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Water crisis getting worse: Imran

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday said a water crisis was likely to hit Pakistan in the coming days and lamented how provinces were already blaming each other for water theft.

He was addressing the main ceremony of the World Environment Day hosted by Pakistan at the Convention Center here.

Telecast globally, the event featured the special messages of Chinese President Xi Jinping, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and address by the Executive Director of the UN Environment Program Inger Anderson besides State Minister Zartaj Gul and SAPM Amin Aslam.

Federal ministers, parliamentarians and diplomats from various countries attended the event.

A huge number of forest guards was also present who earned huge applause from the audience, as the prime minister also lauded their efforts and sacrifices to preserve the environment.

He said apart from measures introduced by Pakistan, some issues needed world’s attention to reduce carbon emission leading to glacier melting posing threats to countries like Pakistan and Central Asia where rivers were fed by glaciers.

"Eighty percent of Pakistan's water comes through glaciers, and glaciers are being severely affected due to global warming .... India and several other countries will also be impacted by this," he said.

He apprised the gathering of his government’s future initiatives including Recharge Pakistan – to divert flood water to wetland to recharge water table and Mangroves forestation which absorb carbon besides others.

The prime minister called on the world to fight back for ecosystem restoration during the next decade and particularly retold the rich countries to assist the poor ones bearing the brunt of their immense carbon emissions.

“Pakistan has minimal contribution to carbon emission. The rich countries responsible for huge carbon emission have the responsibility to at least provide fund so that the countries like ours may fight global warming, improve our environment. The issue is resources gap,” he said.

Explaining resource constraints in Pakistan, Imran said during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pakistan with a population of 220 million could only scrape around $8 billion for relief package, while 330 million nation of United States doled out a package of 4,000 billion to its people.

He said half of Pakistan’s revenue went to debt servicing leaving the government with insufficient resources to support the people’s health, education, security and other expenditures.

He reiterated that the resource-rich countries should support the developing countries in their fight against the climate change.

He said the world had realised that Pakistan was one of the few countries worried about the coming generations.

He particularly thanked the UNEP and UN Secretary General for repeatedly pressing the rich countries to take their carbon responsibilities.

He said Pakistan was also striving to further reduce its already minimal emissions by switching 30% of its all vehicles to electric transmission and ensure 60% of its power generation through renewable resources by 2030.

He said it was an honor for Pakistan to host the World Environment Day, which depicted the recognition of Pakistan’s efforts and inclusion among few countries concerned for a better environment for future generations.

The prime minister also urged the nation, particularly the youth, to take responsibility of the environment-friendly initiatives so that the world could fight back for ecosystem restoration during UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.

He said like the developing countries, the teachers in Pakistan should also teach the importance of trees to inculcate in them the responsibility for environment conservation.

He said unfortunately Pakistan was among those countries where environment protection was nowhere among the government’s priorities.

He recalled that since its inception till the launch of “On Billion Tree Tsunami” in KP in 2013, the country had planted only 640 million trees.

However, the PTI government, after success of One Billion Tree Tsunami, launched Ten Billion Tree Tsunami and also planted first billion of them.

He lamented the massive deforestation particularly at the Changa Manga, Kundian, Chichawatni and Dipalpur forests where the land mafias had occupied the forest land.

He said the UN Decade was an opportunity for the world to correct its course by fighting back the pollution, ensure clean water and reduced carbon emissions.

He seconded the British prime minister’s words that the future generations would have to bear the cost if we failed to protect environment.

The prime minister said COVID-19 pandemic had made it clear that the world was interdependent with nothing bound by borders. Same was the case with global warming which was equally impacting the world in one way or the other, he added.

He said the whole nation would have to realize that tree plantation was good for their children’s future which retain water, clean air, and restore wildlife and birdlife.

He repeatedly called for public participation in the environment projects to make them stakeholders by giving them jobs and incentives, just like the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami which had provided 85,000 jobs so far.

He said the government had developed 15 National Parks and special guards would be trained for their protection.

He particularly lauded the Punjab government for converting brick kilns to zigzag technology to reduce the pollution level.

