Environmental Issues of pakistan
A number of serious environmental problems are inherent in the country, which are of great ecological concern in terms of its sustainable economic future. These include soil erosion, pesticide misuse, deforestation, desertification, urban pollution, waterlogging & salinity, freshwater pollution and marine water pollution, just to name a few. The major constraint to overcoming these problems, in-fact perhaps the main contributor to their intensity is the population growth, which is very high in contrast to the natural limited resources that are available to the people. Also included in the constraints is the unsustainable use and management of these resources. Around 140 million people live in this country, making it the seventh most populous country in the world. The rate of population growth is one of the fastest and according to estimates it would double in just 25 years (UNDP 1997). What is obvious from this is, if the population continues to grow at this rate, it would take a severe toll in the environment. The reason being that the country is not endowed with the resources required sustaining a huge population. Although it is primarily an agricultural country, the landscape is predominantly arid. Water, already a scarce commodity in most parts of the country, is now facing further shortages. This is also due in part to inadequate distribution and the coercion of the water-tanker mafia. This shortage is hindering the country's potential to develop agriculture. There are limited indigenous sources of energy, fossil fuel reserves are low and there is no great potential in the biomass energy.
The combination of a large population and poor resource environment means that judicious means of energy use and minimum waste systems of production as well as lifestyles must be employed for sustainable development. The picture in Pakistan is however very different in fact totally opposite to this. Energy use is excessively inefficient; Pakistan's GDP per unit energy used is 4.0, which ranks it 69th out of 110 countries for which data is aviablable . (UNDP). This waste of energy is combined with the need to import fossil fuels and as a consequence there is a very low productive per capita use of energy.
The use of raw materials is also inefficient and many reusable resources are discarded as waste. Only 3% of the industrial plants meet international waste treatment standards. There are serious effluent problems and lack of sanitation affecting the natural resources and posing unmitigated health risks.
Poverty and Environment
"With finite fresh water resources on the one hand, and increasing demand, both in quantity and variety of uses, on the other, the need for water resources protection and management has never been greater. Major clashes over dwindling supplies of water May well constitute the source of future conflicts between nations"
(Elizabeth Dowdeswell-Executive Director
UN Environment Programme)
|| Fresh Water Pollution || Marine Pollution ||
The main water sources in Pakistan are rivers, glaciers, rainfall and groundwater. The rainfall pattern is extreme due to the varied topography of the country. Average rainfall is between 50 to 1000 mm but in the isolated northern mountains it may exceed 2000 mm. On the other hand the dry areas receive less than 125 mm on an average. Almost 75% of the country receive less than 250 mm annually. The rainfall is dependent on the two monsoon seasons, the most important being the Southwestern monsoon between June to September. The high temperatures mean that there is high evaporation, which leads to loss of water everywhere.
Pakistan occupies the basin of three major rivers, which is of considerable importance to the country. Indus (70% of total land area), Kharan closed basin (15% of the total land area) and the Makran coastal basin (15% of the total land area) are the three basins, with the Indus basin representing the largest potential. It mainly draws its water from snowmelt and precipitation. The surface waters of the rivers have not been exploited, as they are seasonal and irregular. The Indus Water Treaty (1960) between India and Pakistan has restricted Pakistan's access to the water in the Indus basin, to the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers. The combined annual average flow of these and River Kabul is 178 bil cu m ( Asim R. Khan, M. Kaleem Ullah, Saim Muhammad ). The country also boasts the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world, comprising the Indus, its tributaries, 19 barrages and headworks, and 43 canals (Dr. Noor Ahmad Memon- The News- Rawalpindi Islamabad-26/01/98).
Around 90% of the food and fibre production depend on irrigation. Irrigated land is 82.3% of the total arable land and surface water is mainly relied upon for irrigation. The irrigation water available per irrigated acre has risen to 35% from the 1960s. Out of the water tapped from the Indus basin, only 30% actually reaches the roots of the crop. The majority is either lost in canals or when it is being applied to the fields (PNCS- Where we are, where we should be and how to get there ). 90% of the groundwater is already being used through tube-wells. In any case, groundwater has a higher salt content. When it is used in fields it leaves behind a high level of salts after evaporation, thus increasing soil salinity. According to certain researches, operational water losses are 50 - 60% with the majority occurring in fields, canals and water courses (The News - Islamabad-26/01/98).
