Are we aware as a nation to evaluate our environmental performance, knowing the fact that we are living in a green land country which is famous due to its large mountainous ranges and diverse topography? Are we putting our plans and policies for getting a sustainable environment? Can we think about a vision of our future environment by holding nonfunctional analytical monitoring units due to non-funding? The answer is simple unfortunately we are a weak environmental performer.
Traditional environmental issues like polluted air, dirty water, solid waste management, land pollution, deforestation and loss of biodiversity in the headlines of our free media. But where is the calculation and evaluation of these issues. As we know that our environment is now in the provincial hands after the devolution of federal environmental ministry but we need consistent strong hands for our future sustainable environment.
Pakistan emerged as weaker performer in terms of key parameters of environment in the most recent 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) published by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Yale University. Pakistan ranked 120th among 132 countries in “weaker performer” category of Environmental Performance Index (EPI) report and this low rank is a wake-up call for our provincial hands. Also Pakistan ranked 72nd in Trend EPI in “little to no change” category.
The EPI and the Pilot Trend Environmental Performance Index (Trend EPI) ranked countries on 22 performance indicators spanning ten policy categories and among all countries Pakistan ranked among world countries as (Environmental Health 116, environmental burden of disease 115, water effects on human health 97, air pollution effects on human health 129, air pollution ecosystem effects 65, water resources ecosystem effects 123, biodiversity and habitat 69, forests 127, fisheries 81, agriculture 26 and climate change 48) reflecting facets of both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality.
The performance regarding environmental health is getting affected due to higher level of air pollution, water pollution and environmental burden of disease to human health. The encouraging and positive news is that the Trend EPI score is low rather than EPI score. But the bad news is that Pakistan is marching towards negative effects due to air pollution, water resources, biodiversity and habitat, forests, fishers and climate change effects for ecosystem vitality getting 86 trend EPI score which is more than EPI score of 82.
According to the 2012 EPI report, Pakistan having environmental performance index ranking similar o the ranking of Nigeria, Ghana, Myanmar, Peru and Togo. But for trend performance score which evaluates the environmental performance over the last decade (2000-2010) Pakistan ranked among Israel, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Austria. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2012-13, like other developing countries, Pakistan is also facing environment problems mainly due to demographic growth, lack of public awareness and education, catastrophic mismanagement of water and other natural resources and ill planned urban and industrial expansion.
Therefore, the strategy to realize accelerated GDP growth cannot afford to neglect the environment and climate change impact on the economy.
The MDGs are the centerpiece of development efforts of the Government of Pakistan. Forest in Pakistan covers 4.224 million hectares, 5.2 per cent of the total land area of 87.98 million hectares which has slightly shown an increase. Over 150,000 ha of former forestlands, since converted for non-forestry purposes have also reduced the forest cover.
The area protected for conservation of wildlife is 11.5 per cent and MDG 2015 targeted 12 per cent. About 2800 thousands of petrol and diesel vehicles are using CNG fuel but MDG 2015 targets reduction up to 920 thousands. Urban air quality in Pakistan is alarming as 90 per cent of total emissions of hydrocarbons (smog and carbon monoxide) due to vehicle emissions.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics report, Pakistan Standard Living Measurement (PSLM) 2011-12, access to drinking water is 89 per cent with MDG 2015 targets of 93 per cent. Access to sanitation is 72 per cent for total population within country with MDG 2015 targets of 90 per cent. According to Environment Section, PandD Division, we just have one federal air pollution monitoring stations, 5 Environmental Protection Tribunals, 7 Fixed Air Quality Monitoring Stations, 3 Mobile Air Quality Monitoring Stations, 5 Analytical Laboratories. But all stations are nonfunctional due to non-funding and there is no MDGs 2015 targets which is unfortunate for environmental performance measurement aspect.
So what we need now for Pakistan to become a stronger environmental performer? Incentive base environmental programmes will be helpful for the involvement of public. The Pakistan government should introduce the concept of green investment and green jobs. We should formulate an updating environmental database for academic research. We need political ownership for the implementation of proposed mitigations of environmental problems. But Pakistan cannot be a strong environmental performer by keeping accuses of nonfunctional environmental analytical laboratories and air quality monitoring stations due to non-funding.
The author is doing PhD in Occupational Health Safety Environment and is associated with the Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Meteorology, Environment and Arid Land Agriculture, King Abdul-Aziz University, Abdullah Suleiman Street, Al Jamiaa Area, Saudi Arabia