PESHAWAR: With provincial government banking on tourism and industrialisation to lift militancy-hit regions such as Swat out of poverty, the issue of environmental degradation in the valley, including from some of these very sectors, has Peshawar concerned.
The government has now suggested that it could turn to the assembly to help control environmental issues in the scenic valley.
This was suggested by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan on Sunday as he presided over a meeting on the matter at the CM House.
Mahmood, who hails from Swat, directed officials to take immediate preventive measures to control environmental degradation in the district. The chief minister further ordered the relevant authorities to conduct a proper scientific study on the environment in the district for the purpose and to hire a firm with a good reputation for conducting the study.
To help reduce, man-made environmental challenges, he said that a massive awareness campaign regarding environmental degradation must be carried out in Swat
“Rapid deterioration of the environment is an alarming situation, now is the time to act as there is no space for further delays,” he added.
In this regard, he directed the Swat district administration to involve all forms of media along with mosques, hujras and other relevant forums and stakeholders for creating awareness on the impacts of environmental degradation.
He also stressed on establishing a proper development authority in Swat and to ensure the implementation of the National Forest Policy 2015.
The chief minister agreed with the need for legislation regarding the protection of Swat River and filtration of industrial and hotel waste in the scenic valley.
During the meeting, Mahmood was informed that the major environmental issues in Swat include air pollution, water contamination, soil erosion, deforestation, population explosion, urbanisation, industrialisation, wanton use of plastic bags, noise pollution and climate change. Deforestation has also emerged as a major problem recently with forests being denuded to make way for agricultural, commercial and other developmental activities. This adds to the damage caused to forests in the valley during militancy.
Moreover, the meeting was told that there are approximately 38 marble factories and 350 hotels in the area while a few industries have been set up. Of the hotels operating in the valley, 102 of them are located along the banks of the Swat River. These hotels, the chief minister was informed, dump their waste and sewage into the river. As a result, some
117 hotel owners in the valley were served with notices from the environmental protection body last June.
Regarding dumping of untreated sewerage into the river, Mahmood was informed that the government was still collecting data about it, however, data from Matta — a sub-division of Swat — showed that there were as many as 1,450 sewerage lines which empty into the river. Of these lines, 126 have been removed.
The chief minister was informed that rapid urbanisation and industrialisation in the district was another major cause of environmental degradation. The urban population in Swat, he was told, has doubled from just 190,000 in 1998 to 690,000 in 2017. The population of the district has increased from 1.2 million in 2998 to 2.31 million in 2017.
The main reason for this explosion in population is the absence of basic amities, officials explained.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2020.