NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DECEMBER 28TH TO JANUARY 3RD2015
WASTES, GOVT NEGLECT DESTROYING KEENJHAR LAKE
Dawn, December 28th, 2015
THATTA: Surrounded by an eerie silence and a cool breeze, the muddy blue waters of the Keenjhar lake seem to be in harmony with nature. But this impression is far from reality.
The unabated discharge of effluent from neighbouring industrial areas has been wreaking havoc with the lake’s biodiversity, a fact highlighted many times by experts as well as by communities directly dependent on the lake for their survival.
Mounting evidence of official neglect has yet again come to light after livestock carcasses and a human body were recently found floating at the mouth of the lake.
Also considered to be the second largest freshwater lake in the country, the Keenjhar lake is a major source of potable water for Karachi and parts of Thatta district, a wildlife sanctuary, and a Ramsar site. Despite these facts, the lake has still not been protected.
“It wasn’t an unusual incident since the Kalri Baghar Feeder bringing water from the Indus river to the lake carries waste from Kotri and its industrial area and the cattle pens located there,” said Kamal Palari, heading the Keenjhar Conservation Network that represents nine community-based organisations of 39 villages around the lake.
According to him, though the human body was retrieved from the lake by police, livestock carcasses were not. “The carcasses that became stuck in the lake’s gate were allowed to enter the lake by irrigation department staff as they lifted the gate up,” he said.
He also pointed out that human bodies were often recovered from the lake during the monsoon when mountainous slopes along the lake became slippery and caused incidents of falling. During the same time, waste from the Nooriabad industrial area also entered the lake through different drains.
The lake also serves a waste dumping ground for at least 15 villages with a population of about 1,500 people. Their homes are located very close to the lake.
No irrigation department official was available for comment.
Managing director of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board Misbahuddin Farid said the irrigation department was responsible for the upkeep of the lake whereas the responsibility of his department started from the Keenjhar-Gujjar headworks located about 23 kilometres from the lake.
“Here, we have a laboratory where the staff regularly tests water quality. Water is treated at the five filter plants located within and outside the city,” he said.
The recent incident brought fishermen living in the surrounding areas of the lake together and their representative forum held a meeting last week to press the government, once again, to resolve their longstanding issues.
“Around 25 years ago, there were 12 fish landing centres around the lake and the catch from the lake was not only available in the Karachi market, but was also sold to parts of Punjab. Today the catch has decreased to such an extent that our families are forced to fish in Balochistan and other parts of Sindh,” Arshad Ali of Jhimpir village told Dawn.
Explaining how the fish stocks started depleting, he said a major drop in their catch occurred when another channel from the K.B. feeder was created to irrigate agricultural fields.
“Before 1981, the lake used to receive the entire fish seed from the Indus through the feeder. But the situation changed with the establishment of a link canal set up near the lake’s Chul regulatory as the seed flowed into the irrigation channel,” he said.
The government, he added, had repeatedly ignored fishermen’s demand to either place fishing net in front of irrigation channel’s gate to allow the fish seed from the K.B. feeder to turn towards the lake or introduce fish seed annually in the lake to encourage their breeding.
“Fishing net was placed only twice during all these years; once by the fisheries department and then by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, an NGO working for fishing communities,” he said, adding that a fishing net was usable for only three years.
The fishermen regretted that the government was yet to make its fish hatchery operational, which was set up along the lake some years ago. The lake, they said, was drying up since it received water supplies only in the winter.
They also expressed their concerns about the increasing level of pollution in the lake and said that it was responsible for the outbreak of different illnesses in fishing communities.
“Having deprived of education and livelihood skill (other than fishing), we see no future. The lake is being destroyed deliberately and we will have to migrate from here sooner or later,” Abdur Rehman of the Keenjhar Khushal Welfare Organisation said.
Conversation with fishermen shows that though the government has raised the level of the lake, it has never taken any initiative to de-silt the water body.
The lake lacks a mechanism to periodically monitor its water quality while the continued discharge of waste over the years has replaced eco-friendly vegetation with harmful plants and organisms.
For instance, according to fishermen, a kind of toxic plant is ruining the little fish stocks left in the lake. “We have been seeing it for the past some years and it has rapidly occupied a vast area in the lake. The fish being caught from the affected area suffers from some kind of a skin infection, thus depriving fishermen of any benefit,” said Nazeer Jakhro, an old resident of the lake.
Government departments, they said, had been informed about it and requested multiple times for their removal but to no avail.
Ghulam Rasool Khatri of World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan, which has established an information centre at the lake, described the toxic plant as Salvinia molesta, a floating aquatic fern that thrives in slow-moving, nutrient rich freshwater.
