Degradation in the environment is causing about Rs1 billion in losses to the national economy annually. This was said by Planning Commission Environment Section Chief Dr Aurangzeb Khan at a seminar here on Tuesday.
At the seminar, experts highlighted the need for an “effective” Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of commercial activities and mega development projects to mitigate losses in the national budget.
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 environment ministry to the provinces, several environment protection programmes slipped through the cracks, he said. A number of donors also backed out of their commitments after, according to DG 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 is required to protect the environment and ensure sustainable development.
Netherlands First Secretary of Environment and Water, Jan Willem Cools, emphasised on the role that media can play in raising awareness about EIA and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), saying that they must play a dual role of awareness raiser and policy overseer. EIA and SEA directives and procedures help ensure that the environmental hazards of new constructions are kept in mind before new developments are authorised.
Former environment minister Malik Amin Aslam recommended that both directives should be part of the initial proposal 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.
The seminar was jointly organised by the Planning Commission of Pakistan and International Union for Conservation of Nature and funded by the Dutch embassy, to raise media awareness on EIA and SEA directives.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.