Pakistan loses Rs 365b annually due to environmental degradation

KARACHI: Environmental degradation costs no less than Rs. 365 billion to Pakistan every year, said Federal Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi.

Speaking at the launching cer¬emony of Green Club campaign and Tree Plantation organized by National Forum for Environment and Health, the minister said monetary loss incurred due to environmental degradation constitutes six per¬cent of the annual national GDP
This amount if adequately used to raise public awareness can significantly contribute towards economic develop¬ment, said the minister.

"It is this indifference that we spend Rs. 112 million every year to treat Malaria only" He said referring to the contaminated water home ailment.
The governments over the years, he said attempted to address issues like pollution, deforestation, poverty. however, failed to achieve the desired results."This is mainly because we are great strategists and policy makers but extremely poor in getting enforced the laws," said Hameedullah fan Afridi.

Elaborating his stance, he said despite the fact that since 1993 there is absolute ban on defor¬estation yet since than 155,000 hectares of forest land was declared as non-forest and con¬verted into residential areas. Afridi said "no less than one lac and 11,000 hectares of forest land in Sindh only was used for non forest purpose."
He also acknowledged that on previous occasions important aspects of national development were either totally ignored or did not get needed attention.

"There was no National Forestation Policy till 1992 - 1993 and forestation was treated as a component of National Agriculture Policy:" he said.It is under the Millennium Development Goals that Pakistan must ruing a minimum one million hectare land under the green cover.

For the very purpose federal government will provide assis¬tance worth Rs. l5 billion to all the provinces including Gilgit, ¬Baltistan.
"This is extremely important because massive deforestation has resulted in bursting of Himalayan glaciers and is a cause of destruction to our agri¬culture based economy," said the Minister for Environment.

Equal attention, he said is being paid towards public health with introduction of a National Sanitation and Clean Water Policy introduced after detailed consultation with ail province and relevant stake holders.As for curtailment of atmospheric pollution in urban areas, Hameedullah Jan Afridi said 8000 CNG buses have been acquired for nine mega cities of the country.

"Of these 4000 are for Karachi only and an amount of Rs. 300 million have been transferred to Sindh Government" said the minister adding that State Bank of Pakistan and other relevant organization are in process to get the scheme mate¬rialized.

As for marine pollution. he said besides relevant laws gov¬ernment had only last year undertaken a gigantic and record making plantation task of 542.000 mangrove saplings at the coastal belt of Sindh in one single day with active involve¬ment of local community.

"We have to focus on ade¬quate and relevant forestation in our country. be those in our coastal areas, mountainous regions, plains or even arid zones, so as to achieve atleast the target of six percent forest cover against 24% cover in most of our neighboring countries," said the minister.

Hameedullah Jan Afridi appreciative of NFEH Green Club Imitative said the federal ministry of environment had stared this, only last year, in Islamabad and presently students and teachers of no less than 40 schools of Islamabad and surrounding areas are actively involved in plantation and pollution free environment efforts in their areas.

He advised NFEH to expand the Green Club membership to each and every private as well as public sector, school and univer¬sity of Karachi and Sindh. "Youth constitute more than 50% of our total population mid are an asset who must be involved to prevent our inhala¬tion due to massive and unchecked degradation of envi¬ronment," urged the minister.

Earlier, M. Naeem Qureshi President NFEH, Dr. Qaiser Waheed Chairman NFEH, Tooba Zarif Director I Own Karachi, Shahbaz Ali Baig, Syed Aqeel Tanzim Naqvi, Administrator, Jamshed Town, Azfar Rizvi also spoke on the occasion.

Masood Alam, EDO ¬City Distinct Government of Karachi extensively discussed "I Own Karachi." initiative of the city district government.
He strongly supported efforts to actively involve citizens from all walks of life to make their city clean and pollution free. Students from Rah-e-Nijaat Community Development Center, Manghopir. H.M Public School presented tableaus high¬lighting plight of masses in rural and urban areas due to environ¬mental degradation.