ENVIRONMENTAL ECONOMY OF BALOCHISTAN

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
Sep 24 - 30, 2007

The renewable land resources (water, soil, forest, wildlife and range), sea resources (fish, mangrove, marine life) coastal resources and healthy atmosphere constitute the environmental economy of Balochistan.

I)RANGELANDS

Environmental Profile Balochistan has defined Range as self-generating and self-maintaining vegetation used for livestock grazing. The range supplies the bulk of forage and fuelwood in Balochistan. Undeniable fact is that rangelands in the province act as habitats for most of the wildlife. The small stocks almost completely depend on rangelands for their food.

II) FORESTS

Only 2% of total area of Balochistan is under forests. The arid and harsh climate conditions dispel the very idea of forestry in the province. However, there are some areas including Khuzdar, Loralai and Zhob, which receive enough rains that are sufficient for tree growth under natural conditions. Coniferous forests, scrub forests, riverian forests and mangrove forests are the major types of forests occur in Balochistan. These forests are of immense economic and ecological importance.

Ziarat and Harboi (Kalat) possess the second largest Juniper forests in the world. Juniper valley of Ziarat spreads over an area of 51,335 hectares. It has wildlife comprising of Suleman Markhor, Chakoor, Seesee, Wolf and others. Some of the species of Juniper in Ziarat are believed to be five thousand years old. Besides Juniper, other major species include Almond, Khujak, Olea and Wild Ash in Ziarat.

III) WILDLIFE

Balochistan enjoys diversity in wildlife resources. About 360 bird species have been recorded in the province, a large proportion of which are passing migrants and winter visitors from colder areas. None of these birds is endemic. Amongst the migratory birds, the population of Houbara Bustard continues to decline due to illegal hunting. The black bear in northern Balochistan is an important mammal from geographical point of view.

IV) SOILS

Most of the soils in Balochistan have a homogeneous porous structure conducive for plant growth. The soils have a lime content ranges between 5 and 30 percent. The lime is uniformly distributed in most soils. The sandy soils in the province are extremely homogeneous with a lime content of 5 to 10 percent. The soils of river plains have a high agrarian potential.

V) ATMOSPHERE

The air and water are vital to the survival of all living organisms including human beings on earth. For their healthy survival, air should be clean and free from pollutants like dust and smoke particles. Similarly sustainable supply of water for drinking and agriculture is essential for the survival of living creatures.

There was a time when Tuberculosis patients from all over the country would come to live in Balochistan, particularly in Quetta and Ziarat, for its healthy, clean and fresh atmosphere. Unfortunately, the situation has reversed today. The air quality in urban areas especially in Quetta is poorer and worse than any city of the country.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION IN BALOCHISTAN

Soil erosion, air pollution, water contamination, deforestation, rangeland depletion and destruction of juniper forests are somewhat unchecked but unavoidable and slow but continuous phenomena causing environmental degradation in Balochistan. These factors are not only causing irreparable damages to environment with its abiotic and biotic elements, but also inflicting losses to the provincial economy.

According to the Environmental Profile Balochistan, the main rural environmental problem in Balochistan is desertification: devegetation, groundwater depletion, salinization and erosion play a role and are interrelated. Desertification although conditioned by the hyper-arid to dry climate of Balochistan, is caused by over-exploitation.

The most serious urban environmental problem is the microbiological problem due to near absence of sewerage, sanitation and waste disposal.

According to the Balochistan Conservation Strategy (BCS), the reality is that for much of its recent history, Balochistan has had to confront major environmental challenges. The shortage of water for drinking and agriculture, and degraded pastures and forests have been the subject of concern for decades.

The recent drought situation in Balochistan was the manifestation of unsustainable use of natural resources. Settlements are characterized by poor planning, contaminated water supplies, inefficient or non- existent sanitation and waste management services and air pollution. These are emerging as major issues as the population rapidly expands and urbanization accelerates.

The renewable land resources include water, soil, forest, wildlife and range. Sustainable use of these resources is inevitable to protect environmental quality. Balochistan is 43 percent of landmass of Pakistan with an area of 3,47,000-sq. km. Livestock contributes about 20 per cent of the provincial GDP. It is the primary sustainable sources of living for majority of population in the province.

I) RANGELANDS DEPLETION

Rangelands depletion in Balochistan has been owing to burgeoning population, land mafia, persistent drought in recent years, overgrazing and deforestation. The deforestation and overgrazing destroyed flora and fauna besides depleting the vegetation cover of the rangelands.

II) DEFORESTATION

Experts are of the view that the impact of deforestation goes beyond the loss of a valuable land resource. It diminishes the state's ability to meet the basic needs of its people. It often triggers a cycle of flooding, substantial soil erosion and some times desertification. It has a powerful impact on stateís capacity and therefore, national power.

A country, which is unable to provide drinking water to its citizens and does not have sufficient arable land to feed its people, is a weakened nation. Water shortages are exacerbated by pollution, which increases disease, cuts farm yield and has a cumulative impact on agriculture, livestock and fisheries.

Provincial Forest Department (PFD) recently launched a project for conservation and management of Juniper forest through zoning and raising forest nurseries. It is a good news that Sui Southern Gas Company limited (SSGC) launched Rs370 million project for laying 92KM long gas pipeline of 8 inch radius, to supply gas from Quetta to Ziarat and its adjacent areas. The project had been inaugurated in September 2003. With the availability of gas to the people of Ziarat, the practices of using Juniper as fuel wood would considerably be checked and Juniper forests be protected to an extent.

III) DEPLETION OF WILDLIFE RESOURCES

The main reason for decline of wildlife resources in the province has been the hunting for fun, food and furs. Moreover, the rapidly growing human and livestock populations, use of long-range and fire arms in tribal areas and proliferation of four wheel drive jeeps caused destruction to habitats and depletion of wildlife resources in Balochistan.

The Government must take serious measures to protect mangrove forests, critical fish and wildlife habitats and the coastal resources important for tourism. Protection of nesting turtles, mangroves, corals, shellfish and over-wintering birds should be ensured by the government in coastal Balochistan.

IV) ATMOSPHERIC POLLUTION

Provincial capital Quetta was recently declared the worst polluted city after Mexico in the world. There is a high need to establish environmental tribunal in Quetta where violation of environmental rules has become a culture by all and sundry.

Air pollution is an acute problem in Quetta. Traffic congestion, mismanagement of solid waste, including hospital and human waste, heaps of filth and garbage, smoke emitting vehicles particularly rickshaws and disorganized system of garbage disposal are the main factors threatening a massive environmental disaster in Quetta.

SUGGESTIONS

Government must develop an effective monitoring and enforcement mechanism to ensure proper implementation of environmental laws and standards.

Integration of environment into policy-making process is key to achieving the goal of sustainable development. Efforts should be directed to streamline environment into all sectoral polices. A state of environment that safeguards public health, promotes sustainable livelihoods, and enhances the quality of life, should be the goal to be achieved by the economic planners.

The poverty-environment nexus should be addressed. The rapid environmental degradation caused by air and water pollution, deforestation and land degradation is seriously affecting the livelihood of the poor. There is a high need for adopting cutting-edge engineering practices for promotion of sustainable development in the country.

The implementation of environmental laws to protect environment is inevitable. No negligence or excuse in this regard is justifiable in the current scheme of the things in Quetta. Environmental Magistrates should be assigned the powers under 1997 Act to punish or fine the violators of environmental laws.