LAHORE: The government has allocated Rs350 million for the Environmental Protection Department in the Annual Development Programme for 2012-13, representing the continuing relegation of pollution control as a low priority in the province.
The development budget for the EPD is the same size as in the previous financial year and is thus lower than last year in real terms, taking inflation into account. However, Rs256 million of the Rs350 million 2011-12 budget, or 73 per cent, was surrendered to the Finance Department unspent.
In 2007-08, before environmental protection was devolved to the provinces, the budget for the department was Rs1.15 billion. It was reduced to Rs1 billion in 2008-09, to Rs500 million in 2009-10, and Rs335 million in 2010-11.
EPD Secretary Saeed Iqbal Wahla said that the reduced budget was a result of scarce resources as well as his department’s incompetence. “The mechanism has been such that projects get delayed. Most of our staff has also been reluctant to spend funds for ongoing projects or take responsibility for new projects. They are lazy,” he said.
The secretary said that he would improve the utilisation of funds. “If I remain in the office, I will make sure that every allocated rupee is spent on the project. I will ensure full utilisation of funds,” he said.
No new schemes are specified for the EPD in the 2012-13 budget, but it includes an unapproved block allocation of Rs173 million that Wahla said would be spent on four new projects: to establish cells for testing drinking water quality at Lahore and Multan, and to establish a directorate for hospital waste management and one for preventing environmental hazards from industrial accidents. Wahla said the EPD would design the PC1 for the projects and then seek funding from the Finance Department.
Another Rs130 million has been allocated for ‘fast-moving’ schemes that the EPD would plan over the course of the year. The rest of the budget is for ongoing schemes, including Rs5 million to establish an air quality monitoring system; Rs 5 million for community-based environment improvement programmes; Rs3.2 million to build capacity for the conducting of initial environmental examination, environmental impact assessment, environmental assessment and life-cycle assessment reports; Rs3.9 million to set up a legal cell at the EPD; Rs14 million to build the capacity of stakeholders to mitigate climate change and carbon credits; Rs10 million for the development of biodiversity parks in collaboration with district governments and business communities; and Rs5 million for collaborations with educational institutions for environmental research.
Two projects – for the establishment of an EPD resource centre in Johar Town and capacity building and recruitment of field officers– have been shelved and not allocated any money in the budget. Wahla said that EPD officials felt that these were low priority needs.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2012.