The environmental cost to Pakistan's economy in six sectors was estimated as US$ 1.8 billion

June 16 - 22, 2003



According to a report prepared by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (PEPA), Pakistan's economy is facing a loss of three billion dollars per annum as a result of the different kinds of environmental pollution.

The environmental cost to Pakistan's economy in six sectors was estimated as US$ 1.8 billion while in terms of urban air pollution it was estimated to be $369 million per year.

Independent experts in Pakistan say that environmental degradation has taken an alarming toll mainly because of years of official failure to place environmental concerns at the centre of all policy-making.

During the past 10 years many new institutions like the Environment Protection Agency, Pakistan Environment Protection Council, National Conservation Strategy and environment tribunals were created, but implementation has been slow and absolutely ineffective. The government had committed Rs 110 billion over a period of five to ten years for environment protection but the actual allocations remained under Rs 1 billion during 2002.

The economic condition of the country, unfortunately, is still not very strong. Pakistan's international debt is approximately US $ 36 billion, with more than 50% of the budget being spent on debt servicing and liquidation of loans from international agencies like IMF and the World Bank. With more and more people being pushed to survive below poverty line, environmental issues are hardly a priority for them.

However there is no legal obligation to recycle any post-consumer food packaging products such as paper bags, plastic pouches, or glass bottles.

Traditionally, the state of environmental education in Pakistan has been of poor quality and quantity. Most credit for the recent proliferation of environment-related courses in Pakistan has to be given to the increased legislation in environment, as well as to the increased market demand for professionals with credentials in environment-related disciplines. Unfortunately, no mechanism exists for the qualitative and quantitative assessment of courses offered, nor is a definitive index of such courses available. Just three years ago, a leading women post-graduate college set up its environmental studies department which grants a masters degree in environmental sciences.

Environmental issues do not enjoy the same degree of importance in newspapers that politics or economy do. Most newspapers do not have an exclusive beat of environmental reporting. Though WWF, the international conservation organization and IUCN, the world conservation union, are trying their level best to patronize environmental reporters by establishing Forums of Environmental Reporters at provincial levels, a lot still needs to be done. Words like artificial rain, vehicle emissions, change, air pollution are still not considered vital enough to get due space on front or back and editorial pages of newspapers and magazines.



It is a pity that the Environmental Protection Act 1997 has not been implemented in its true spirit. Therefore, industries are spreading pollution, even in the urban areas, which is prohibited under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act. Increases in population and migration into cities have created serious environmental problems including inadequate solid and liquid waste management, lack of safe water and minimal pollution control. Overcrowded housing, contaminated water supplies and lack of proper sewage disposal, drainage or waste collection, all of which contribute to an unhealthy urban environment, characterize many of our cities.

The formal sector of SWM comprises the government agencies, which provide SWM services, such as the municipal service. Informal sector activities are those which are not regulated and controlled by government agencies, either in the form of the recycling enterprises of itinerant waste buyers and dealers or through self-employed (private) and municipal sweepers collecting solid waste against an agreed payment from households.

The estimated figures of plastic and paper waste generation across the country is about 1.32 million tonnes and 0.51 million tonnes per annum respectively. In Pakistan the history of informal sector is as old as recycling itself. The main reason for the development of informal sector is caused by ever increasing demand for plastic and paper products, more market of recycled products and economically viable recycling process.

At the moment no recycling is being done by any of the glass bottlers or liquid food producers. Almost 90% of glass bottles, however, are being reused though not recycled, as there is a deposit system in place with only 5% wastage. It is a pity that though they occupy a major share in the market the glass industry is not doing any environmental programme in schools or local communities.

Very few people have the awareness to appreciate the environment-friendliness of a Tetra Pak package, differentiating it from other packaging material, let alone recyclability, degradability and green packaging. Tetra Pak, however, is widely perceived to be an environmentally friendly company primarily due to its One Step Ahead programme, which ensured positive image perception during the past many years, e.g. World Environment Day celebration with a local NGO, plantation drive in the factory, sponsorships of events organized by NGOs such as WWF.

Protection of the environment is no longer simply a buzz phrase it is the key to our mutual survival. Therefore, the need of the hour is to combine our efforts and start recycling our waste for a healthy environment and brighter future for our children.