Environment degradation causes huge economic losses to Pakistan

KARACHI - Environment degradation, a major cause of poverty, costs the country around 6 percent of GDP, equal to about Rs 365 billion annually and taking its toll on the poor disproportionately. The most significant causes of environmental damage in Pakistan include illness and premature mortality caused by indoor and outdoor air pollution and lead exposure, which represent almost 50pc of the total damage cost, according to the Finance Ministry. Environment related factors cause roughly one third of all children mortality in Pakistan, the highest arte in south Asia. Diseases like Diarrhoea and typhoid caused by inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene are other significant types of environmental damage that makes up about 30 percent of the cost of environmental damages. The remaining 20 percent of the total cost results from reduced agricultural productivity due to soil degradation, particularly salinization, erosion, and water logging, which has a drastic affect on the livelihoods of people of the rural areas. Pakistan's institutional environmental framework has evolved since the adoption of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Ordinance in 1983. Currently, the National Environmental Policy (NEP) of 2005 constitutes the government's overarching strategy for achieving the goals of sustainable development. However, NEP implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations has been slow as evident from the dismal environmental conditions, which are worse in Pakistan than in other similar or lower income countries, particularly when measured in terms of environmental health indicators. Key constraints that hinder the environmental sector's capacity include weaknesses in the institutional and regulatory framework, limited human, technical and financial efforts to overcome this issue. The policy requires that the mainstream environment in the energy sector by firstly, formulate energy conservation guidelines and audit standards. Secondly, strengthening financial mechanisms, institutions and associated policies and regulations to provide innovative lending specially in the demand side efficiency improvement. Thirdly, developing and implementing a plan for conversion of public transport to CNG and finally promoting renewable forms of energy (wind, solar, biomass, biogas, and others) at a wider scale. The Pakistan Environment Protection Act of 1997 transferred environmental management powers to provincial governments. While major environmental policies and guidelines are dictated at the national level by the MoE and Pakistan EPA, it is the role of the provinces to implement and enforce them. However, there is currently little coordination between federal and provincial agencies, and limited coordination between provincial authorities and districts as well as sub district-level authorities. Institutional mechanism needs to be strengthened to involve environmental management agencies in a consultative process for priority setting, development of long-term action plans and assessment of performance/impacts of specific initiatives. Inter-sectoral coordination for the oversight of crosscutting issues as those outlined in the NEP are limited to the establishment of Focal Points within other non-environment ministries. The development of large hydropower resources will involve resettlement of the displaced people and give rise to other environmental and social issues. Similarly, the development of coal mining and coal use in power generation will have local, regional and global environmental impacts. Pakistan needs to strengthen its policy and institutional framework and capacity to mitigate these negative impacts in line with the best international practices. Integrating these practices into the project process from planning to implementation will improve long-term sustainability of these projects. In order to address linkages between environmental protection, sustained economic growth and poverty reduction, efforts will be undertaken to strengthen the institutional capacity for environmental management, consistent with the provisions of the NEP, both at the federal and the provincial levels. This will include providing federal and provincial governments with the tools and resources needed to identify and develop priority setting and coordination mechanisms, increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the national environmental management system, and engage a broad range of stakeholders to continuously improve environmental policies. Taking into account the importance of developing a solid infrastructure base, another priority will be to develop the institutional capacity to manage the environmental effects of the development of infrastructure and key economic sectors. This will include the strengthening of the Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) system and the adoption of environmental management systems. In response to the crosscutting nature of environment, coordination mechanisms will be strengthened to foster collaboration among government agencies to incorporate environmental considerations in the sectors that can have a more important impact in poverty reduction. Areas that will be targeted include the development of policies aiming to enhance industrial competitiveness while simultaneously yielding environmental benefits, through the adoption of practices that foster energy efficiency, quality control, Corporate Social Responsibility Development and growth in Pakistan, is based on utilization of natural resources, pressures of population growth and a subsequent increase in demand and poverty can all take a heavy toll on environmental assets, according to the Ministry of Finance. Conversely, the degradation of natural resources can have a devastating impact on the poor given that they tend to be strongly dependent on the exploitation of such resources. Environment is a crosscutting issue, which runs across all different pillars while a linkage between environmental sustainability and agricultural development, industrial competitiveness and infrastructure planning is concerned.

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