Environmental degradation in Pakistan
By Haroon Mustafa Janjua
to the limited resources at its disposal, government efforts
alone are not sufficient enough to address challenges
resulting from climate change.
A much larger
participation and support from other stakeholders is needed
to effectively respond to climate issues.
need to be the linchpin of all development considerations on
Major environmental issues
currently confronting Pakistan include climate change,
water, energy, pollution and waste management, salinity and
water logging, irrigated agriculture, biodiversity and more
that are too numerous to count.
Pakistan, being one of the
highly vulnerable countries to climate change impact, has to
bear the brunt of its effects.
Environmental hazards have
become a major global issue this century. These hazards are
impacting the national, social and economic landscape. Rapid
economic development and man-made interference in the
natural systems are the chief reasons behind this problem.
Climate change threats to Pakistan are considerable increase
in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events coupled
with erratic monsoon rains causing frequent and intense
floods and droughts, projected recession of the Hindu
Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan glaciers due to global warming and
carbon soot deposits from trans-boundary pollution sources,
threatening water inflows into the Indus River system,
increased siltation of major dams caused by more frequent
and intense floods, and increased temperature resulting in
enhanced heat-and water-stressed conditions, particularly in
arid and semi-arid regions.
All these factors are leading towards reduced agricultural
productivity, decrease in the already scanty forest cover
from too rapid a change in climatic conditions to allow
natural migration of adversely affected plant species, and
increased intrusion of saline water in the Indus delta that
is adversely affecting coastal agriculture mangroves and the
breeding grounds of fish.
Pakistan is a natural
disaster-prone country — in recent years it has had to face
one of the worst floods in its history and a major
earthquake in which the government struggled to overcome the
The fast growing population poses a significant challenge
for Pakistan. The existing environment management capacity
cannot sustain such a large population while providing a
good quality of life. Despite the devolution of the federal
ministry of environment and transfer of more powers to the
provinces, the state of environment has been in a shambles.
After the devolution of the federal ministry of environment
on June 28, 2011, the ministry of disaster management took
over the responsibilities of the environment sector at the
Due to the limited resources at its disposal, government
efforts alone are not sufficient enough to address
challenges resulting from climate change. A much larger
participation and support from other stakeholders including
industry, civil society and the public at large as well as
donors is needed to effectively respond to climate issues.
Environment related factors cause roughly one third of all
child mortality in Pakistan, the highest rate in South Asia.
Diseases like diarrhea and typhoid, caused by inadequate
water supply, sanitation and hygiene are other significant
types of environmental damage that make 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 salinisation, erosion, and water logging, which
has a drastic affect on the livelihoods of people in the
The government allocated a total of Rs 58.8 million to
combat climate change in the public sector development
programme for 2013 to 2014 as compared to Rs 168.1 million
allocated to the climate change ministry in 2012 to 2013.
The ministry has now been transformed into a division.
officials say the move may have serious repercussions on
different sectors in the country including agriculture,
water and forestation besides losing representation at
international forums. International donors and organisations
working on climate change are also unlikely to support
Pakistan in dealing with this reality.
Pakistan may face isolation in the international community
if it does not take effective measures to cope with changing
weather patterns to halt this highly dangerous threat.
All development may go waste if we do not keep in view the
concerns of climate change in the country while constructing
dams, roads, canals and bridges. Non-availability of
international funding is due to inefficiency in dealing with
An estimated 250 million gallons of untreated water out of
Karachi is dumped into the Arabian Sea every day, causing
great harm to both humans and the ecosystem.
Pakistan is also losing its representation on international
forums for addressing this issue, mainly because of official
apathy. Representatives from India and Bangladesh
effectively fought their case at the Bonn Conference to seek
international funding but there was no official
representative from Pakistan to present a case, which was
Development and growth in Pakistan are based on utilisation
of natural resources but the pressures of population growth
and a consequent increase in demand and poverty can all take
a heavy toll on environmental assets.
Pakistan needs to strengthen its policy, 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
Despite increasing international attention, the
environmental degradation issue is severely harming the
public space and the state alike on policy fronts.
Pakistan falls in the most vulnerable categories of climate
change but we are doing nothing to cope with the challenge.
The government should revive the climate change ministry and
develop different viable projects to seek international
funding for them. It is high time to tackle these problems
failing which not only will the environment further
deteriorate but also the food security of the country will
come under severe threat.