Environmental issues in Pakistan
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Environmental issues in Pakistan have been disturbing the balance between economic development and environmental protection. As a great problem for the nature and nation of Pakistan and as Pakistan is a large importer of both exhaustible and renewable natural resources and a large consumer of fossil fuels, the Ministry of Environment of Government of Pakistan takes responsibility to conserve and protect the environment.
Current issues: Water pollution from raw sewage, industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff; limited natural fresh water resources; a majority of the population does not have access to potable water; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification.
Little attention was paid to pollution. Some are these Related concerns, such as sanitation and potable water, received earlier scrutiny. In 1987 only about 6 percent of rural residents and 51 percent of urban residents had access to sanitary facilities; a Greater success has been achieved in bringing potable water within reach of the people; nearly half the population enjoyed such access by 1990. However, researchers at the Pakistan Medical Research Council, recognizing that a large proportion of diseases in Pakistan are caused by the consumption of polluted water, have been questioning the "safe" classification in use in the 1990s. Even the 38 percent of the population that receives its water through pipelines runs the risk of consuming seriously contaminated water, although the problem varies by area. In Punjab, for example, as much as 90 percent of drinking water comes from groundwater, as compared with only 9 percent in Sindh.
The central government's Perspective Plan (1988–2003) and previous five-year plans do not mention sustainable development strategies. Further, there have been no overarching policies focused on sustainable development and conservation. The state has focused on achieving self-sufficiency in food production, meeting energy demands, and containing the high rate of population growth, not on curtailing pollution or other environmental hazards.
In 1992 Pakistan's National Conservation Strategy Report attempted to redress the previous inattention to the nation's mounting environmental problem. Drawing on the expertise of more than 3,000 people from a wide array of political affiliations, the government produced a document outlining the current state of environmental health, its sustainable goals, and viable program options for the future.
Of special concern to environmentalists is the diminishing forest cover in watershed regions of the northern highlands, which has only recently come under close scrutiny.
The National Conservation Strategy Report has documented how solid and liquid excreta are the major source of water pollution in the country and the cause of widespread waterborne diseases. Because only just over half of urban residents have access to sanitation, the remaining urban excreta are deposited on roadsides, into waterways, or incorporated into solid waste. Additionally, only three major sewage treatment plants exist in the country; two of them operate intermittently. Much of the untreated sewage goes into irrigation systems, where the wastewater is reused, and into streams and rivers, which become sewage carriers at low-flow periods. Consequently, the vegetables grown from such wastewater have serious bacteriological contamination. Gastroenteritis, widely considered in medical circles to be the leading cause of death in Pakistan, is transmitted through waterborne pollutants.
Low-lying land is generally used for solid waste disposal, without the benefit of sanitary landfill methods. Unsound disposal of [Municipal Solid Waste] in Pakistan has reached 95% in 2012. The National Conservation Strategy has raised concerns about industrial toxic wastes also being dumped in municipal disposal areas without any record of their location, quantity, or toxic composition. Another important issue is the contamination of shallow groundwater near urban industries that discharge wastes directly into the ground.
Air pollution has also become a major problem in most cities. There are no controls on vehicular emissions, which account for 90 percent of pollutants. The National Conservation Strategy Report claims that the average Pakistani vehicle emits twenty-five times as much carbon monoxide, twenty times as many hydrocarbons, and more than three and one-half times as much nitrous oxide in grams per kilometer as the average vehicle in the United States.
Another major source of pollution, not mentioned in the National Conservation Strategy Report, is noise. The hyper-urbanization experienced by Pakistan since the 1960s has resulted in loose controls for heavy equipment operation in densely populated areas, as well as in crowded streets filled with buses, trucks, automobiles, and motorcycles, which often honk at each other and at the horse-drawn tongas (used for transporting people) and the horse-drawn rehras (used for transporting goods).
Pakistan is subject to frequent earthquakes which are often severe (especially in north and west) and severe flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August). Landslides are common in the northern mountains.
New data from millennium-long tree-ring analyses are indicating that mountains in northern Pakistan have grown significantly wetter over the past century than they had been over the last millennium — quite possibly due to human-induced global warming. In Karakoram and Himalaya mountains in northern Pakistan, the upper reaches of the Indus Valley (which supplies the world's largest irrigation network), a group of researchers collected samples of Juniper tree rings that dated back as far as 828.
