Environmental problems in South Asia can be tackled with regional collaboration, experts said at a conference of an intergovernmental environment body on Tuesday.
The experts gathered in the federal capital to attend the 13th meeting of the governing council of the South Asian Cooperative Environment Programme (Sacep).
During his welcome address, Climate Change Secretary Raja Hasan Abbas said regional cooperation was key to managing environmental issues. Pakistan is facing an unimaginable rise in climate-induced catastrophes. “South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation calculated that in the past 40 years, there have been 1,300 disasters, killing close to a million people and affecting another 2.4 billion lives. In 2011 alone, approximately 90% of the massive $270 billion global economic loss was in South Asia.”
As citizens of our respective nations and collective citizens of South Asia, we must prove ourselves worthy and efficient guardians of our natural resources, Abbas stated.” Environmental degradation cannot be ignored.”
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, chief guest, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said, “The most important challenge is to strike a balance between rapid development and maintenance of environmental integrity, the use of environmental impact assessment is one such important step.”
Dutch Ambassador Marcel De Vink said, “After the 18th Amendment, the National Impact Assessment Programme has assisted the provinces in drafting environmental legislation, which the Balochistan government has approved, while other provinces are in the process of finalising it.
Speaking on the occasion, IUCN Asia Regional Director Aban Marker Kabraji said, “Strategic environment assessment (SEA) is evolving rapidly as the world responds to escalating challenges relating to natural resource use and development planning. The conference is an important initiative in helping the region stay ahead of the curve, using the best techniques and science available to manage its particular development challenges.”
Although we may be geographically divided, our issues, especially environmental, are shared, be they climate change, trans-boundary air, or water pollution,” she added.
Kabraji added that IUCN was interested in scaling up the National Impact Assessment Programme to the regional level.
Experts suggested regional countries frame policies for judicious use of natural resources for achieving sustainable development goals in South Asia. They said such policies would also help arrest environmental degradation. They recommended realistic goals for joint programmes and a proactive approach could do a world of good for improving South Asia’s environmental issues.
Sacep Director-General Anura Jayathilake said Sacep is an important platform that could play a crucial role in building regional cooperation through capacity building and awareness-raising.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2013.
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