Considering Pakistan's environmental scenario, it becomes increasingly obvious that water issues are the most pressing. Human health, agriculture, rangelands, forests, waterbodies, and aquatic life, in fact the whole ecosystem is affected by problems associated with water. Not only is there a scarcity of drinking water but pollution of water bodies by effluents from industries and the sewerage system have compounded the problem.
Almost all chemical waste is dumped untreated into the river system from where it is taken out to sea. A large number of industries discharge deadly and toxic waste into storm-drains, open nullahs or in the Lyari and Malir rivers. These include leather tanning units, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, refineries, chemical, textile, paper and pulp, engineering works and thermal power plants. The Lyari River has become a putrid and toxic gutter due to discharge of effluents. Solid waste also finds its way into the water system. The first environmental assessment study in the country was conducted at the SITE industrial area to record the effect of industrial wastewater on Karachi's vegetation (Dr. S.A. Qadir). The chemical analysis revealed that there were traces of heavy metals such as chromium and nickel in the vegetable samples. Invariably, this showed that that the industries were not using any pollution control measures whatsoever. Untreated industrial waste is not only affecting the environment but ultimately is also having its toll on the country's health, by polluting the water bodies. This renders them useless for human consumption and irrigation. Consequently, it is responsible for the many water borne diseases that plague the country and account for 60% of infant deaths.
The industrial waste is also used to irrigate some vegetable and fruit farms that have cropped up in the Korangi Industrial Area. These fruit and vegetables show a presence of metals and other toxins. A study conducted by IUCN suggests that spinach from Korangi farms contains as much as 87.48 mg/l of chromium (Bhagwandas - Dawn 7/01/98), a lot more than that harvested in other areas.
The discharge of sewage and contaminated water in rivers and water bodies not only affects marine production, use of such water for agriculture results in the contamination of the food chain. In Pakistan, sewage water is re-channelled to irrigate crops, which contaminates them with pathogens. As a result 50% of the crops are contaminated. Groundwater may also be contaminated by untreated sewage. Water borne diseases are the largest killers in the country and health problems resulting from polluted water cost a large amount of money.
Karachi produces discharge of wastewater of 300 mil gallons per day and Lahore 240 mil gallons per day. There are three sewerage plants in Karachi but they are able to treat only 45 MGD (15% of the total wastewater). Of particular interest are the rivers Ravi and Kabul. They have sustained life for thousands of years and the historical city of Lahore is based around the Ravi. Today, Lahore and Peshawar discharge their wastewater into these rivers increasing their BOD level to 193-100mg/l for Ravi. The level allowed by the NEQS is 80 mg/l! There is an annual loss of 5000 tonnes of fish catch from this river. No life exists in it for 7 miles downstream.
Indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilisers ensure that agricultural run-off from fields also contributes to water pollution. Extensive use of agricultural chemicals has already started affecting aquifers.
The climate of the country ranges from heat, humidity and rainfall, either resulting in arid lands or providing favourable conditions for irrigated agriculture. This in turn means a thriving pest population. Estimates suggest that around one-third of the yield is destroyed by pests or disease (Karam Ahad and Dr. Yousuf Hayat Khan -The News, Rawalpindi Islamabad, 12-01-1998). To overcome this problem, pesticides have developed into a major agricultural product (80 % are used on cotton alone). Introduced in 1954 at the onset of the green revolution, pesticide consumption in Pakistan rose from 3677 metric tonnes in 1981 to 14745 metric tonnes in 1991. In rupee terms this equalled 4581 million rupees. By 1996 this had gone up to 43219 metric tonnes, Rs. 9987 million (Karam Ahad and Dr. Yousuf Hayat Khan -The News, Rawalpindi Islamabad, 12-01-1998). An exhaustive study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations found that pesticide use in Pakistan increased 1,169 percent between 1981 and 1999.
When DDT (Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane) was first made in the 1880s it was considered a 'magical' insecticide. Chemist Paul Miller introduced it for the first time in 1938, an act that resulted in a Nobel Prize for him. At that time it helped to save millions of people from typhus and malaria (Karam Ahad and Dr. Yousuf Hayat Khan -The News, Rawalpindi Islamabad, 12-01-1998). Insecticides and pesticides thus became popular both as fight against diseases as well as saving crops from pests. It took around forty years to strike, that these substances also had side effects after Racheal Carson published Silent Spring, in 1962. It soon became apparent that new pests with greater resistance were emerging in addition to soil, air and water being contaminated and predators of the pests being eliminated. The environment and biodiversity of the planet was being destroyed which ultimately might have more adverse consequences.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) study revealed that two million people suffered from pesticide poisoning and 40,000 die per year. Most of these were from developing countries, which have been urged to buy pesticides from corporations from the developed world. The pesticides are carcinogenic and mutagenic causing sterility, low fertility, skin cancer, immune and hormonal system disorder. In Pakistan, pesticide residues have been found in water, soil and even food commodities. The situation is worse here because many of these are either sold under generic names or are fake and adulterated.
