Environmental Agenda Unnoticed In Pakistan Polls

By SARFRAZ ALI

Environment has never been matter of concern for Pakistan and the
tendency goes further chronic as all mainstream political parties,
bracing for participation in the forthcoming polls, have placed
environment issues at the bottom of their draft manifestos for 2013
elections.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
adopted in 1992 and entered into force in 1994, and as a result the
adoption of Kyoto Protocol initially in 1997 (which later entered into
force on 16 February 2005), has dubbed it necessary for all to have
more vibrant climate change policies at political and national level
across the world. However, in Pakistan, politics has all glamour but
blind to environment issues.
Indifference on the subject gets more appalling because common people
especially civil society have not bothered to bash political
leadership for downplaying environment matters in their manifestos.
Adding insult to injury, various NGOs engaged in revamping
environmental degradation, government departments and independent
associations, national and international, have also opted out to
remain silent over the situation.
In terms of words, Pakistan claims to be part of global world but at
the time of action, it lacks interest to follow environment protocol
which are accepted and practiced on international front. Even
neighbouring country India has better awakening for environmental
problems and its political parties are so sensitive on the issue that
they have placed climate matters on the top of their manifestos.
Both the Congress, ruling party, and the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP),
opposition, in India – gave fairly significant mention to climate
change and the environment in their manifestos.
The Congress party penned down that “climate change has now emerged as
a serious challenge for the world community” and has committed to
implementing its National Action Plan on Climate Change, released last
June, “in letter and spirit.” The BJP outlined a fairly robust set of
measures as well, stating it will “pursue national growth objectives
through an ecologically sustainable pathway that leads to mitigation
of greenhouse gas emissions, recognising that containing global
warming is essential to protecting life and security of people and
environment.”
In developed world, the UK has set precedents to check environmental
pitfalls. Its main political parties, Labour and Conservative, have
also significant role in this perspective that fully demonstrated
through their manifestos.
So far, political parties in Pakistan mainly ruling party, Pakistan
People’s Party (PPP), and main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim
League (PML-N), looking abuzz to participate in polls have almost
given final touches to their manifestos prioritizing their areas,
subjects and game plan to be achieved after coming into power. Some
coalition allied parties like Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami
National Party (ANP) have even compiled them. It is shame that their
manifestos articulate all agendas but “environment” putting human life
at stake around the globe.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was founded in 1967 by late Zulfikar
Ali Bhutto, but PPP spotted environmental problems during 2002 general
elections when late Benazir Bhutto positioned them in party manifesto.
The same manifesto was incorporated in 2008 general elections. The
manifesto just mentioned them instead putting greater emphasis on
environment to ensure water security, green energy,
environment-friendly policies and environment curriculum in
educational institutions. It also backed the Kyoto Protocol on climate
change and underscored minimizing carbon emissions. The PPP also
formed National Calamities and Disaster Management Authority (NCDM)
and Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency Authority (PEPA),
ministry of climate change and ministry of environment. Since the
policy was inbuilt spiritless and never meant to do something on
practical grounds, half-hearted benchmarks designed to address
environment problems proved as an eye-wash and a farfetched reality.
With similar fashion and mind, PPP’s 13-member manifesto committee is
again on the roll to fine tune its 2013 election manifesto
highlighting five Es: ‘Employment, education, energy, equality,
environment.
According to draft of the PPP manifesto, cosmetic priority has been
assigned to environmental protection and pollution control. It
establishes apparently a number of programmes to combat environmental
issues through Environmental Protection Act introduced in 1996 with
the help of Environmental Protection Agency and enforcing National
Environmental Quality Standards.
A member of committee seeking anonymity said that move to keep
environment issues in manifesto was merely ostentation to catch
international attention and satisfy foreign friends. “There is
something you do not need but you have to carry it as mandatory
protocol to stay afloat on international realm and this is what
happened with environment content in party manifesto,” he revealed.
Meanwhile PPP senior leader and manifesto member committee Taj Haider
said: “Our (new) manifesto is about to complete. It will lay emphasis
on allocating resources to the lower and working classes,” he said.
The PPP’s ally party including Pakistan Muslim League (Q) headed by Ch
Shujat Hussain and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) led by Altaf Hussain
and Awami National Party (ANP) spearheaded by Asfadyar Wali Khan are
also on the same page over the issue.
The PML-Q coined a slogan in their last election manifesto to
introduce a “cycle culture” for a better environment and health, but
contrary to this, their leaders used to drive bullet-proof luxurious
cars instead of cycles. Their new manifesto which is being knitted now
still has also put environment issues on back burner.
The MQM kept the environment problems at lowest ebb in 2002 and 2008
though showed some works in their constituencies in Karachi and
Hyderabad during present tenure. It completed 2013 manifesto under a
committee led by Dr Farooq Sattar, including Syed Sardar Ahmed, Haider
Abbas Rizvi, Mustafa Kamal, Raza Haroon, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Faisal
Sabzwari, Waseem Aftab and Shahid Latif.
