Environment sector handed third straight budget cut

Most development projects in the environmental sector approved between 2012 and 2016 have yet to be completed


Oonib Azam May 12, 2018
A new scheme had been introduced in last year's budget under which the government was to initiate a study on the impact of sea intrusion. The scheme has been wiped off this year. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS/FILE

KARACHI: Despite the fact that environmental conditions are worsening in Sindh and the temperature climbed up to as high as 50° Celsius in Nawabshah on April 30, the environment does not seem to be a cause for concern for the Sindh government as funds for the sector were decreased for the third consecutive year in the Annual Development Programme (ADP).

An environmental expert, Christopher Burt, claimed that the temperature recorded in Nawabshah was the highest April temperature that was reliably observed on the planet in modern records.

The allocation for environment, climate change and coastal development in the ADP for the coming fiscal year is a mere Rs375 million. In the 2017-18 budget, Rs400 million was allocated for the environment after a decrease of 12% from the 2016-17 budget when a total of Rs455 million was allocated for the environment and coastal development.

Of the Rs375 million allocated for the environment and coastal development in the recent budget, Rs157 million has been earmarked for the environment, whereas Rs217 million has been reserved for the coastal development. Like other sectors, no new schemes have been included in the environmental sector.

Most development projects in the environmental sector that were approved between 2012 and 2016 have yet to be completed.

Development schemes: ‘Sindh’s pace of work quicker than last year’

A study on environment and health impacts of pesticides and chemical fertilisers in Larkana, Mirpurkhas, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Ghotki, Sukkur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Tando Allahyar, Thatta and Badin was supposed to be completed by June 2018 at an estimated cost of Rs33 million. However, like many other projects, it has been delayed and it is now targeted to be completed in June 2019.

The key environmental authority in the province, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa), has yet to establish its offices in different districts of Sindh. For the last several years, schemes such as establishment of Sepa's regional offices in Sukkur and Hyderabad and expansion of Sepa's building in Korangi Industrial Area in Karachi have been reflected in the budget. According to the last budget, these offices had to be constructed by June, 2018, however, the recent budget has extended the completion deadline to June 2020.

Sindh government increases salaries and pensions

Things are as bad regarding projects for coastal development. A new scheme had been introduced in last year's budget under which the government was to initiate a study on the impact of sea intrusion. The scheme has been wiped off this year.

 

Forest and wildlife budget

Funds for the development projects of the forest and wildlife departments have also been decreased in the current budget. In the last budget, Rs840 million was allocated for the departments, whereas the amount has been reduced to Rs750 million this year.

Sindh budget to be announced today

However, in his budget speech, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah stressed the importance of environmental and plantation projects. The world is going into a new era of ecosystem restoration, motivated by the Aichi Targets that include the Bonn Challenge, he said. The Bonn Challenge was initiated in 2011 and it calls for the restoration of 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands across the globe by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

The CM said Pakistan ranked seven on the list of countries on which global warming was likely to have the greatest impact. The country has one of the highest deforestation rates in Asia, he added.

"Pakistan's total forest area was 3.3% back in 1990 which fell to an alarming 1.9% in 2015," he said, adding that it was a foreboding sign for all Pakistanis.

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