The seas have been used as dumps for ages, mainly due to the misconception that they are so large, whatever is put into them gets diluted. However, the truth of the matter is that most of the contaminated water entering the sea has a density different to that of the natural seawater. This means that it does not mix and in fact settles down at the bottom of the ocean as sludge, which may be 1.5 foot deep in certain areas (Bhagwandas - Dawn - 7/01/98).
Much of the water from the rivers finds its way down to the sea, taking with it all the toxic effluents. There have been major changes in the coastal environment in the last 200 years. Some of them are due to natural causes such as the gradual change in course of the River Indus, which moved to the southeast of Karachi. Main causes are diverting the water of the river for irrigation and extensive pollution. The coastal pollution is mainly confined to the Karachi Harbour, which encloses an area of 62 km 2 . It stretches from sandspit in the west to Chinna Creek in the east. A variety of effluents from domestic sources, and waste from visiting ships (estimated 2,500 annually) all contribute to the depressing state of the harbour especially around the Manora Channel. The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) uses 150,000 gallons of seawater for cooling. Liquid waste and hot water from the plant is subsequently discharged into the sea.
Domestic sources of marine pollution:
Rust from shipping yard
Oil and liquid waste from fish processing plants
Spillage of grains
It is estimated that 90,000 tonnes of oil products from vessels and port terminals are dumped into the harbour every year. In addition, there is also the threat of oil pollution from other countries especially the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
An estimated 200 million gallons (Environmental Assessment and Protection of Karachi Harbour, Neville Burt 1997) of raw sewage enters Karachi harbour mainly through Lyari River and Chinna Creek. There is no non-saline (freshwater) input except for the local run-off from rainfall.
Plastic bags are found all over the harbour and are not only an eyesore but also damaging to marine life. A wide-diversity of garbage including wood and plastic are also apparent. The garbage originates from the municipal waste and port activities. Water circulation and wind driven currents concentrate this in certain parts of the harbour, making it unsightly and dangerous to ships as it can get stuck in propellers. It can be expected that there is also significant amount of solid waste, which will have sunk to the bed of the harbour (Environmental Assessment and Protection of Karachi Harbour, Neville Burt 1997).
According to a PCSIR (1999) study, huge amounts of toxic metals have been found in the marine life, such as fish, lobster, crabs and shrimp. The metals include mercury, cadmium, chromium, lead, arsenic, and zinc. Many of these metals are carcinogens and can cause genetic deformities and other fatal diseases. They are mainly released by the industrial estates. Hardly 2% of these industries have the facilities to treat their effluents before releasing.
The results of all of these pollutants are that microorganisms (planktons) consume them and they enter the food chain. An IUCN study of fishmeal (made of locally caught fish) used as feed for poultry discovered that it had 33 ppm of chromium. High levels of chromium were found in chicken and eggs as well (Bhagwandas - Dawn - 7/01/98).
Land degradation puts countless obstacles in the sustainable production capacity of the agriculture sector. Wind and water erosion, waterlogging and salinity, deforestation and desertification all accelerate the degradation process.
"The world is green and beautiful and God has appointed you his stewards over it. He sees how you acquit yourselves " (Muslim)
Forests, scrub and planted trees on farmland constitute about 4.2 million hectares (4.8%) of the country (Forest Sector Master Plan GOP 1992 from Environmental Profile of Pakistan 1998). The majority (40%) of the forests are either coniferous or scrub. Irrigated plantations and riverine & coastal forests make up the rest. 1.78 million hectares is covered by hill forests which include species such as deodar, fir, blue pine, spruce, juniper, chir pine, oak and horse chestnut (The Nature of Pakistan). These forests grow in the watershed areas protecting the fragile mountain ecosystem and helping abate floods and droughts. They are a major source of timber, fuelwood and resin and this, coupled with the increasing grazing requirements is posing a major threat.
The foothill forests (comprising acacia and kau) are also subjected to over-grazing. Shisham and mulberry (in Punjab) and babul and eucalyptus (in Sindh) make up the man-made irrigated forests and are mainly used for fuelwood and timber for the furniture and sports-goods industries.
