Kalabagh Dam cannot be built until the government takes the people of Sindh into confidence. This was said by Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan at the launch of PTI’s environment policy in Islamabad on Tuesday.
“If today, you try to build Kalabagh Dam without convincing the people of Sindh, the province will witness anarchy similar to that in Balochistan,” Khan said.
But if a credible government takes Sindh’s population into confidence, he said, and uses technical experts to help them understand they will not be harmed by the dam, a national consensus could be developed to tackle Pakistan’s water issues.
On the same day the National Climate Change Policy was officially launched in the federal capital, the PTI claimed it became the first political party in the developing world to ever come up with an environment policy.
The party’s policy aims to achieve sustainable development and improve the quality of the environment through a four-point strategy, explained Malik Amin Aslam, former minister of state for environment and now a PTI leader.
Aslam said the PTI will focus on “action, not sloganeering” to meet the challenges to the environment. Next, it will provide political ownership by focusing on the environment in the party constitution and manifesto. Then, the PTI will create a political “buy in” by translating the eco-friendly measures into “green jobs”.
The party will finally use its political mandate, public obligation and economic incentive to achieve policy implementation, Aslam said.
The PTI policy predicts the creation of five million jobs in five years as a result of turning the economy “green”. The jobs will be created when different sectors adopt eco-friendly measures, Aslam said. For example, small scale sustainable farming is expected to add 610,000 jobs.
The PTI environment policy also promotes mass transport systems through public-private partnerships, clean energy such as hydel power, energy efficient building designs, climate-resistant crop varieties and environmental education.
Most of the points in the PTI policy resemble measures listed in the National Climate Change Policy.
During the questions and answers session, several environmentalists present in the audience raised questions about different issues such as mangroves, troops at Siachen, sustainable mountain development and water intensive environment solutions.
Aslam said 95 per cent of Pakistan’s mangroves are in District Thatta and he alleged that the ruling party has launched a residential project there which would threaten the mangroves.
In response to a question, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen said the party has called for the inclusion of environment awareness material in school textbooks in its education policy.
Earlier, Khan lamented the state of the environment in Pakistan. He said deforestation, air quality degradation and water pollution has gone unchecked in the country. Wealthy, influential people are encroaching upon land, even in public parks, and there is no one to hold them accountable, he said.
“We are at a stage now where we don’t have an option to ignore the environment,” Khan said. “Just like we might have to announce an education emergency because the state of our public education, we will also have to take severe measures to save the environment.”
He said environment degradation can be reversed through reforestation and other measures.
“But this needs political will,” he said. “The government and the people need to make a decision that they want to transform Pakistan into heaven.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2013.