ISLAMABAD: Having last published in 2008, the premier environmental protection body has failed to publish its ‘annual’ report for the past nine years and has been unable to literally ‘throw the book’ at environment violators.
The State of the Environment (SoE) report covers the environmental condition of land, air, water, issues of biodiversity and urbanisation, solid waste management, chemical and hospital waste, and desertification besides discussing policies and laws related to environment and sanitation. The Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) is mandated under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act to publish its report every year.
“The SoE report, which outlines environmental threats and challenges facing the country, has not been launched,” a former director of the Pak-EPA told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
When asked about the long delay in publishing a report, he said initially they lacked the funds to produce the report. Later, after the devolution of the environment ministry under the 18th Amendment in 2010 further put the agenda on the backburner.
The matter subsequently slid down on the agency’s priority list owing to a lack of interest and capacity coupled with inefficiency, unprofessional attitude and missing priorities. To make matters worse, the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) too never followed up with the agency on publishing the SoE report.
“The SoE serves as a tool to monitor compliance and enforce regulations, environmental policies and also assist in informing decision-making and harmonising policies with international standards and classifications,” an MoCC official told The Express Tribune.
An insider at the MoCC said that two years ago when former of Pak-EPA director-general Dr Khurshid Ahmed was in charge, the provinces had provided their input for the study. But after he was transferred to the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) — a regional intergovernmental organisation — the issue of gauging environmental problems and determining their possible solutions to has further slid down the ministry and Pak-EPA’s priority list.
An official in MoCC’s Environmental Wing told The Express Tribune that the report was due to be published in 2014, but the process stalled after Dr Ahmed was transferred in mid-2015.
The agency was temporarily placed under the control of MoCC Environment DG Irfan Ahmed. During that time, the SoE report was put on the backburner since the environment official was of the view that the report had technical mistakes and could only be published once the corrections are made.
Two years on, those mistakes have yet to be corrected.
Last year, the government had appointed Farzana Altaf Shah as the new director general of Pak-EPA. It is reported that she has the full backing of MoCC minister as well as that of MoCC Secretary Syed Abu Akif.
Shah hired a consultant to gather data from provinces.
“The draft of the SoE report is ready and consultative meetings will be conducted within a couple of weeks and [the report] shall be finalised by end of November,” Pak-EPA director general Shah told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2017.