Although different figures suggest that the per capita use of timber is the lowest in the world, the declining rate of woody biomass is the second highest in the world. Two studies have shown that it is between 4%-6% per year (GOP 1992, Hosier 1993 from Biodiversity Action Plan). Almost 7,000 to 9,000 hectares are deforested every year and this rate is especially severe in the north where the per capita consumption for fuelwood is 10 times higher due to the severe winter. The following factors are the main causes of deforestation.
According to the two studies, consumption for household firewood exceeds production in all provinces except the Northern Areas, which are sparsely populated. Due to the increase in population, consumption would probably go up to 3% per year. Pakistan's woody biomass may be totally consumed within the next 10-15 years.
Another adverse factor is the lopping of trees for commercial purposes. Pakistan has a thriving timber market and many a time; illegal logging takes place to support the market and to make a fast buck. The high price of timber has greatly accelerated forest depletion.
The timber business goes back to colonial times. After partition when the princely states such as Chitral, Dir, and Swat were abolished, the change in rule created a vacuum in the management of the forests. This accelerated the depletion of the reserves. The state had the legal ownership of the forests, however, it disregarded the needs of the local people. While under princely rule, the emphasis of forest management was on supporting the local economy, now it shifted to being a revenue-generating source for the government. Investment in forest conservation was inconsequential as compared to their harvest.
Unrestricted livestock grazing is also a severe threat. Trees have always been chopped down to allow grass to grow, in order to feed livestock. In some cases forests are set on fire for this purpose also and the rate has gone beyond sustainability in many areas. In addition forests are also cleared for agriculture.
Regional case studies also portray a dismal picture. A study of the Siran project area (Hazara, NWFP), shows a 52% decline in the resource between 1967 and 1992. If this continues at the present pace, the Siran forests will disappear by the year 2005 (Archer 1996). Similar cases are present in the Kaghan Valley and Allai Valley. Plantation survival rates are well below the 75 % target set by the Household Energy Strategy Study (HESS).
There is a similar trend present in the mangrove forests of the Indus Delta, which has halved from 2,600 square kilometres in the late 1970s to 1,300 in the 1990s. The depletion is mainly due to the grazing by camels (16,000) owned by the local communities and consumption as fuelwood.
The scrub forest is mainly consumed for grazing, especially in the winter, and reduced water allocation is adversely affecting riverine forests. 50% of the original riverine forests have been degenerated beyond economic viability.
More than half of the remaining mangroves forests, more than two-thirds of riverain forests and more than nine -tenths of remaining coniferous forests have less than 50% cover
These are government figures and discrepancy is usually found in government and actual figures as the government defines figures according to legal rather than biological criteria.
Desertification is a process that turns productive land into non-productive desert. It occurs mainly in semi-arid areas (mean rainfall less than 600 mm) bordering on deserts. The arid and semi-arid rangelands in Pakistan show signs of being strained. The threat of overgrazing, over-harvesting and overstocking of the natural vegetation is aggravating the situation. The change in grazing practices has virtually reduced some areas in the Cholistan desert to sand dunes. According to one estimate more than 60% of the natural grazing areas of the country have production levels lower than one third of their biological potential. More than one-third of the country has been classified as under risk of desertification (45 million hectares). Deforestation, over cultivation, excessive cutting of fuelwood and incorrect irrigation practices all have a share in this problem.
Around 15.9 million hectares of land (18% of total) affected by soil erosion. Out of this, 11,172,000 hectares affected by water erosion, while 4760,000 hectares affected by wind erosion.
Soil erosion is taking place at an alarming rate and is mainly due to deforestation in the north. Water erosion is prominent on steep slopes such as the Potohar track and surrounding areas, an area extensively used for cultivation. Water erosion and poor land management is also affecting watersheds in the upper Indus River and its tributaries. The highest recorded rate of erosion is in the Indus catchment between the Tarbela reservoir and 90 - km upstream where soil loss is estimated to be 150-165 tonnes/hectare/year. Overall, 28% of soil is being lost to water. 14% of the storage capacity of Tarbela was lost within 10 years of being completed. The Indus River carried the fifth largest load of sediment (4.49t/h) in the world in 1990. According to some estimates the Indus is adding 500,000 tonnes of sediment to the Tarbela Reservoir every day, reducing the life of the dam by 22% and the capacity of reservoir by 16%.
Wind erosion has a relatively lower impact than water erosion. However, the combination of the two is more devastating. This reduces the productivity of the land by 1.5-7.5% per year. This affects almost one-fifth of the Punjab.
