Environment: Challenges, Issues, and Policies of Pakistan

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Here below are the main points from the National Environment Policy document issued in June 2005 by the Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan.  After reading the policy document one must realize the alarming situation and the challenges Pakistan is facing about environment.  Not much, however, has been achieved since the policy was issued. 

Key Environmental Issues:

An overview of the key environmental issues facing Pakistan is presented below:

v       Per capita water availability in Pakistan has been decreasing at an alarming rate. In 1951, the per capita availability was 5300 cubic meter which has now decreased to 1105 cubic meter just touching water scarcity level of 1000 cubic meter.

v       Almost all fresh water resources are severely polluted due to discharge of untreated industrial and municipal wastes. Pollution of coastal waters due to waste discharges and oil spills coupled with reduced freshwater flows is resulting in declining fish yields.

v       About 55 percent of population has access to a relatively safe drinking water source. Potable water quality, assessed against WHO standards, fails to meet all the specified criteria, confirming evidence of extremely high pollutant loads.

v       Approximately 35 percent of population has access to adequate sanitation facilities.

v       Air pollution is on the rise, especially in urban areas. Recent surveys conducted by Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency revealed presence of very high levels of suspended particulate matter (about 6 times higher than the World Health Organization’s guidelines). ‘Smog’ also seriously affects almost entire Punjab in winter.

v       Noise pollution has become a serious issue in major urban centers.

v       Of about 54,850 tons of solid waste generated daily in urban areas, less than 60 per cent is collected. No city in Pakistan has proper waste collection and disposal system for municipal, hazardous or healthcare wastes.

v       Degradation and encroachment natural forests, rangelands and freshwater and marine ecosystems are resulting in loss of biodiversity. At least four mammal species, including tiger, swamp deer, lion and Indian one-horned rhinoceros, are known to have become extinct from Pakistan while at least 10 ecosystems of particular value for the species richness and uniqueness of their floral and faunal communities are considered to be critically threatened.  Desertification affects over 43 million hectares of land annually.

v       Pakistan is a highly energy in-efficient country. It uses approximately same amount of energy to generate 1 dollar of GNP as the USA.


The above situation has arisen due to a number of factors including high population growth rate, prevailing poverty, unplanned urban and industrial expansion, insufficient emphasis on environmental protection in the government policies, lack of public awareness and education and lack of institutional capacity and resources for effective environmental management


The objectives of the Policy are to:

Secure a clean and healthy environment for the people of Pakistan.

v       Attain sustainable economic and social development with due regard to protecting the resource base and the environment of the country.

v       Ensure effective management of the country's environment through active participation of all stakeholders.

Reference sources: Pakistan.gov.pk

 guiding Principles:

The following guiding principles shall be applied to achieve the objectives of the Policy:

v       Principle of sustainable development.

v       Principle of equitable access to environmental resources.

v       Creation of demand for a better environment.

v       Respect and care for the environment.

v       Integration of environment into planning and

      implementation of policies and projects.

v       Changing personal attitudes and behaviors.

v       Precautionary principle.

v       Polluter pays principle.

v       Substitution principle.

v       Improving efficiency with which environmental resources are used.

v       Cradle to grave management.

v       Best available technology

v       Decentralization and empowerment.

v       Extensive participation of communities, stakeholders and the public.

v       Accountability and transparency.

v       Increased coordination and cooperation among federal and provincial governments,

NGOs, private sector and academia,

v       Increased regional and international cooperation.

Sectoral Issues:

Water Supply and Management

Energy Efficiency and Renewables

Agriculture and Livestock

Forestry and Plantations

Biodiversity and Protected Areas

Air Quality and Noise

Climate Change and Ozone Depletion

Pollution and Waste Management

Cross Sectoral Issues:

Population and Environment

Gender and Environment

Health and Environment

Trade and Environment

Poverty and Environment

Environment and Local Governance

Natural Disaster Management:

To ensure disaster risk reduction and adequate preparedness for natural disasters, the government shall:

v       Develop a national disaster management strategy.

v       Establish disaster management centers at the federal and provincial level

Multilateral Environmental Agreements:

The government shall continue to play a proactive role to ensure protection of regional and global environment and cooperate with the international community in promotion of sustainable development.

Policy Implementation:

The following key instruments shall be employed for implementation of the Policy:

v       Integration of environment into development planning;

v       Legislation and regulatory framework;

v       Capacity development;

v       Economic and market based instruments;

v       Public awareness and education; and

v       Public-private partnership

Benchmarks and Targets:

The benchmarks and targets based on which the policy shall be monitored are as follows: To 

v    Increase safe water supply coverage from 55 percent in 2005 to 90 percent in 2015.

v    Increase sanitation facilities from 35 percent in 2005 to 70 percent in 2015.

v    Increase per unit GDP (at constant factor cost) per unit of energy use as a proxy for energy efficiency from 27,300 to 27,650 in 2010 and 28,000 in 2015

v    Increase energy production from renewable forms of energy (wind, solar, bio-gas etc.) from the current level of 17 MW to at least 880 MW by 2010 and 17000 MW (10 percent of total national power generation) by 2015.

v    Increase forest cover including state-owned and private forest and farmlands, as percentage of the total land area, from the current level of 4.8 percent to 5.7 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 2015.

v    Increase land area protected for the conservation of wildlife, as percentage of total land area, from current level of 11.3 percent to 11.5 percent in 2010 and 12 percent in 2015.

v    Finalize and notify the standards for ambient air quality and noise by 2006.

v    Increase the number of petrol and diesel vehicles using CNG fuel from the current from 280,000 to at least 800,000.

v    Reduce, by 2010, the percentage of sulphur (by weight) in high speed diesel from 1 percent to 0.5 percent.

v    Establish, by 2015, 40 ambient air quality and 25 water quality stations.

v    Achieve, by 2015, 10 percent reduction in the quantity of solid waste generated in the country.

v    Phase-out two stroke rickshaws from the country either by replacing them with four-stroke rickshaws or alternative modes of transport.

v    Reduce consumption/import of ozone depleting substances

Monitoring Frameworks: 

A "National Environmental Policy Implementation Committee" will be established to ensure effective implementation of the Policy and oversee the progress in this regard.

The "National Environmental Policy Implementation Committee" will meet biannually. The Committee, chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Environment,  shall report the status of implementation of the Policy to Pakistan Environmental Protection Council on regular basis.

An "Environmental Policy Directorate" shall be established within the Ministry of Environment and serve as the Secretariat to the Committee. All relevant federal ministries as well as provincial governments shall also create special cells to coordinate implementation of the policy. Furthermore, Provincial, District and Tehsil-level Implementation Committees shall be established in order to ensure coordinated implementation of the Policy level through effective participation of all stakeholders.

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