Water scarcity, other environmental issues major future threat to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: In a meeting comprising donors and development sector experts, IUCN Pakistan highlighted some of the major environmental issues, mainly water, that are highly likely to plague the country in coming years. The meeting was organized by IUCN to inform donors about the environmental issues as well as direct their support to environmental issues requiring urgent attention. The meeting was attended by a large number of representatives of the donor agencies.

In the opening remarks Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji, IUCN Regional Director Asia while providing an overall view of the environmental affairs in the Asia region she said, ”there are numerous studies that have confirmed beyond doubt the massive impact environmental degradation can have on human health and livelihood.”

“In this context, there is no question that much more is needed in driving sustainable development, and helping to ensure resilience in the face of climate change and other natural disasters, and protecting fragile ecosystems and biodiversity,” she observed.

Mr. Malik Amin Aslam, IUCN global Vice President and Regional Councillor briefed the participants on the green growth strategy by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said that under this strategy the provincial government is planning to plant a billion trees in KPK. Besides, he added, “this initiative will provide lots of jobs to the unemployed youth. He enumerated the benefits of investment in the environment sector and also warned of the consequences of ignoring this sector. He informed that the Government of Pakistan had invested around two billion rupees in this sector for this year.

He lamented that the country “has a very wide coast spanning over 1065 Kilometers, but it is unfortunate that we do not have a Marine Protected Area. Had we designated a marine protected a decade ago we could have had saved many fish species from extinction from these waters.”

Mr. Paul Neville, Second Secretary, US Embassy shared the details of the US Ambassador’s Fund and noted that USAID was investing USD 43 million in the wind power related projects in Pakistan. He also mentioned of the 2015 State of the Union Address by President Barack Obama, which declared Climate Change as the greatest threat to our future generations.
Mr. Shakir Arbab, Representative of Swiss Development and Cooperation (SDC) informed that SDC was planning to implement a programme in Pakistan amounting to between 9-12 million Swiss Francs that would focus on FATA area, where water governance and other issues required greater attention. The participants viewed water scarcity as a major threat to the country which needs preventive measures to overcome this future threat.

Dr. Don Macintosh, an expert on Coastal Programmes, shared the upcoming Pakistan Coastal Programme, which looks holistically at improving the environmental condition of Sindh and Balochistan coasts.

Mr. Imran Ashraf, representative of Delegation of the European Union to Pakistan mentioned of 240 mini hydro power stations in seven districts. He also mentioned of the future project amounting to 20 million Euros covering water resources and infrastructure and economy of women. Speaking on Balochistan initiatives, he informed the participants of the programme for Balochistan that will cover water, sanitation and ground water amounting.

Representatives of the Embassies of Japan, France and Netherlands also appreciated the challenges discussed and lauded the efforts of IUCN Pakistan towards environmental protection.

Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan shared details of the major initiatives of IUCN Pakistan, mentioning that IUCN will resume its work and presence in the KPK and FATA areas in the future