Waterlogging and Salinity
These problems usually occur together and are a result of intensive and continuous use of surface irrigation. Some experts consider them more important than soil erosion because they occur in the most productive areas of the Indus Basin. More than 2 million hectares of land is waterlogged (JRC 1989d), and the inefficient historical planning of the irrigation system is the culprit. It is 100 years old with unlined canals, resulting in the seepage of water into the topsoil,. Salinity usually follows. When the water evaporates the salts are left behind and the area becomes unfit for agriculture. In over 25% of the Indus basin the water table has risen to 2 m of the soil surface, resulting inn 40,000 hectares of land being lost annually to both these problems. In some areas it has gone up to I m. Over 5.7 million hectares of land are salt affected and 2.4 million hectares is highly saline according to the Soil Survey of Pakistan. The soil of 13.6 million hectares within the Gross Command Area was surveyed, which revealed that 3.1 million hectares (23%) was saline. 23% of this was in Sindh and 13% in the Punjab.
Waterlogging and salinity pose serious threats to the primarily agricultural economy and may also affect the remaining forests in the basin. In any case, the increase in this problem could mean the clearing up of the adjacent forests to make room for more agricultural land.
Because of the gravity of the situation, measures have been taken to rectify this problem as a result of which a large area of land has been reclaimed through the Salinity Control and Reclamation Programmes
Area of the Forest
Forest Area (million hectares)
Total forests, scrub and planted trees 4.2
Natural and modified coniferous scrub, riverain and mangrove forests 3.5
Tall tree forests
Sparse cover (50% cover)
Good quality tall tree (50% cover)
2 (four fifths)
Scrub forests 1.1
(Forest Sector Master Plan GOP 1992)
Land Degradation Process
Land Degradation Process Area Affected (000 hectares)
Water erosion 11,171.8
Wind erosion 4,760.5
Salinity and sodicity 5,327.7
Waterlogging (water table within 1.5 m) 1,554.3
Nutrient degradation 2,218
(Mian and Mirza 1993)
All of the above environmental issues combined with certain others mean that Pakistan is swiftly heading towards more economic instability.
Due to environmental degradation and poor resource management Pakistan continues to suffer economic loss. The impacts of degradation and biodiversity loss on productivity and public health are in the tune of 3% of GDP per year. This however is a conservative estimate and it would be higher if toxic waste disposal, biodiversity, river and coastal resource depletion were taken into account. Health problems due to polluted water have the economic cost of $ 750 million per annum approximately. This combined with air pollution leads to a cost of $ 1.05 billion. Moreover, for an agricultural country, water is of immense economic value. The agriculture sector has been growing at the rate of 20 % for the past 20 years, but this is heading towards a downfall because water and land have been overused and wasted. Loss of productivity and health problems related to water is around 68% of the total negative impact of environmental degradation.
The productivity lost as a result of land degradation is US $ 353 mil/year, according to estimates (Environment Prof.1998). Estimated loss of rangeland productivity is between US $ 90 - 160 million/year. Forests are also of great agricultural importance and their continuous destruction is causing a substantial loss. Forestry had a share of 1.3% in agriculture and 0.3 % in the GDP in 2002-2003.
Fisheries are of great commercial importance as well forming the fourth largest export from the country. Shrimp export form 80% of the total fish exports. The decline in their populations because of pollution and over-fishing is likely to cost the country dearly. 40 species of fish recorded at the coast are considered of economic importance. The amount earned from the export of fish in 1996-1997 was US $ 140 million. However, the situation is now quite aggravating. If the unchecked fishing continues and the pollution is not abated Pakistan is likely to suffer huge monetary losses, something it cannot afford.
Certain other issues of extreme importance in Pakistan also have an impact on the environment. Among these the prominent ones are poverty, urban migration and the growing population
Poverty and Environment
Pakistan is a low-income country and out of 78 developing countries it was ranked 64 th in the 1997 Human Poverty Index, signifying that 34% of the population lives below the poverty line. According to latest estimates, 47.5% of the people live below the poverty line, which means that minimum income per person is Rs. 50. (Dr. Munir Ahmad, Islamic Society of Satistical Sciences - Dawn Lahore, August 14, 1999)
Incidence of poverty in the urban areas is highest in Punjab and lowest in NWFP in the rural areas
Percentage of households below the poverty line in rural areas:
> Punjab 31%
> Balochistan 27%
> Sindh 18%
> NWFP 15%
Incidence of poverty on the urban areas is highest in Punjab and lowest in Sindh
Percentage of urban households below the poverty line:
> Punjab 25%
> Balochistan 23%
> NWFP 14%
> Sindh 10%
Poverty, combined with population increases, land constraints and lack of appropriate technology results in environmental degradation. The degrading environment not only affects population but also the national economy.