The availability of natural resources is limited by the dry climate and mountainous terrain, substantial population growth is increasing pressure on the resource base, and resource management has suffered from the emphasis on rapid economic growth and often-unregulated forms of economic productivity. As a result, human transformation of the environment is manifest in several problems. Population growth and poor water infrastructure have reduced per capita water availability from 53,000 cubic meters to 1,200 cubic meters, and heavy reliance on firewood has contributed to the world’s second highest rate of deforestation. Poor agricultural practices have led to soil erosion, groundwater degradation, and other problems that have hindered crop output and contributed to health problems for rural communities. Solid waste burning, low-quality fuels, and the growing use of fuel-inefficient motor vehicles have contributed to air pollution that in some cities—such as Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi—has exceeded levels deemed safe by the World Health Organization. Droughts because of dry climate have also effected the economy of the country.
The government has expressed concern about environmental threats to economic growth and social development and, since the early 1990s, has addressed environmental concerns with new legislation and institutions such as the Pakistan Environment Protection Council. Yet, foreign lenders provide most environmental protection funds, and only 0.04 percent of the government’s development budget goes to environmental protection. Thus, the government’s ability to enforce environmental regulations is limited, and private industries often lack funds to meet environmental standards established by international trade organizations.
National Conservation Strategy
The National Conservation Strategy Report has three explicit objectives: conservation of natural resources, promotion of sustainable development, and improvement of efficiency in the use and management of resources. It sees itself as a "call for action" addressed to central and provincial governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local communities, and individuals. The primary agricultural nonpoint source pollutants are nutrients (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus), sediment, animal wastes, pesticides, and salts. Agricultural nonpoint sources enter surface water through direct surface runoff or through seepage to ground water that discharges to a surface water outlet. Various farming activities result in the erosion of soil particles. The sediment produced by erosion can damage fish habitat and wetlands and, in addition, often transports excess agricultural chemicals resulting in contaminated runoff. This runoff in turn affects changes to aquatic habitat such as temperature increases and decreased oxygen. The most common sources of excess nutrients in surface water from non point sources are chemical fertilizers and manure from animal facilities. Such nutrients cause eutrophication in surface water. Pesticides used for pest control in agricultural operations can also contaminate surface as well as ground-water resources. Return flows, runoff, and leach ate from irrigated lands may transport sediment, nutrients, salts, and other materials. Finally, improper grazing practices in riparian, as well as upland areas, can also cause water quality degradation able development of Pakistan is viewed as a multigenerational enterprise. In seeking to transform attitudes and practices, the National Conservation Strategy recognizes that two key changes in values are needed: the restoration of the conservation ethic derived from Islam ix moral values, called Qantas, and the revival of community spirit and responsibility, Aquila-UL-bad.
The National Conservation Strategy Report recommends fourteen program areas for priority implementation: maintaining soils in croplands, increasing efficiency of irrigation, protecting watersheds, supporting forestry and plantations, restoring rangelands and improving livestock, protecting water bodies and sustaining fisheries, conserving biodiversity, increasing energy efficiency, developing and deploying renewable resources, preventing or decreasing pollution, managing urban wastes, supporting institutions to manage common resources, integrating population and environmental programs, and preserving the cultural heritage. It identifies sixty-eight specific programs in these areas, each with a long-term goal and expected outputs and physical investments required within ten years. Special attention has been paid to the potential roles of environmental NGOs, women's organizations, and international NGOs in working with the government in its conservation efforts. Recommendations from the National Conservation Strategy Report are incorporated in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1993–98).
In a recent study conducted by Global CLEAN campaign, it was found that the average temperature in Pakistan had risen by .2 degrees in only 2 years, This is a dramatic change and puts emphasis on Climate Change Campaigns.
- arable land - 27%
- permanent crops - 1%
- permanent pastures - 6%
- forests and woodland - 5%
- other - 61% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 171,100 km² (1993 est.)
There are 14 national parks, 72 wildlife sanctuaries, 66 game reserves, 9 marine and littoral protected areas, 19 protected wetlands and a number of other protected grasslands, shrublands, woodlands and natural monuments.
Pakistan is a party to several international agreements related to environment and climate, the most prominent among them are:
|Treaties and Agreements|
|Specific Regions and Seas||Law of the Sea, Ship Pollution (MARPOL 73/78)|
|Atmosphere and Climate||Climate Change, Ozone Layer Protection, Nuclear Test Ban|
|Biodiversity, Environment, and Forests||Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Wetlands, Marine Life Conservation|
|Rivers||Indus Waters Treaty|
- Geography of Pakistan
- Protected areas of Pakistan
- Health care in Pakistan
- Wildlife of Pakistan
- Environmental issues in Siachen
- Environment Protection Agency, Pakistan
- Resources on Pakistan, Environment and Sustainable Development