The need for an effective Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to mitigate losses in the national budget for environment protection was underlined by experts during a daylong awareness seminar held here on Tuesday.
The seminar was jointly organised by the Planning Commission of Pakistan and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and funded by the Dutch embassy, to raise media’s awareness on EIA and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) directives.
EIA and SEA directives and procedures help to ensure that the environmental hazards of new constructions are kept in mind before authorising new developments.
Participants at the seminar acknowledged the imperative role the media plays in educating people while serving as the overseer of both private and public sector policies. Planning Commission Environment Section Chief Dr Aurangzeb Khan said that according to estimates, approximately Rs1 billion in losses are being incurred on the national economy on a national basis due to environmental degradation. He stressed on improving EIA quality and SEA application for sustainable development.
Environmental Protection Agency Director General Asif Shuja Khan said that the environment should be dealt as a national issue and policymakers should be educated to ensure sustainable development. After the devolution of the ministry to the provinces of the 18th Amendment, several environment protection programmes slipped through the cracks. A number of donors also backed out of their commitments after, according to Asif, the federal government did not deal with key environment issues.
Ministry of Disaster Management Director General Javed Ali Khan added that EIA does not oppose development, but contributes in making it more sustainable. He said collective efforts by government departments, civil society and the media are required to protect the environment and ensure sustainable development.
First Secretary of Environment and Water, Netherlands Jan Willem Cools emphasised the role of media in raising awareness about EIA and SEA, saying that the media must play a dual role of awareness raiser and policy overseer.
Former Minister of State for Environment, Malik Amin Aslam recommended that both directives should be part of the initial project rather than being included at the time of execution. “If SEA had been implemented for the CNG policy, we would not be in this crisis”, he declared.