Recently, Deputy Convener of the Co-ordination Committee of MQM, Dr
Farooq Sattar while addressing a meeting of the Central Executive
Council of the MQM in Khursheed Begum Secretariat in Azizabad
disclosed that MQM’s manifesto would ensure progress, prosperity and
stability for the country and would bring the real change through its
manifesto. But, he did not hint at environment issue plaguing the
country at full throttle.
Another coalition partner, Awami National Party (ANP) that possesses
parliamentary presence in Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
(KPK), earlier called Frontier specified commitments to environmental
protection like afforestation and eco-friendly urban areas, but so far
no progress is in sight. In present manifesto, compiled by a manifesto
committee comprising the party’s provincial chapter presidents under
Senator Haji Adeel, it is very hard to find priority to environment
issue.
Ruling parties are not alone in the case. The opposition party, the
Pakistan Muslim League-N headed by two-time Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif, has even given a cold shoulder to environment issues in all
manifestos. Currently PML-N senior leader Sartaj Aziz heading
manifesto committee is set to unveil party 2013 manifesto. It is not
surprising that the manifesto does not cater to environment issue
specially climate change, pollution of air and marine habitat, water
quality, biodiversity, invasive plants and animals, eco-system,
unsustainable agriculture, overpopulation and so on and so forth.
PML-N senator and central secretary information Mushahid Ullah Khan,
replying a question said that party manifesto always put on higher
pedestal all environmental related-issues. He claimed that the party
manifesto ensured conservation of existing forests, watershed,
rangeland, and wildlife resources by sustainable utilization and their
development. “It focuses on agro-forestry programs, fast growing,
multi-purpose tree species, private farmlands, aggressive national
plantation campaigns, national parks, game sanctuaries, and game
reserves for the conservation of wildlife,” he elaborated and added
that manifesto also called for controlling water and air pollution,
launching solid and hazardous waste disposal schemes, checking ocean
dumping of waste, medical waste tracking, toxic substances control,
marine protection, and pesticides management.
Pakistan Environment Lawyers’ Association (PELA) president Rafy Aalam
criticized political parties for belittling environment issues in
their manifestos but courageously confessed “Our like environment
associations and NGOs also underperformed as if political parties did
nothing and we also stayed out of the focus.”
He further said: “Had we been in touch with political leadership in
making of manifestos giving feedback on environment issues, they might
have enlisted environment problems in true letter and spirit and this
would have turned as tipping point but we remained dormant.”
Pakistan Eco-Green Society Chairman and Environmentalist Akhtar H Awan
also openly admitted negligence on the behalf of NGOs engaged in
environment-related issues but to control the damage. He said that
letters would be forwarded to political parties to prioritize
environment problems at the top. “We have also plan to hold seminars
and optimize various medium of mass communication to sensitize
political parties over the issue,” he asserted.
Story does not end here, parliament also played a blind eye over the
most important issue establishing the impression that it has nothing
to do with the healthy environment and pollution-free country. “It is
true that ministry of climate change worked nothing except passing a
bill on the issue,” National Assembly Standing Committee on Climate
Change Chairman Dr. Ghulam Haider Samego accepted his inefficiency.
However, there is still a light at the end of tunnel. Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), gearing up for polls, has released environment
policy in its party manifesto 2013 elections. Everyone praised it and
described the PTI gesture with proverb “every cloud has silver
lining”.
The PTI’s environment policy blueprint available on its official
website said “Inappropriate and ill-conceived projects have put under
extreme stress our land, soil, water, forests, and wildlife. High
population growth rate is an additional source of environmental
degradation. Our forests are dwindling, leading to erosion of valuable
topsoil threatening the livelihood of people living in the mountains.
The uncontrolled growth of urban areas with poor sanitation conditions
is threatening natural ecosystems,” it elaborated.
According to the manifesto, the PTI commits to expedite the
implementation of the national environment action plan (NEAP), set up
national/public parks across the country, enforce the Environment
Protection Act 1997 which provides a framework for conservation of
wildlife and biodiversity, establishment of environmental tribunals
and magistrates, inclusion of environmental issues in school
curriculum, and public awareness, design national guidelines and
modules for the development of towns and cities as a planning and
implementation tool for urban development.
Manifesto also introduces and enforce byelaws to control land, air and
water pollution by industry and urban centers, eliminate timber mafia
and ensure transfer of economic benefits to the local inhabitants from
legal logging, ban import of hazardous chemical wastes for recycling
by any industry or for dumping, launch a national campaign of
forestation, develop and implement community-based programmes for
conversion of degraded forests and wasteland into quality forests,
deny exploitation of offshore resources, especially marine life, by
big trawlers, offer incentives to the private sector to invest in
research and development in environment-friendly technology for
application in agriculture, industry and the services sector and
develop programmes to clean our river systems, streams and other water
bodies.
It looks heartening that in a situation all mainstream parties ignored
environment issues; the PTI stands alone for the noble cause. But,
real challenge will surface when the PTI, after coming into power,
will truly translate its words into reality. So time will tell that it
is just an election stunt or manifestation of intention to attend
environment problems.

