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May 12, 2016

Environmental degradation costs Pakistan Rs1 bn a day

National

May 12, 2016

Every year around 70,000 acres of forests being cut down; 27,000 acres of fertile land turns barren

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani economy is losing one billion rupees (or $9.6 million) a day due to increased environmental degradation, but ironically, the government’s response and priority looks grim, as it is spending on this important sector only 0.00028 percent of GDP.

According to the United Nations, Pakistan needs to invest five percent of GDP to cope with the issue and mitigate growing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There is no research work, planning and other concrete efforts to cope with the issue despite it is affecting the country in shape of devastating natural calamities, deteriorating public health issues, low crops yield due to soil degradation and overall economy.

Weaknesses in the institutional and regulatory framework, limited human, technical and financial efforts are constraints to overcome this issue. In 2015/16 public sector development programme (PSDP), allocation for the sector was less than 50 million rupees, mostly spending on employees salaries and managing the office administration, while no spending on research work.

Increased trend of deforestation, emission of dangerous gases is leading to environmental pollution. Interestingly, funds are not the issue, but it is the capacity building of the newly formed Climate change ministry.

Pakistan is assessed to be one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Climate change threats are particularly to water, energy and food security due to the inherent arid climate coupled with the high degree of reliance on water from glacial snowmelt.

Pakistan’s forests are alarmingly dwindling and having the world’s second highest rate of deforestation, as every year around 70,000 acres of forests are being cut down which is blamed for government’s mismanagement and corruption.

Environmental agencies estimate that Pakistan has the highest annual rate of deforestation in Asia, leading to flash floods, landslides and destruction of ecosystem. Around 27,000 acres of fertile land becomes barren every year after cutting of trees for living purposes and timber products.

According to the government’s estimates Pakistan has five percent forest cover, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank say that this cover is only 2.1 percent, far less than 25 percent forests cover required for a country.

Unfortunately, those who are supposed to protect the forests are the ones most zealously engaged in their destruction. Forestry officials connive with the timber mafia to not only cut down trees but also to register the illegally felled trees in record books. Law enforcement agencies’ officials are also equally responsible.

Pakistan is classified as a global warming hot spot, but awareness about the extreme climate change risks and vulnerabilities facing the country is critically low among decision makers and the masses.

The Secretary Ministry of Climate Change Syed Abu Ahmad Akif Wednesday told reporters here, “Pakistan is losing around 365 billion rupees a year due to environmental degradation, our ministry is sending a summary to the Prime Minister for approval regarding Green Pakistan Program to invest more in this filed and take measures to protect the forests and also add more to the already depleting asset.”

We are in the process of making a botanical garden in Barakahu-Bani Gala in Islamabad that is stretching over around 700 acres. Master plan is this Rs1.4 billion project is in hand, and a zoological survey office is already there.

Since industrial revolution, the temperature of the planet has increased by a degree and estimates show that by end of this century it will increase by 2 degrees. But, the world community is now focusing to limit this increase to at least 1.5 degrees, he said.

Giving the example of human body, Secretary said that when temperature of human increases by a degree, the person gets fever and disturbs the routine life. “This planet has caught fever, and is heating up with the passage of time due to environmental degradation.” He also said that around 250 Pakistani turtles have been recovered from smugglers in China, and now under the international law Beijing will return them to Islamabad.

 

 

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