Misplaced priorities : Less than 1% of Sindh budget allocated for environment

This is despite the fact that over 1,000 people died in Karachi in the heatwave last year

SHEHARYAR ALI June 12, 2016
This is despite the fact that over 1,000 people died in Karachi in the heatwave last year . PHOTO: INP

KARACHI: Despite having witnessed deaths of over 1,000 people last year due to the heatwave in Karachi alone, the Sindh government does not seem to be bothered about environment at all. The allocation in this year’s provincial budget for environment is less than 1% of the total budget.

In the budget for the fiscal year 2016-2017, the provincial environment department was allocated only Rs155 million in the annual development programme, which is Rs10 million more than last year’s allocation. Interestingly, the amount is just 28% of what has been allocated for the reconstruction of the two-kilometre-long Tariq Road.

Five environment-related projects have been mentioned in the budget documents, with an estimated time of their completion between 2017 and 2019. Of these, four projects were conceived earlier in 2012 and in the following years. Not a single penny has been spent on these ‘ongoing projects’.

The four ongoing projects, having an estimated total cost of Rs0.3 billion pertain to the study of environment and health impacts of pesticides and chemical fertilisers (approved on May 15, 2012), strengthening of environmental monitoring system (approved on October 29, 2013), environmental awareness and education for protection and conversation of natural resources (approved on October 29, 2013) and establishment of regional offices for environment protection agency in three cities of the province (approved on December 10, 2015).

The one new project introduced this year, which is related to the establishment of environment information system, is estimated to cost Rs218 million. The amount allocated for it this year is Rs54.5 million.

With world temperature increasing over the years, the government has failed to counter climate change with its existing environment policies and bodies. Not a single megaproject has been announced on priority basis to counter the menace of global warming.

According to ecologist Rafiul Haq, environment issues never get to the agenda of the government perhaps because no revenue is generated through them. “Our cities have been turned into a concrete jungle and this is the reason we have failed at countering climate change.”

Coastal development

Meanwhile, the government has allocated Rs300 million for its coastal development programme. This amount goes to five schemes — four new and one ongoing.

The ongoing scheme is about improving major fishermen settlements and rehabilitation of flood-affected areas in the costal belt around Thatta and adjoining areas.

Among the rest of the four, two pertain to study projects on sea intrusion impacts and development of a particular island in Keti Bunder. The two others include construction of office building of the coastal development authority and production of palm oil in the coastal belt.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2016.


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