(The writer is Lahore based journalist. He could be contacted at:
sarfraz1168@yahoo.com )

One Comment

  1. اگر اٹھارہ کروڑ پاکستانیوں میں سے ہر ایک 20 درخت لگائے تو 5 سال کے اندر ہم پانی کی قلت ، گلوبل وارمنگ عالمی حدت ، اور ماحولیاتی مسائل سے چھٹکارا حاصل کر سکتے ہیں۔
    یعنی ہمیں
    180000000 * 20 = 3600000000
    پاکستان میں تین ارب ساٹھ کروڑ درخت اگانے ہیں۔

    you can plant any of the following trees:
    نیم — Azadirachta indica
    شیشم یا ٹاہلی — Dalbergia sissoo
    املتاس — Cassia fistula
    سکھ چین — Millettia pinnata
    کیکر , چیڑ , دیودار , چنار , پیپل ، کاہو ، ارجن ، آم , مالٹا , سیب
    جامن — Syzygium cumini
    سرس — Albizzia lebbeck
    کچنار — Bauhinia variegata
    زیتون — Olive
    بکائن یا دھریک — Melia azedarach
    آملہ — Phyllanthus emblica
    شہتوت
    بیری
    برگد
    جنڈ
    کریر
    سنبل ، پھلاہی ، كیل، پڑتل ، صنوبر ، اخروٹ ، مازو، چلغوزہ

    بلوچستان میں شجر کاری کے لیے موزوں درخت:
    نیم ، کیکر ، کنڈی ، پیلو ، گوگل، بیر ، جنگلی جلیبی ،املی، امریکی کیکر ،
    tropical almond

    ساحلی علاقوں میں سمندر کے ساتھ ساتھ تمر یا مینگروز کے پودے لگانا سمندری ماحولیات کے لیے بہت بہتر ہے۔

    صوبہ سندھ کا سرکاری درخت نیم ہے۔
    صوبہ پنجاب کا سرکاری درخت شیشم ہے۔

    Tree Plantation season:
    موسم بہار: جنوری فروری مارچ
    Jan-Feb-March (spring)
    18 Aug: National Tree Plantation Day
    موسم برسات: وسط جولائی تا وسط ستمبر

    آپ مندرجہ ذیل جگہوں پر درخت لگا سکتے ہیں
    گھر میں
    پارک میں
    اپنے ادارے میں
    سکول کالج یونیورسٹی گراونڈ میں
    ہسپتال گراونڈ میں
    سڑک کے کنارے اور درمیان میں موجود خالی جگہ میں
    دریا ، نہر ، ندی ، نالے ، سمندر کے کنارے
    موٹر وے کے اطراف میں
    کھیت کے کنارے
    جنگل میں
    شاملات دیہہ میں
    بنجر زمین میں
    ریلوے لائن کے اطراف میں
    قبرستان میں

    1) Contact your city development authority about tree plantation site
    2) If there is some forest , then plant tree there as it will decrease deforestation
    3) You can also use Google earth to locate suitable place in your city for tree plantation

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