By Fateh Ullah Khan Kundi
Unfortunately it’s in the very nature of our ruling hierarchy to never to pursue with determination the desired goals and objectives of any policy or plan after being proposed and passed by the concerned bodies.
To date, all the plans and policies drafted to protect the environment and conserve the resources has resulted in a complete debacle because of either the total absence or the incapability of the enforcing bodies. This has led the common person to live in unhygienic, squalid and filthy circumstances.
In the 60’s era, when developed countries like USA, Japan, UK etc suffered severe environmental problems due to the massive urbanization and industrialization, immediate need was felt to prepare legislation related to drinking water quality, water pollution control, air quality management, noise pollution control, solid wastes and hazardous wastes in order to provide a safe living to the community which we lack even in this modern age.
Compelled by the compliance with the global efforts for the environmental protection and resources conservation, some provisions were made the part of the Pakistan Constitution 1973 in which both the federal and provincial governments were given the authority to initiate and make legislation for the protection of environment.
Later on both Pakistan Environmental Protection Council (PEPC) to develop policies and guidelines and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce them were launched under the promulgation of Pakistan Environmental Protection Ordinance (PEPO) in Zia’s era with covert aim to grasp funding from the international donor agencies like USAID, World Bank etc and not for the welfare of community.
Up to the approval of National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) and preparation of National Conservation Strategy in 1992, no significant event occurred in the environmental history of Pakistan possibly because of the Afghan war. PEPO was revised several times upon the suggestions put forward by the International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUCN) and appeared in the shape of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) in 1997.PEPA is a comprehensive act and contains concrete action plans and programs for the prevention of pollution and preservation of clean and healthy environment. It covers the air, water, soil, marine and noise pollution including pollution caused by motor vehicles. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was launched for construction of infrastructure like roads, highways, buildings, industries and other installations or any change, expansion or repair of same or mineral exploration or quarrying with a statement given that no project may be started without an EIA being carried out and safeguards provided to the effect that proposed project wouldn’t pollute the environment. Import of hazardous wastes into the country was banned and transport of hazardous substances and dangerous chemicals or explosives was regulated through licenses. It emphasized upon the installation of an appropriate mechanism to control the pollution by motor vehicles and hence ensured compliance with NEQS.PEPC was authorized to formulate policies and guidelines while the responsibility to enforce these policies and implement the provision of law was bestowed upon the PEPA. Also the federal government was empowered to prepare rules for the implementation of international environmental agreements and convention to which the Pakistan is a party.
This act is viewed as a major improvement over all the past efforts made but still the desired results didn’t met. In Musharraf’s tenure, a National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) was approved with aim to improve environmental conditions with special focus on clean air, clean water, solid waste management and ecosystem management. The defined function of NEAP was to identify pressing environmental issues especially related to the four major core areas and to propose the type of programmatic remedial actions that can be taken. Also a decision was made that any bank or financial institution wouldn’t pass any loan for establishment of new industry without EIA report.
After all these sincere efforts has been made by our worthy rulers, no positive progress has been clued anywhere. Progress has stalled due to institutional failure on the part of the government policies and practices. In addition to policy ineffectiveness and corruption, Pakistan has not funded environmental protection efforts adequately. Consequently, today a majority of the population does not have access to potable water due to industrial waste and agricultural runoff that contaminates drinking water supplies and are vulnerable to the horrendous waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, bacterial infections, hepatitis, paratyphoid fever, bacillary dysentery, E.Coli infections, Salmonellosis etc. It is estimated that over 230,000 children die a year because of water-borne diseases. The standard of household water in USA is quite good than the packed treated water of Nestle or Aquafina etc over here.
The level of air pollution in Pakistan’s two largest cities, Karachi and Lahore, is estimated to be 20 times higher than World Health Organization standards, and continuing to rise. Islamabad, the capital, is perpetually smothered by a thick cloud of smog that hides views of the Margalla Hills that tower over the city’s tree-lined streets. As industry has expanded, factories have emitted more and more toxic effluents into the air. Also, as in other developing countries, the number of vehicles in Pakistan has swelled massively in recent years. Reports show that motor vehicle exhaust accounts for 90% of the pollutants in Pakistan’s air. Many Pakistani environmentalists say that poor fuel quality is also to blame for the country’s serious air pollution problems. Authorities are looking at the possibility of using alternative fuels (CNG) for vehicles to reduce the air pollution. According to the latest statistics, Pakistan is the third largest CNG consumer in the world after Argentina and Italy. Use of CNG in vehicles is being encouraged to reduce pressure on petroleum imports, to reduce carbon emissions and improve the environment.
The recent outbreak of dengue fever in Pakistan can be addressed as a consequence of poor environmental conditions. It has killed 25 people and affected more than 6000 over the past two months in Lahore. In order to curb this horrendous calamity, we must pay heed to the warning of visiting Sri Lankan experts to keep ourselves, our household and the surrounding environment spotlessly clean and tidy. Also Cleanliness is half of faith.
(The writer is an undergraduate level student of Civil Engineering and freelance Columnist)