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
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.