“It’s an invasive species destroying the lake like a cancer, though it can be used as a biogas since it contains methane. For a year or so, we are also noticing the presence of apple snail in large numbers here.
“This invasive species, too, is contributing to the lake’s destruction. Fishermen are reporting death of their livestock after consuming plants carrying snail’s eggs,” he said.
Decades of official negligence has made people believe that the government has ‘secretly’ decided to reduce the status of the lake to a water reservoir, mainly for Karachiites.
“The situation is alarming as it seems that a conspiracy is in play. A few basic measures can help rehabilitate the lake and help support livelihood of thousands of fishermen. But official indifference has left the poor with no hope,” Mr Khatri added.
UNRESTRAINED SEA INTRUSION
Dawn, Business & Finance weekly, December 28th, 2015
MOHAMMAD HUSSAIN KHAN
UNABATED intrusion of the Arabian Sea into the coastal districts of Badin and Thatta continues to destroy farmlands, fishing areas and ancestral coastal villages.
Due to climate change and inadequate Indus water flows in downstream Kotri, the dwellers there are struggling to eke out a living and the going is getting tougher for them with each passing day. They are losing fish catch and experiencing food insecurity.
Having realised the gravity of the situation, the federal Ministry of Science and Technology has formed a Working Group on Sea Water Intrusion and Land Subsidence, which is headed by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO). Its members are Suparco, Pakistan Navy, Pakistan Meteorological Department and the Sindh University’s Coastal Zone Department. Its four-member observation team, along with a Chinese expert, have visited the coastal areas of Sindh.
All member-departments of the working group are currently busy collecting relevant data. Pakistan Navy is examining old maps of the area while Suparco is going through its satellite imagery and the NIO is analysing its own present and past data.
NIO Director General Asif Inam says verified and reliable data as to how much water from the Arabian Sea is reaching downstream Kotri is not available, as it is hard to assess the available data.
“We are not relying solely on data from the irrigation department or the recording station at Kotri Barrage, but are also collecting data on our own so that we have verifiable statistics,” he says.
The working group has been tasked by the government to assess the severity of the situation and find areas that are particularly vulnerable to sea intrusion. It will then suggest mitigation measures to the government for necessary action.
The group’s findings will focus on the actual loss of agricultural land to the sea ever since water flows in the Indus declined owing to diversion of the river water through storages and canals, as well as those precipitated by the 1960 Indus Water Treaty.
Board of Revenue Secretary Munawar Mahesar confirms that since 1980, around 3.5m acres of farmland has been lost in just two coastal districts of Badin and Thatta. “No latest information after the 1980s is available,” he says.
However, the downstream releases of irrigation water are considered wastage of freshwater by those advocating for building dams like Kalabagh. About 350,000 acres of the command area of the Pinyari Canal, an off-taking canal of the Kotri Barrage, became saline and waterlogged 15 years ago owing to seawater intrusion, says veteran farmer Abdul Majeed Nizamani. This land touches the eastern part of the Indus delta.
Sea intrusion and land erosion are forcing local communities to resettle in lands that are waterlogged and saline, where they are unable to even grow vegetables. “Many are being exploited by middlemen who buy their catch at low prices, with some forced to borrow money from them for their survival,” says a Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum activist from Thatta, Gulab Shah.
DG Asif Inam points out that as the Indus delta is quite flat, this makes it more vulnerable to sea intrusion. “The sea level is rising by 1.3mm per annum. The delta has a muddy topography so its sinking a little easy.”
The Indus delta, said to be the world’s seventh largest, used to be rich in resources. Different species of animals and fish, as well as honey, orchards and pastures were in abundance; these are now becoming extinct. Drinking water is a precious commodity and the residents have to buy it from in areas like Kharochaan, Shah Bundar and Keti Bundar.
Mangroves were reduced from 260,000 hectares in the 1970s to 160,000 hectares by the early 1990s, while latest studies put the figure at 80,000 hectares. This has badly impacted fish and prawn production as well as other aquatic life.
Currently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is collaborating with the Sindh forest department for planting mangroves on 50,000 hectares under a seven-year project in Thatta.
This is expected to substantially improve the production of crabs, prawn and 25 other species of fish that have higher commercial export value. Presently, four species of salt-tolerant mangroves are surviving in the deltaic region.
The ICUN’s Tahir Qureshi says the plantation of trees will lessen the impact of cyclones as well. This is the natural way to control sea intrusion. Mangroves — which absorb 70-90pc of a cyclone wave’s energy — are being planted in Keti Bunder, Shah Bundar and Kharo Chhan, the worst affected areas in Thatta district.