The total loss due to environmental degradation is estimated to be 3.4% per annum of GDP (UN 1997).
Factors leading to Poverty
Poverty is a major concern in the environmental degradation of the country. Conversely, environmental degradation and poor natural resource base is the third most important factor contributing to rural poverty (Jazairy 1992).
Pakistan is the 7 th most populous country in the world and 4 th most densely populated. The population is around 140 million and the density is 169.93 persons/km. Birth rate has remained fairly constant since 1947, however, the crude death rate has dropped by 50% resulting in the 3% annual growth rate. The UN estimates that with the same growth rate Pakistan would become the third most populous country in the world by 2050.
This growth combined with the falling quality and quantity of resources, results in resource capture whereby elite groups alter the distribution of resources in their favour and exploit them commercially beyond their sustainable capacity. This ecologically marginalises the poor or weaker groups. They suffer from extreme poverty as a result and either rely on common resources or move to other areas (mainly urban). The resulting high population density in the receiving areas generates further environmental damage and poverty. The poor become vulnerable and fulfil their immediate needs regardless of the long-term impacts of the process through which these needs are met. Scarcity of resources induces parents to have more children in order to have more 'hands' available. Population growths in rural areas means lower farm supplies and consequently people are pushed towards agriculture intensification.
Impacts on health
The poor cannot deal with the impacts of a degraded environment. Their habitats are environmentally vulnerable and they do not have access to many facilities. As a result they are prone to diseases because they reside in low-income houses usually in industrial areas and have little choice in the quality of their nutritional intake. This increases their vulnerability to diseases, which they do not have the capacity to treat. They have minimum access to health services and spend long hours in polluted work places (factories) or work as unskilled labour. In the rural areas also, the poor usually work as labour on somebody else's farm and the incessant use of pesticides and fertilisers increases their exposure to health risks.
Degradation of the urban environment
Urban growth is estimated to be 4.6% per annum. This is mainly a consequence of the high rate of rural-urban migration that contributes to the rapid decay of urban environment. Estimates indicate that 6 million (16%) people are unemployed and this is expected to increase by 500,000 annually. The increase in population, unemployment, and pressure on agricultural lands means migration to urban areas.
The migrants usually are poor and are forced to live in urban slums. Out of the total population 45% of the people in Sindh and 50% in Punjab live in one-room houses. They often are not linked to water supplies and sanitation. The reason is their lack of financial resources and the administration does not provide these because that might give them legal status. They also do not invest in their residences as they either do not have the money or are afraid of being evicted.
When the utility services are not available, unhealthy practices are adopted. Waste is dumped out in the open and becomes a source of water contamination.
Insecure land ownership
It is important to have land ownership security to ensure proper land management practices. Usually, absentee landlords who give it to the landless villagers on lease own land in the rural areas. Since this is for the short term, the villagers have no incentive to invest in soil conservation, afforestation and other such practices. The government also does not provide any incentives to encourage investment in land and resource conservation.
Water contamination causes serious problems and water supply standards set by WHO are rarely met (SDPI 1995). 50% of the population has access to piped water (Dr. Mehboob Ul Haq - 1997) and the rural water supply coverage in 1997-98 was 90% according to an appraisal done by the World Bank (Human Development Index, 2003). However this did not take into account the private sector's provision of potable water.The surveys by UNICEF/Ministry of Health, give different indications. In the 1995 survey by UNICEF (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey), it was revealed that 17% of the rural households have piped water and 52% had family handpumps (Social Development in Pakistan, 1999).
Water quality is deteriorating due to biological contamination from human waste, chemical pollutants from industries and agricultural inputs, salinity and siltation. Piped water also gets contaminated because pipes are laid very close to sewerage lines or open drains and chemicals like chlorine, which is mixed to kill bacteria, corrode the supply lines. 62% (UNDP) or 33% (Haq, 1997) of the people have access to sanitation and only 55% to health services. (Haq 1997, UNDP 1997). In the HDI it is reported that approximately 65% of Pakistan's population has access to essential medicine. 45% of infant deaths have been attributed to diarrhoea and 60% to overall infectious waterborne diseases. 25-30% of the diseases are gastro-intestinal in nature (WHO).
