2009 is the National Year of Environment

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION COSTS RS. 365 BILLION PER ANNUM TO PAKISTAN

KANWAL SALEEM
Feb 02 - 08, 2009

Degradation of the environment continues at a very fast rate, affecting livelihoods and health of millions, besides increasing vulnerability of the poor to disasters and environment related conflicts. In Pakistan alone, the cost of environmental degradation is estimated to the tune of Rs. 365 billion per annum, which is 6 percent of the GDP. Climate changes and irrational use of resources are also causing serious threat to life on the planet while development endeavors have put a heavy burden on environment sustainability.

These were views expressed by speakers at a two-day Global Environment Facility (GEF)-National Dialogue

Initiative, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment in Lahore. Representatives of the government agencies, international organizations, academics, non-governmental organizations and research institutions participated.

Addressing the inaugural session, the Federal Minister for Environment Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi said that pollution of air and water, climate change, ozone depletion, deforestation, desertification and vanishing biodiversity, land degradation, lack of waste management, lack of urban land use planning and zoning, irrational use of natural resources have resulted in ecological imbalances, threatening life and civilization. These imbalances, created by man over time, need to be addressed with strategic environmental planning and integrated management immediately, he added.

He said the environment does not exist in isolation and there are several other sectors affecting it to a greater or lesser degree. These sectors come under the purview of different stakeholders and there is dire need to address these issues through collective multilateral collaboration.

Environmental situation within Pakistan remains no different from that of other developing countries. High population growth rate, low level of public awareness and education, degradation of natural resources, fast urbanization and industrial expansions are all responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves today.

He said the government is fully committed to mainstream environment into the development processes at all levels. He said as a major step towards achieving this goal, 2009 has been declared as the National Year of Environment and the Ministry of Environment has already initiated a series of planned activities for engaging all stakeholders and beneficiaries towards the common goal of promoting awareness about environmental issues.

He said: "Pakistan has also covered a number of milestones, having come a long way from the preparation of National Conservation Strategy in 1992 to the formulation of National Environment Policy in 2005. The Cabinet has already approved the National Environment Policy, Sanitation Policy and Energy Conservation Policy and the time is ripe for launching plans and programmes for the enactment of these policies".

Talking about Vision 2030, he said it envisages a developed, industrialized, just and prosperous Pakistan through rapid and sustainable development in a resource constrained economy by deploying knowledgeable inputs, preparing for climate change.

Regarding Global Environment Facility (GEF), he said that GEF is playing a critical role in assisting Pakistan in its drive towards achieving sustainable development. However, this is just a drop in the ocean and a continuous need is felt for an increase in the GEF portfolio. By strengthening the role of GEF within the country, we will be in a better position to advance our collective goal of protecting our natural resources and leaving a better world for the future generations.

He said that this National Dialogue is a part of the efforts of GEF and provides a level-playing forum for consultations to raise awareness about GEF, strengthen national coordination and link GEF priorities and strategies to a broader national environmental planning and development process. It also offers an opportunity to key stakeholders representing a broad range of expertise, for engaging in a deliberate consultation to arrive at the endeavor of further effectual GEF operations in Pakistan.

UNDP Resident Coordinator Fikretakura said the world is facing energy and food crisis that calls for sustainable development. He said the Ministry of Environment has taken a progressive step by declaring 2009 as the National Year of Environment and developing agencies should come forward to make this initiative a success. The UNDP would further enhance is corporation with the Ministry for taking mitigation measures for addressing the environmental problem to minimize the threats of climate change.

World Bank representative Ernesto Sanchez-Triana, Knowledge Management Advisor Dr. Tehmina Akhtar and Ms. Mehrunnisa Bashir, Programme Manager GEF Secretariat highlighted different aspects of degradation in the environment.