The project, in its second year, is due to be completed by 2018-19. Qureshi believes that once the catch and production of other fish is improved, the migrating community would be encouraged to stay and resettle there.
Dawn, December 31st, 2015
IT is a story that, sadly enough, appears in seemingly endless iterations across the country: official neglect and poor planning leading to the degeneration of valuable resources, and the resultant fallout on both the environment and the communities that eke out a living through it. As reported by this newspaper earlier this week, the biodiversity at Keenjhar Lake in lower Sindh has been practically devastated by the unabated discharge over many years of effluent into it from neighbouring industrial areas.
Moreover, the creation of an irrigation link canal several years ago, has led to incoming fish seed being diverted away from the lake, while the unchecked spread of the invasive and toxic floating aquatic fern Salvinia molesta, which the locals hold responsible for the low fish stock, has left a skin disease that renders any catch worthless.
As noted, variations of this tale are found across the country; are there any reasons that officialdom through the years should have afforded Keenjhar Lake priority and made hectic efforts to reverse a deplorable situation that has time and again been pointed out by both domestic and international forums? Consider just these few facts: this is the second largest freshwater lake in the country, and a major source of water for Karachi and parts of Thatta district.
It is also a wildlife sanctuary and a Ramsar site, which refers to the international treaty by the same name for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands.
In a country that is ranked as near ‘water-stressed’ and where it is feared that climate change will result in all sorts of complications, this sort of neglect is nothing short of criminal. Efforts by this newspaper to contact people in official corridors for an answer were met with either silence or the shelving of responsibility.
Meanwhile, conditions at the lake itself continue to get worse. What might it take for officialdom to wake up? That, it would appear, is an impossible question to answer.
ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION: COURT DIRECTS CHIEF SECY TO BEGIN WORK ON RAVI CLEAN-UP
The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2015.
LAHORE: Lahore High Court on Wednesday ordered the chief secretary to take immediate steps to set up a bioremediation project recommended by an LHC-appointed commission on River Ravi.
Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah passed the order. The judge directed the chief secretary to act on the recommendations of the River Ravi Commission and ensure protection of fundamental rights of citizens of Lahore. The judge said steps should be taken to preserve aquatic life in River Ravi.
The court ordered the chief secretary to submit an interim report in this regard in a month. Earlier, the court had directed the River Ravi Commission to hold a meeting to re-evaluate the bioremediation project and deliberate on the current status and cost of River Ravi Front Development Project proposed by the LDA.
The commission submitted in its report to the court that there was no objection to setting up the project. The report stated that the bioremediation project was a sustainable solution for cleaning polluted water entering River Ravi.
The cost of the project was estimated at Rs50 million in the report. Fifty acres land is required to build the ponds.
An LDA counsel told the court that the River Ravi Project would cost USD3 billion (approximately Rs318 billion). He said land required for the project was around 300 acres. “The land has not been acquired yet,” he said.
Rafay Alam, the petitioner’s said out that the commission had inquired about the status of the River Ravi Front Development Project at a previous meeting and according to the information it had received, the PC-1 had not been prepared nor had the environmental impact been assessed.
He said seven components of the proposed River Ravi Project pertained to waste management but none of them had been initiated.
A WASA representative told the court that 50 acres for the project land was under the agency’s possession. “Until the River Ravi Front Development Project materialises, the bioremediation Project can be put in place with only 0.16 per cent of the cost of the River Ravi Front Development Project.”
The court adjourned hearing till January 13, 2016.
THE POOR, ENVIRONMENT BEAR THE BRUNT OF FLAWED POLICIES
The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2016.
ISLAMABAD: The year 2015, though, saw infrastructure development in the capital in the form of multi-billion-rupee metro bus project, the city’s proverbial greenery and the tree cover bore the brunt of government policies.
Moreover, the year was particularly tough for the labourers and non-Muslim residents especially Christians living in the slums of the city, who saw their homes demolished in an anti-encroachment drive that was anything but across the board.
The year was full of physical, financial and mental distress for the poor and non-Muslims living in informal settlements due to absence of low-income housing in the city. Similarly, for most of the residents of the city sufficient water supply, affordable housing, uninterrupted gas and electricity supply, sectoral development remained a dream.
The government’s apologetic response to the Lal Masjid issue and the provocative statements by its controversial cleric Abdul Aziz, prompted a number of civil society protests in the city but to no vain.
