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June 6, 2020

National coordination for environmental protection & conservation stressed

Islamabad

June 6, 2020

Islamabad : Environmental experts urged the federal government to urgently activate the national coordination forums among the provinces and the centre adopt and implement the environmental awareness, conservation and protection strategies. Environment seems to be the least priority agenda for all the governments except tree plantation.

The absence of baseline data and situation analysis, no appropriate action plan could be derived out.

The speakers pointed out the absence of technical staff to handle the cases of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), financial resources and capacity to handle the local environmental management plans need to be addressed on high priority.

The international webinar was organised by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) and DTN jointly to mark the World Environment Day (WED) on Friday. The title of the webinar was 'Celebrate Biodiversity: EPAs role in environmental protection and improvement'.

The panel of experts included Environmental Law Expert from Lahore Ahmad Rafay Alam, Senior Director WWf-Pakistan Rab Nawz, Director General Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency Dr Farzana Altaf, Dr Zahoor Bazai from University of Balochistan, Environment and Community Development expert from Mexico city Norma Mongia, Prof Shan Wang from Xi'an University (China), Community Development Expert (Pokhra-Nepal) Nima Gurung, policy researcher, and Environmental Advocacy Expert Mome Saleem, Director AJK Environmental Protection Agency Shafiq Abbasi, Additional Director General of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) Waqar Hussain, Baltistan Natural Resource Management Expert, EvK2CNR Arif Hussain, Khalid Rasul from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and the founding director general of Pak-EPA Asif Shuja Khan.

Devcom-Pakistan and DTN director Munir Ahmed said the devolution of environment to the provinces has weakened the environmental awareness, conservation, and protection regime in Pakistan. Sub-national environmental authorities are can easily be influenced for the approval of faulty and weak EIAs impacting local nature cover and natural resources and biodiversity. COVID-19 has been more merciful and a blessing to us and the environment around us by restricting people to their homes, stopping almost all type of transportation that has resulted in cleaner air and natural resources.

Environmental Law Expert from Lahore Ahmad Rafay Alam said we need to revisit the environmental legislation and build the capacity of EPAs to understand and comprehend the relevant legislation while approving the development projects. The government projects have merely no EIAs that have huge impact on the environment and biodiversity. Unfortunately, we have no national regime intact and active for the last many years to prevent the environmental degradation.

Asif Shuja Khan called for a national coordination forum and proactive decision making to protect the environment and biodiversity.

He also urged to develop mechanisms to address transboundary environmental issues. We don't see any meeting of the Inter-provincial coordination ministry on the environment and climate change. The highest national platform Environment Council of Pakistan is dormant for ten years now though it still exists in the papers.

Dr Farzana Altaf said the EPAs have limited authority and mandate after the 18th amendment in the constitution. She urged the civil society to come up with awareness and support to conservation and protection of the environment. We cannot stop development, she said.

Senior Director WWF-Pakistan Rab Nawz we are fast losing biological diversity just because of the negligence by the authorities. The environmental crimes go on unchecked resulting huge loss of nature and natural resources. The EPAs should be well equipped with technical and financial support with some authority.

Environment and Community Development expert from Mexico city Norma Munguia asked to promote the community based management of natural resources. It would enhance the ownership of the communities that would come up to protect their resources. Environmental protection is on low priority all over the world as compare to unsustainable development.

Xi'an university professor Shan Wang while sharing the experiences from Chinese community said we have strict environmental legislation, and the world has seen that we have improved our environment.

We achieved it with the participation of communities and responsible behavior of the businesses.

Dr Zahoor Bazai said Balochistan EPA is playing proactive role in environmental monitoring and protection within its limited authority and resources.

Mome Saleem asked for appropriate EIAs and getting the civil society engaged in the approval of the environmental assessments, and consistent monitoring of the development projects. We don't have stakeholders' coordination mechanism.

Nima Gurung community intervention is very important in conservation and protection of environment.

Shafiq Abbasi asked to attach monetary value to the biodiversity conservation. Community should come up to raise the local awareness for the environmental protection.