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May 15, 2019

Battling pollution


May 15, 2019

The worsening pollution in Pakistan had caused in 2015 at least 135,000 premature deaths among adults and around five million cases of illness, according to another study on global air pollution. The World Bank estimates that Pakistan’s annual burden to disease due to outdoor air pollution accounts for about 22,000 premature adult deaths each year, and indoor (household) pollution accounts for 40 million cases of acute respiratory infections resulting in another 28,000 deaths annually. These are highly alarming figures. According to experts, the national economy suffers Rs 365 billion every year on this account, adversely affecting GDP growth. The World Bank estimates that three to five percent GDP of Pakistan is lost on this account. The 2018 global Environment Performance Index (EPI) has ranked Pakistan at 169 among 180 countries on 24 performance indicators. In recent years, environmental pollution has increased to disproportionate levels.

Though legal and regulatory framework for environmental control exists since long, weak enforcement and ineffective management, compounded with high population growth and rapid urbanization, have not delivered results -- despite generous economic and technical assistance from international donor agencies. Consequently, pollution and environmental degradation continue to accelerate unabated. The share of expenditure on environmental improvement is a nominal 0.12 percent of the total Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) as reflected inthe 2018-19 allocation for the Ministry of Climate Change. The nation therefore faces serious environmental challenges, particularly in the backdrop of the government’s renewed focus on developing the industrial, housing, transport, energy and infrastructure sectors. It is indeed critical to address pollution, whether air pollution, lead exposure, noise pollution or inadequate sanitation and hygiene. The Ministry of Climate Change needs to realize that the economic growth of a country is conversely proportional to environmental degradation, and should adopt solutions for mitigating pollution. Time is of the essence.

Hussain Siddiqui


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