The Supreme Court of Pakistan had agreed with most of the arguments presented by the Lahore Conservation Society (LCS) during the hearing of the Lahore Development Authority’s (LDA) petition against a ban on construction of a signal-free corridor from Qurtaba Chowk on Jail Road to Liberty Roundabout on Gulberg’s Main Boulevard. Yet, it ruled that those arguments were not compelling enough to stop the pace of national development.
This was stated by LCS president Kamil Khan Mumtaz during a talk on the concept of development and its impact on environment.
He said whenever the LCS raised questions over the government’s lack of attention to environment, the development of physical infrastructure was referred to as a need that could not be compromised.
He said the city government was destroying the environment at an unprecedented pace in order to expanding road infrastructure.
Mumtaz called for rethinking the concept of development and an examination of its emergence as a key requirement for nation-states. “The need for development is taken for granted these days. It is considered normal for human beings to strive for endless progress, economic growth and evolution,” he said.
Challenging this concept, Mumtaz said it was a product of the industrial revolution in Western Europe. He said with increased productivity since the industrial revolution, humans had also caused unprecedented damage to the natural environment. “Global warming, carbon emissions, species extinction have all emerged as problems in the wake of the industrial revolution,” he said.
He said humans had lived in harmony with nature before the industrial revolution.
Mumtaz said industrialised countries were responsible for most of the damage done to the environment. He said big businesses and their political supporters in these countries had denied the existence of global warming for decades. He said with raised standards of living, humans were consuming resources at a rate that outnumbered earth’s capacity to regenerate them.
He said the rhetoric of national development was employed by all political parties in the country without a critical examination of what it entailed for the majority of the population.
Mumtaz said that based on its gross national product, Pakistan could be seen as a country with a comfortable level of development. Despite this, he said the country suffered from high rates of income poverty.
He said unequal distribution of resources was responsible for this. He said most resources had been spent in the country on big cities at the cost of people residing in villages. He said the idea that environmental degradation could be reversed without rethinking the concept of development was absurd.
The talk was organised by the Pakistan Sustainability Network, a group focused on creating environmental awareness amongst students.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2015.
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