The government amid much fanfare launched around Rs45 billion mass-transit project for the twin cities in 2015. Although, termed the costliest project by the American Public Transport Association, some 100,558 passengers benefit from the service daily. The project’s high cost and award of its different contracts, however, remained controversial.
The city also witnessed completion of the Kashmir Highway, and expansion of Islamabad Highway is in progress. For both projects major component of financing was provided by the federal government. Under PM’s Rs1.5 billion roads rehabilitation package, the CDA is currently busy in recarpeting, necessary patch work, lane marking and signage works of 132 intra-city roads.
Leafy capital sacrificed its 1,059 fully grown trees, 3,773 small trees, and 5,526 ground covers and small bushes to pave way for this roads infrastructure development. The project also ate up a significant portion of a park in I-8.
In July 2015, a state-backed anti encroachment operation resulted in demolition of city’s largest informal settlement at sector I-11. Mud houses of over 1,000 labourers families were bulldozed and thousands of individuals were forcibly evicted after labeling them “criminals”.
Similarly, the civic agency dubbed the city’s most peaceful Christian community, also residing in informal settlements, as a threat for Muslim majority of the capital. Due to hue and cry over the issue, the head of civic agency tendered an unconditional apology.
Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz came to prominence once again. On first anniversary of Army Public School massacre, rights activists also staged a protest outside the Lal Masjid with a demand of Abdul Aziz’s arrest for his sympathetic statements in favour of terrorists, and in the backdrop of two FIRs registered against him in 2014.
However, instead of arresting him, the police arrested the protesting activists. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, on the other hand insisted in the parliament that government could not arrest Maulana Aziz as there existed no pending case against him.
On the other hand, one of the positives that came out during the year was the holding of first-ever local government elections in the city, thanks to the stance maintained by the country’s highest court over the issue.
A close contest was observed between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The PML-N is all set to have its mayor in the city.
In 2016, resident’s elected representatives will be expected to confront a number of civic issues, but due to the discrepancies in the local government act, the overall planning and sectoral development still rests with the capital’s civic agency.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD DECEMBER 21ST TO DECEMBER 27TH, 2015
KARACHI’S WATER SUPPLY BEING POLLUTED BY ANIMAL CARCASSES
The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2015.
KARACHI: Animal carcasses and a human body surfaced on Tuesday morning near Keenjhar Lake, a major source of potable water for the residents of Karachi city.
Residents of the surrounding areas of Keenjhar Lake complained that dead animals are being dumped in Kalri Baglihar (KB) feeder, which is an integral source of water for the lake.
On Sunday, a family from Karachi during a visit found animal corpses at the main gate of the canal, Chul Regulatory. They immediately informed the local villagers. “We then contacted the irrigation officials,” said a local villager from Sonehri Goth, Irshad Ali Ghandhro, while speaking to The Express Tribune.
The officials reached the site and opened the gates of the canal without removing the bodies or carcasses from the flowing water, he claimed.
“This has been happening since 2007,” pointed out Ghandhro. The villagers who live near the lake’s embankment often find human bodies or carcasses of buffaloes, dogs and other animals in the feeder. Not only this, toxic effluents of industries from Kotri are also released in the KB feeder regularly, he claimed.
Most of the time, it is hard to cross the area because of the stench, he said. The irrigation officials avoid removing the bodies stuck at the gates of the canal.
The villagers also pointed out that there are cattle farms on the both sides of the canal. “Many villagers dump their dead animals into the flowing water,” said Ghandhro. The villagers have registered their complaints with the officials of the irrigation department and other district officials. “But no one takes notice,” he claimed.
“The local villagers have informed me about the animals carcasses stuck at the canal gates,” said Pakistan Relief Foundation chairperson Haleem Adil Sheikh.
Industrial waste and dead animals are dumped in potable water which is harmful for human consumption, he claimed. He said that he has been taking up this issue for the last couple of years as polluted water is being supplied to the people of Karachi.
It is the responsibility of the irrigation department to solve the problem, said Sindh fisheries department director-general Ghulam Muhammad Mahar. “We can’t interfere into affairs of water regulatory department,” he said, adding that he himself is aware of the issue at hand.
The officials of the irrigation department were unable for the comments on the issue.
NEWS BULLETIN LAUNCHED TO RAISE AWARENESS OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Dawn, December 24th, 2015
ISLAMABAD: Environmental issues hold back actualisation of South Asia’s potential for growth, the federal minister for climate change, Zahid Hamid, said at the launch of the weekly environmental news bulletin of the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP) on Wednesday.