During first four weeks of life
First six months
Before first year
One in ten
(Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 1990-9
Diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and chronic respiratory infections are common in rural areas and areas with a wide ratio of persons per room. Respiratory infections in rural areas are related to smoky indoor atmosphere whereas in the urban areas they are due to increased vehicular emissions and dust from unregulated cement manufacture and construction work.
Hazards to Health within the Urban Environment
Biological pathogens or pollutants within the human environment that impair human health-including pathogenic agents and their vectors (and reservoirs)-for instance the many pathogenic microorganisms in human excreta, airborne pathogens (for instance those responsible for acute respiratory infections and tuberculosis) and disease vectors such as malaria-carrying ( Anopheline ) mosquitoes.
Chemical pollutants within the human environment - including those added to the environment by human activities (e.g., industrial wastes) and chemical agents present in the environment independent of human activities.
The availability, cost and quality of natural resources on which human health depends - for instance food, water and fuel.
Physical hazards (e.g., high risks of flooding in houses and settlements built on floodplains or of mud slides or landslides for houses on slopes.
Aspects of the built environment with negative impacts on physical and psycho-social health (e.g., overcrowding, inadequate protection against noise, inadequate provision of infrastructure, services and common areas).
Natural resource degradation (e.g., soil and water quality) caused by wastes from city-based producers or consumers which impacts on the health/livelihood of some urban dwellers.
National/global environmental degradation with more indirect but long term influences on human health:
the depletion of finite non-renewable resource bases
wastes from human activities that contribute to possible threats to the functioning and stability of global cycles and systems and the increasing frequency of extreme climatic conditions (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions and gaseous emissions that contribute to the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer).
Source: Impact on health of urban environments , D. Satterthwaite; Environment and Urbanization, Vol 5, No 2; Health and wellbeing in cit
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" (Margaret Mead)
Even though the picture is dismal, activities for the conservation of the environment do take place. There are many NGOs working for the conservation of the environment. The Government has also established certain rules and regulations and proper authorities for environmental conservation. Following are a few examples of environmental work.
Mangla Watershed Project 1961
This project was set up to increase the life of the Mangla Reservoir, by the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). After intensive studies, appropriate techniques were underlined to protect landholdings from soil erosion. The landowners were consulted and the watershed area was divided into sub-watersheds, which were then worked upon, according to the degree of erosion, slopes and gullies. The result was a decrease in the sedimentation of the Mangla reservoir by 19%. Now the reservoir's life has increased from 110 to 170 years.
The Wildlife Enquiry Committee (WEC)
In 1969 the government formed the WEC, to recommend the legal and administrative measures necessary to protect the country's wildlife. The WEC drafted legislation on which the provincial wildlife acts and ordinances were enacted and various categories of protected areas were created. The Committee also formed the National Council for the Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW), responsible for coordination and liaison work at the provincial and federal level. The NCCW has had a major role on getting the wildlife concerns incorporated into national policies.
The World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan (WWF P)
The Pakistan Wildlife Appeal, a voluntary organisation became affiliated with WWF-International in 1970 and that is how WWF-P came into existence. One of its first efforts was the recommendation for the creation of the Hazarganji-Chiltan National Park in Balochistan. Since then WWF-P has come a long way and now has a presence in almost all environmental issues. It has now become one of Pakistan's largest NGOs.
Ramsar Convention Signed
The Ramsar Convention is the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat . It was formed to prevent the encroachment into wetlands and ensure their conservation. The Government of Pakistan signed the convention in 1976 and as such has designated 8 wetlands in the country, such as Haleji and Kinjhar lakes.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES)
This convention is a breakthrough to prevent the exploitation of endangered species of wild animals and plants by international trade. Pakistan became a signatory to this convention in 1976, and this provided NGOs working in this sector opportunity to monitor illegal traffic in endangered species.
Indus Dolphin Project (IDP)
In 1977 the Indus Dolphin Project was born after Giorgio Pilleri's scientific expedition (1974) revealed that in the stretch of 170 km of Indus there was a total of only 150 dolphins. This discovery led the government to mark them as endangered species and declare the area between the Sukkar and Guddo barrages as dolphin reserve. The IDP still continues today and has resulted in controlling the decline of this endemic mammal. The numbers have now reached the 500 mark.
