate section.
- Start a robust public awareness campaign about environmental problems of the country and engage citizens in various initiatives.
- Strengthen capacity of federal and provincial institutions for environmental protection
- Establish a research and development program to not only accurately assess the extent of damage to the environment but to also find practical, cost effective and socially acceptable means to tackle the problems.
- Since environment and climate change is a regional and global issue, it is necessary to develop, join and strengthen regional alliances at SAARC and other such forums in order to learn from each other’s experiences as well as establish ways to cooperate with each other.
- Implement existing policies and strengthen them further with the help of experts as well as close the loop holes. But this is not possible without first breaking the hold of current elite on politics and their influence on major institutions in the country.
- Improve irrigation methods and promote them among the target users. This will also address the problem of loss of agriculture land due to salinity
- Develop small dams and storage facilities to catch and store water during heavy rain and floods
- To improve water courses and channels to minimise water loss due to seepage and evaporation
- To control deforestation through improving access to sustainable energy for the poor and people in far off areas and controlling timber mafia. Also a systematic and organised planting of new trees
- Control chemical and toxic waste produced by industries and businesses by ensuring compliance with existing policies and closing the loop holes in it
- Tackle human solid waste in environmentally friendly ways to prevent water born diseases and contamination of coastal waters
- Ensuring provision of clean drinking water and proper sanitation methods to all citizens
- Improve coastal waters and protect marine life by controlling the dumping of industrial and human waste into waterways.
- Protecting wild life and endangered species
- Control use of chemicals in agriculture which is causing major health problems for local communities
- Address air pollution by strengthening laws against harmful industrial gases, motor vehicle gas emission and harmful human activities like burning trash
- Ensure environmentally friendly and sustainable development
- To exploit Pakistan’s vast natural resources for the benefit of all citizens
- Develop efficient, safe and cost effective public transport. This will address air and noise pollution as well as reduce energy needs and traffic congestion.