Geo adds: In an interview with a UK-based international wire agency, Imran said the world's richest countries had not done enough to combat global warming, while Pakistan had done more to combat rising emissions relative to its economic means.

"Has the developed world done enough? The answer is no," he said.

"Emissions are from the rich countries. And I think they know they haven’t done enough."

In a report released on Friday, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said over the last five years Pakistan had experienced an environmental turnaround after years of decline in its natural capital, but more needed to be done.

He had said developing countries like Pakistan had done "more than enough" to combat global warming and climate change despite having limited budgets and an array of problems to deal with such as in education and health.

"To take so much money out as we did – proportionate to our GDP and available income – I think Pakistan has done more than any country in the world," he said.

Aside from ecological restoration projects, Pakistan has also recently become active on the global green finance market, looking to access finance for environmentally-friendly projects and decrease its reliance on fossil fuels.

He said global green financing and valuation of natural assets provided good incentives to the developing world to protect the environment.

"If you can prove to the people that by protecting your environment you can actually gain something as well, that means you have more buy-in from the people," he said. "Remember: hungry people do not really care for the environment."

State Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said having planted first billion trees, the government was fully prepared to plant rest nine billion trees.

The government was also about to launch a food security program for South Punjab besides introducing a bill to encourage the youth’s participation in tree plantation by giving them an incentive of 20 marks in their studies, she added.

SAPM Malik Amin Aslam said Pakistan had also increased the protected areas by engaging the population.

He also highlighted the Green Bond and Nature Bond initiatives of Pakistan to provide the country with accelerated access to development financing and debt relief in exchange for meeting ecosystem restoration targets.

Earlier, in his message read out by Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong, Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated the government and people of Pakistan for hosting the global event.

He said the ecosystem restoration was essential in order to live in harmony with nature. He called for international community’s role for environmental protection and ensure the sustainable development.

Reiterating China’s commitment to environment preservation, Xi appreciated the Government of Pakistan for environment-friendly initiatives and said that his country was ready to work with the host country on the subject.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his video message also spoke high of “Ten Billion Tree Tsunami” project saying, “I salute what Prime Minister Imran Khan is doing. I think 10 billion trees is a huge campaign,” he remarked.

He viewed that the COVID-19 pandemic was Mother Nature’s revenge on humankind which could not maintain balance with the nature. He called for redoubling the efforts to ensure environment protection and make a balance with nature.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in his video message, said the world was rapidly reaching the point of no return for the planet.

He said the world was faced with a triple environmental emergency — biodiversity loss, climate disruption and escalating pollution.

He said climate change was risking the world in form of shortage food, water and resources as degradation of the natural world was already undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people – or 40 per cent of humanity.

He said the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration would help create millions of new jobs by 2030, generate returns of over $7 trillion dollars every year and help eliminate poverty and hunger.

“So let today be the start of a new decade in which finally we make peace with nature and secure a better future for all,” he remarked.

Executive Director UNEP Inger Anderson said the UN Decade was aimed at reversing the damages caused by the world to the environment.

“Pakistan is showing us a way. Prime Minister Imran Khan recently planted one billionth tree of Ten Billion Tree Tsunami. Bravo to all,” he remarked.

She said the test for Pakistan and all nations was to build the momentum and fulfil their commitment.

Referring to an analysis of Pakistan’s growing inclusive wealth due to forestation, she said Pakistan’s economy was moving in the right direction.

She urged Pakistan to keep delivering on its ambitious commitments and encouraged all other nations to follow Pakistan’s leadership and make this decade a roaring success.

President Word Economic Forum Borge Brende said more than half of the world’s GDP was highly dependent with the nature. He said by 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people would suffer absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world will be living under water shortages.

He said the UN Decade was set to unleash a global ecopreneurship for ecosystem restoration. He said the WEF offered youth leaders and innovators of all natures an opportunity to share their best solution for ecosystem restoration.

The event also featured musical performance of artists from Balochistan on theme song of World Environment Day as well as Abrarul Haq who thrilled the audience through his hymn “Tere Rang Rang.”