Orangi Pilot Project (OPP)
The Orangi Pilot Project is one of the first NGOs in Pakistan to promote participatory development. Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan with a dedicated team energised the residents of Orangi to transform their locality. Orangi was an urban slum in Karachi and its condition was similar to other such urban dwellings. Through the project open sewers were replaced by a low cost sewage system. The residents did most of the work with the OPP staff providing technical assistance. Other programmes in the areas of education, family planning social forestry and microcredit were also initiated. Today OPP and its team are working with 35 such areas and have also been requested by the government to assist the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board in upgrading its sewerage system.
Marine Turtle Conservation Project
The Sindh Wildlife Department started this project in 1980 to protect the turtles that come to nest on Karachi's beaches. It is now in its seventeenth year of operation. The staff collects turtle eggs from the beaches and rebury them in secure enclosures. The hatchlings are then counted, weighed and measured and released into the sea. The project has managed to release 430,000 hatchlings into the sea and tagged 2,000 mother turtles.
Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP)
The main objective of this programme was to bring sustainable development into the northern areas. They aim to maximise the productive capacity of the land through interventions in the field of natural resource management and also enable communities to practice subsistence farming. AKRSP has a clearly defined participatory process and their efforts have borne fruit by changing the face of the northern areas. They have formed over 3000 village and women organisations that have savings of more than Rs. 336 million. AKRSP 's success has been the basis of other programmes such as the National Rural Support Programme and the Balochistan Rural Support Programme.
Torghar Conservation Project (TCP)
This project was started by a group of volunteers in the Torghar Hills in Balochistan to control the illegal hunting of the markhor and urial, which had resulted in marked decreases in the two species. In 1994 an NGO called the Society for Torghar Environmental Protection (STEP) was formed to administer the project. Here too the community participation is visible. The local people were employed as game guards to protect an area of about a 1000 sq. km. Strictly controlled hunting is allowed to provide the locals with an income. There has been a trophy harvest of only 40 animals in twelve years and STEP has been able to enforce a complete ban on unauthorised hunting. According to a survey conducted in 1994 the population of both the species has gone up from 100 animals to 1900.
Kirthar National Park
This park is one of Pakistan's protected areas and also a reason for many controversies. A plan to build the Indus Highway was initiated to link the Northern Areas to Karachi. Part of the road was to pass through the park, which would have seriously endangered its biodiversity. The issue was exposed by the media and NGO such as the WWF filed litigation cases against the construction through the park. These cases forced the government to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, which revealed that the economic benefits of the highway were far less then the negative impacts it would have.
National Conservation Strategy
In the 1980s World Wildlife Fund (WWF), United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and IUCN-World Conservation Union collaborated to formulated the World Conservation Strategy to 'save the world'. After IUCN started its work in Pakistan the government and IUCN worked to formulate the National Conservation Strategy for Pakistan over a three-year period. The NCS is a plan to integrate environmental concerns into Pakistan's economy. The implementation of the strategy started with the formation of institutions such as the Environmental Section in the Federal Planning and Development Division and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Pakistan ratified this convention in 1992 with 161 nations at the Earth Summit at Rio. Consequently, Pakistan became a contributor and beneficiary to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) set up under the convention. It is also taking initiatives in community level projects to conserve biodiversity.
Ghazi-Barotha Hydropower Project
The project has the capacity to produce 1,450 mw of electricity. With this project, the Water and Power Department for the first time took efforts to study the environment and to include environmental considerations.
UN Convention on Combating Desrtification (CCD)
This is an international treaty for collaborative action against damage and poverty in drylands. Pakistan signed this in 1997 and is in the process of developing its National Action Plan to fight desertification, which afflicts about 45 million hectares. A local NGO, Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) is active in this area.
Shehla Zia Case
This was a case filed against WAPDA to halt the construction of a grid station near a residential area. The judgement given was in favour of the citizens and became a landmark decision in the field of environmental law in the country. This case set the precedent for subsequent environmental cases.
Maintaining Biodiversity with Rural Community Development.
IUCN - Pakistan and the Government of NWFP's Wildlife Department jointly implement this project. Rural communities are active partners in this project and over 40 villages were involved in the first two years.
Sarhad Provincial Conservation Strategy (SPCS)
In 1996, The Government of NWFP approached IUCN to formulate and implement the SPCS. This was the principal plan to implement the National conservation Strategy. The strategy has spurred the governments of Balochistan and the Northern Areas to emulate this move.
Pakistan Environmental Protection Bill 1997 (PEPA)
PEPA supplements the 1983 Environmental Protection Ordinance with more functions for the Environmental Protection Agencies, and new laws dealing with pollution. It also rationalises the Environmental Protection Council