“Although awareness of environmental issues has increased in the last few years, there is still a lot to be done to add to public knowledge, particularly in South Asian countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and India, where environmental degradation is highest and is blocked efforts aimed at achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Mr Hamid said.
Pakistan is currently the chair of the SACEP governing council. The launch of the SACEP bulletin was held at the climate change ministry, and was attended by representatives of various government and non-government organisations.
Mr Hamid told the audience that environmental awareness campaigns had been most successful when they targeted specific groups or populations. He suggested that developing countries in South Asia use print, broadcast and social media to raise awareness of environmental issues and possible research based solutions.
The minister said the media, government agencies, NGOs and educational institutions could help spread such messages by holding press briefings, issuing press releases and setting up online databases that could be used as information centres.
He said that information centres would be an effective tool for education both the public and journalists about environmental concerns.
“It is in this context that the SACEP Weekly News Bulletin being launched today is an important initiative. This bulletin will not only be an excellent medium for dissemination of information and sharing of knowledge, but will also facilitate connectivity and interaction amongst the regional environmental institutions.
“I hope that the news bulletin will also help motivate youth and young environmental professionals for the promotion of sustainable development and conservation and management of national resources,” he said.
Mr Hamid suggested that SACEP member countries synergise their efforts to make the programme an exemplary one.
“Pakistan is committed to this objective. We appreciate the role of the Government of Sri Lanka in supporting the programme and hosting the head office in Colombo,” he added.
Sri Lankan ambassador Wijeyanthi Edirisinghe said it was imperative for South Asian countries to adopt a regional approach and strengthen their efforts and cooperation through bodies like SACEP, to focus on options that could address common environmental and climate change related challenges.
Climate Change secretary Arif Ahmed Khan identified some of these common issues as: biodiversity loss, water and air pollution, inadequate waste management, degradation of marine and river resources.
SACEP director general Mohammad Khursheed discussed the key aims and objectives of the SACEP news bulletin. He said the bulletin aims to boost awareness among people, students and the media, regarding environmental issues and possible solutions for South Asian countries.
CLIMATE AWARDS 2015 HELP RAISE ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS
The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2015.
KARACHI: “The world [environment] I have seen, my children have not seen. Over the years, I saw birds disappearing and trees being cut,” said Sindh Assembly’s lawmaker Mehtab Akbar Rashdi
Speaking at the Climate Awards 2015, former Sindh Environment Protection Agency (EPA) director-general, Rashdi, highlighted how the environmental issues are not given priority by either the government or media.
“But it [environmental degradation] is a reality. It is affecting our future and even the future of our children. We have entered into a danger zone,” she said.
The Climate Awards 2015 ceremony was organised by the Friends of Indus Forum (FIF) in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan’s (WWF-Pakistan) Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP) at Marriot Hotel on Wednesday.
Environment is a multidimensional phenomenon, so all its aspects need to be equally focused on, including water, forest, flora and fauna, wildlife and other areas, said senior journalist Nasir Ajiz while speaking at the event.
Sharing her experience of establishing EPA’s building in Korangi and disseminating environment-related information among the masses, Rashdi said that former Sindh chief minister Jam Sadique provided land for the EPA and provided a budget for it, at a time when the environment sector was given the least priority by the government officials.
Sindh has great potential for ecotourism which needs to be promoted, said former Sindh culture and tourism department secretary, Shams Jafrani. “Due to mismanagement and bad governance, Sindh has lost rich forests and wetlands.”
The forest land is commonly used for growing agricultural produce, he claimed. If this trend is not regulated, the province will lose its remaining forests, he pointed out.
Commercialisation has played a pivotal role in the degradation of the environment, said writer and researcher Noor Ahmed Janjhi. The incessant focus on profits has disturbed the balance of our ecosystem, he added.
“These [environment] issues need to be highlighted more often,” stressed Manzoor Solangi, a journalist. He said that least attention is given to issues related to the environment. “Our environment is severely affected by capitalistic activities.”
Environment and climate change can be made a mainstream issue through media, said FIF general secretary Nasir Ali Panhwar. There are some individual journalists who are highlighting environmental issues due to their personal interest in the topic, he claimed. Such journalists should be encouraged, he added.
Journalists can play a major role in sensitising the policy-makers and communities, said Jafrani.
Environmental journalists from Karachi, Tharparkar, Hyderabad and other cities were given awards for their contribution in highlighting environment issues.
ENVIRONMENT AND THE LAW
Imaan Hazir Mazari
With existential threats emanating from terrorism and a chaotic law and order situation, the last topic on the government’s mind is environmental regulation and protection. Environmental law constantly takes the back seat in Pakistan and there are several reasons for this fatal mistake, the most significant of which is the lack of institutional awareness and capacity.
