The wildlife and forest department and the environment department continue to be sidelined by the Sindh government, as out of the Rs954 million budget allocation in the last fiscal year, only 41.7% was spent.
This year, Rs966 million have been allocated for the two departments. Environmentalists urge that the Sindh government should concentrate more on environmental threats as it has the highest number of environmental concerns of all the provinces.
The forest and wildlife had to initiate four new forestry schemes, but the finance department failed to release funds for any of them. The four major schemes were mass tree plantation to mitigate climate change affects, enhancing forest cover on state forest land, establishment and management of network of biodiversity parks and geo-referred demarcation and construction of earthen bunds for protection of forest land and upgrading the forest department laboratory in Hyderabad.
There was only one new wildlife scheme; the rehabilitation and improvement of Haleji in Thatta and Langh Lakes Wildlife Sanctuary in Qambar, but the finance department failed to release the announced budget for that scheme as well.
Despite not starting any of the new schemes last year, the provincial government has announced four new initiatives, including strengthening of forest conservation to combat drought and desertification and improvement of Rangelands and planting of 1.25 million tree saplings to reduce effects of climate change in cities and towns.
Rs20 million have also been allocated for the construction of three environment regional offices in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.
For the wildlife ministry, the only new scheme is restoration of habitat of the Nara Game Reserve and the Nara Wildlife Sanctuary.
Despite the threats to the pollution and environmental issues posed by the Manchar Lake, the provincial government has failed to allocate any money for the largest freshwater lake of the country.
"Environmental issues of Sindh are not being addressed seriously," criticised writer and environmentalist, Nasir Ali Panhwar. "Not a single wetland in Sindh has been secured. All 10 Ramsar sites are in pathetic condition. There is no landfill site in any city. Nothing is being done for urban and rural environment. Nothing is being done for freshwater lakes, including Keenjhar and Manchar."
Panhwar also said that the industries in Hyderabad and Karachi and sugar mills in rural areas are threatening lives by polluting the environment. "What is the environment ministry doing for these issues?" he questioned on the recent budget allocated, saying that the provincial government is responsible for addressing Sindh's issues seriously after the 18th Amendment.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2014.
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