There is a narrow understanding of environmental law as a limited field governing issues of pollution, global warming and depletion of natural resources. However, environmental law is so much more than that – it extends to the nitty-gritty of product design, for instance in the form of energy efficient electronic devices. It even has an impact on taxation law in the form of incentives for activities intended to benefit the environment.
Pakistan has ratified a number of key international instruments on the environment, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Ramsar Convention, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
As demonstrated through its ratification of a range of environmental conventions, it is clear that Pakistan, for one reason or another, realises the importance of protecting the environment. However, because of its dualist nature, Pakistan has to transpose international legal obligations into domestic law in order for the provisions to be effective.
This is one of the major areas in which the provincial governments must divert their efforts – ie in enacting legislation incorporating provisions of international environmental conventions into domestic law.
In November 1997, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA) was formed under Section 5 of the Environmental Protection Act 1997 (EPA). Prior to this, in October 1997, the government of Pakistan issued ‘Guidelines for Sensitive and Critical Areas’ in response to the lack of central legislation for wildlife conservation.
Post-18th Amendment, there is no need for central legislation on the environment – it is the responsibility of each provincial government to enact its own environmental protection laws.
In fact, the guidelines highlighted the existence of provincial statutes providing for the creation and management of ‘protected areas’.
Hardly anyone in Pakistan, with the exception of those in the professional field of environmental law, is aware of the fact that around 11 percent of Pakistan’s total land has been brought under various categories of ‘protected areas’.
There are over 218 protected areas, covering approximately 2, 753, 357 hectares. Yet, there the institutional framework through which these areas are protected and managed is lacking.
There are three major categories of protected areas in Pakistan: national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and game reserves. Each province has its own legislation under which protected areas are designated.
Some examples include: the Punjab Wildlife Act 1974, the Balochistan Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act 1996 (and an Act from 2014 with the identical title), the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife and Biodiversity (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act 2014 and the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972.
Various provinces and their relevant departments have issued notifications for national parks, game reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. These notifications specify the name of the protected area, the relevant designating authority, the section of the relevant legislation under which such notification is authorised, the date of notification, the total area encompassed, the tehsil, sub-tehsil and district of the protected area and the boundaries of the area.
With such detailed notifications, it is odd that there are major discrepancies in the figures available for the number of protected areas in Pakistan. This, too, is can be attributed to lack in capacity – several protected areas are often denotified to allow for an otherwise illegal activity to become legal for a ‘friend’ of a government official or a ‘VIP’.
The lack of capacity prevents those in positions of authority from realising the long-term damage inflicted upon these areas by a single de-notification that allows an individual or group to damage the species, flora and fauna present in the area.
There are, of course, differences between what is permitted in a national park and a wildlife sanctuary – the same is applicable to game reserves. Wildlife sanctuaries are the ‘temple’ of protected areas; they are undisturbed breeding grounds where exploitation of the forest is also prohibited.
Game reserves typically prohibit the hunting and shooting of wild animals, except under special permits which specify the maximum number of animals or birds that can be killed or captured in the area.
Moreover, these permits are only valid for a particular period of time. National parks, on the other hand, are mainly designated to protect and preserve scenery, flora and fauna. They can be utilised for educational and scientific purposes but only to the extent that the biological diversity therein is not damaged.
In addition to these protected areas, Pakistan also has protected Ramsar sites. These sites are water bodies of international importance. Since 2015, five new Ramsar sites have been nominated by Pakistan – including Shandur, Deosai complex, Broghil, Rangla and Nara.
Although designations of Ramsar sites are not embroiled in the same confusion as protected areas, there remains much work to be done in their management.
Despite the official notification of protected areas, Pakistan continues to see a decline and degradation in its wildlife and habitats. Instead of allowing this to overwhelm us, the government must resolve the factors that have contributed to this dangerous state of affairs.
Some recommendations to the government include establishing an adequate management system with an equally appropriate supervision and monitoring mechanism; initiating efforts and providing incentives aimed at enhancing community participation; conducting Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs); and setting up a comprehensive provincial compliance mechanism to ensure that international obligations undertaken are translated into action.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DECEMBER 14th to DECEMBER 20TH, 2015
RAWAL LAKE: NO PROGRESS ON FIVE PLANNED WATER TREATMENT FACILITIES
The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2015
ISLAMABAD: Three months since an independent commission recommended setting up multiple sewage treatment plants on the catchment areas of the Rawal Lake, action has yet to be taken.
Despite the recommendations of the Islamabad High Court’s Environmental Commission, no progress has been made on the construction of five sewage treatment plants and a sewage network along the lake.
The absence of these facilities threatens aquatic life, as well as the health of over 3 million residents of Rawalpindi.
The IHC commission in October had recommended the urgent approval of funds for the project from the Ministry of Planning and Development Reforms. The project was jointly prepared by the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and the Cabinet Division.
The aim was to ensure the supply of clean drinking water by constructing the five decentralised sewage treatment plants in the upstream of the Rawal Lake. The project in catchment area of the lake is estimated to cost Rs2,258 million.
The Rawal Lake is a source of drinking water for Rawalpindi, which receives untreated sewage and other water from the irregularly growing population of Bara Kahu, Bari Imam, Shaadra, Bani Gala and other adjoining population centres, which make the water highly polluted and toxic.
However, funding by the planning commission is still pending, and the delay in construction of decentralised sewage treatment plants along with a sewage network continues to pose a health hazard.
In 2012, on the direction of the Supreme Court, the Rawal Lake Monitoring Committee had tasked a private firm to identify causes of pollution and propose treatment plants.
The consultancy firm, Usman and Company, had proposed five sites for the construction of treatment plants in 2012, at an estimated cost of around Rs2.4 billion.
The ICT Administration submitted a PC-1 to the finance ministry for final approval. The concept paper ultimately reached the planning division, however, progress on the project has yet to be made.
“Years ago, Rawal Lake had the capacity to store 37,000 to 47,000 acre-feet of water, and its water was crystal clear, but now its storage capacity has reduced due to the continuous flow of silt and other sewage into the lake, and its colour has turned slightly brownish due to the influx of polluted material,” an official in the EPA told The Express Tribune..
WORLD COAL DEMAND TAPERS OFF BUT ASIA STILL HEAVY USER: IEA
The News, December 19, 2015
SINGAPORE: Global coal consumption has declined for the first time in this century thanks largely to China’s economic restructuring, but usage will continue to grow in India and Southeast Asia, the IEA said.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency said in a report issued in Singapore that growth in world coal demand halted in 2014 for the first time since the 1990s.
China accounts for half of global coal usage.
“Given the economic rebalancing in China and ongoing structural decline in OECD countries, even with the continuation of growth in India and ASEAN countries, a downward trend in global coal consumption in 2015 is likely,” it said.
Global coal demand fell 0.9 percent from 7,991 million tons in 2013 to 7,920 million tons in 2014, the IEA said.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said that apart from the economic restructuring in China, the government’s policies to “address environmental challenges” will have an effect on coal consumption in the world’s second largest economy.
“The Chinese economy is going through a restructuring from a heavy industry based economy such as iron, steel, cement and manufacturing to (a) lighter one,” he said in Singapore.
“Efficiency measures put in by the Chinese government (are) now bearing fruit.”
The Chinese capital Beijing was hit this month by bouts of severe smog. The chronic pollution is blamed in large measure on the burning of coal for electricity and heating, particularly when demand peaks in winter.
The IEA, lowering its world demand forecast through 2020 by over 500 million tons of coal-equivalent (Mtce), said that that “the golden age of coal in China seems to be over.”
But India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are “remaining centers of significant coal growth,” the report said.
Those markets saw demand increase by 112 million tons in 2014 — which compares with a falloff in coal demand in the highly-developed Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) area of 47 million tons.
“The Indian government has ambitious plans to provide full electricity access to the 240 million people still without it and to expand the manufacturing sector, where coal is the lowest-cost base load option,” the report said.
Key ASEAN countries Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are in a similar position, with coal investments driven by the need for energy access and poverty reduction, it said.
The IEA report was completed before the post-2020 Paris agreement to fight global warming was forged on December 13.
The IEA study only looks at coal demand until 2020.
Birol said in Singapore that the Paris agreement “gives a broad signal” to the world on the need for wider use of renewable energy, especially solar and wind.
“The Paris agreement says to investors in general: if you invest in high carbon infrastructure, you may well have implications for it, especially for coal. The inefficient coal-fired power plants are the ones which are going to face serious challenges in the next years to come,” he said.
The IEA report said financing for coal-powered electricity is becoming more restricted, with multilateral development banks, export credit agencies and other institutions including pensions funds making it more difficult for such projects to get funding.
The decline of coal usage in the US is inevitable and it is estimated it will represent less than 35 percent of power generation by 2020, the lowest since the IEA was created over 40 years ago.
It also predicted “steady decline” for coal use in Europe.
But reports of coal’s impending demise in a world looking to become progressively greener may be premature.
“Coal maintained its position as the second-largest primary energy source in the world behind oil in 2014. Roughly 30 percent of global primary energy consumption derives from coal,” the IEA report said.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DECEMBER 7TH TO DECEMBER13TH, 2015
HYDERABAD DUMPS 960 TONS OF WASTE EVERY DAY IN PHULELI CANAL
The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2015.
HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad City taluka dumps nearly 660 tons of waste every day into Phuleli Canal, followed by 300 tons from Latifabad taluka, according to Hyderabad administrator Aijazul Hassan.
The Qasimabad and Hyderabad Rural talukas also add another few hundred tons. “Our [garbage] lifting capacity doesn’t allow us to ensure that all garbage dumps in the two talukas are cleared every day,” he said, adding that they can lift only 400 tons from City taluka and 200 tons from Latifabad taluka. Hassan confirmed that they have yet to acquire a dumping site on the district’s outskirts.
This blatant disregard to protect the 60-mile-long water and irrigation source for three districts of rural Sindh — Hyderabad, Tando Muhammad Khan and Badin — has led the government to finally become serious about taking action. The Sindh Environment Protection Agency has promised immediate measures to contain the hazard.
“We will immediately ban the dumping of municipal waste [on the canal’s banks] and, within weeks, relocate the cattle pens, poultry farms and slaughter houses,” announced Sindh environment minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro at a press conference on Monday. “A committee has also been constituted to survey within a week the industries in Hyderabad’s SITE area that are releasing toxic water.”
Assisted by Hyderabad commissioner Syed Asif Hyder Shah, Mandhro asserted that they will show results. The district administration and the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation will push the authorised pens, farms and houses to shift to other parts of the district while the unauthorised ones will be sealed.
Apart from the solid waste dumped by industries and slaughterhouses, around four dozens drains and piped outlets in Hyderabad discharge over 225,000 cubic meter liquid of waste every day. Darya Khan pumping station releases 96,441 cubic meters per day, Kali Mori open drain 56,376, Old Power House open drain 42, 323, Cantonment Board Hyderabad 13,944, SITE pumping station and other sources 13,500 each.
While Hyderabad’s residents have been lucky to receive water supply from the filtration plants, their rural counterparts as well as residents of Tando Muhammad Khan and Badin districts have not been so lucky. The dwellers of these areas drink and irrigate their agricultural land directly from the contaminated Phuleli canal and its connected distributaries and watercourses.
According to SEPA regional director Muneer Abbasi, there are 50 farms, 20 pens and three slaughter houses near the canal. Even after a drive against the residential and commercial structures built on encroached parts on the banks was announced, it remained unclear how will the administration remove the squatters.
“From today, there will be a ban on offloading municipal waste. And over the next few weeks, the existing solid waste on either sides of the canals will be lifted,” said the commissioner.
The toxins include selenium, fluorides, sulphates, cyanide, barium, phenols, boron, vinyl chloride, monomer, carcinogens and asbestos, according to SEPA. Their health effects include diarrhoea, gastrointestinal, heart and nervous diseases, tooth decay and many types of cancers.
Meanwhile, the three-member SITE committee, headed by private water expert Dr Ahsan Siddiqui with officials of Sepa and SITE as members, will inspect all the 311 functioning industries in SITE area. “We will check the in-house waste treatment plants,” Siddiqui told The Express Tribune. “The list of industries violating the environmental rules and terms of their agreement with SITE will be submitted to the government.”
There are 42 rice, pulses and oil mills, 40 glass and bangles industries, 30 textile and ginning mills, 27 poultry feed manufacturers and 18 automobile factories, among others, in SITE.
PUBLIC GOOD: GOVT GIVEN THREE MONTHS TO CLEAN RIVER RAVI
The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2015.
LAHORE: Lahore High Court on Tuesday gave the provincial government three months to clean the River Ravi of all kinds of waste dumped in it.
Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah observed that pollution of the river’s waters was a matter of great public importance. He asked the chief secretary to not wait for progress in the long-term River Ravi Project and instead prepare a short-term project to clear the river of waste dumped by factories set up in its vicinity.
He said the project should be completed with the same vigour and speed as was exhibited in the construction of a signal-free corridor from Qurtaba Chowk on Jail Road to Liberty Roundabout on Gulberg’s Main Boulevard. The chief secretary was asked to immediately issue funds for the purpose and submit a progress report at the next hearing.
The directive was issued during the hearing of several petitions seeking action over the alarming level of pollution in the river’s waters.
Earlier, River Ravi Commission Secretary Ahmed Rafay Alam told the court that dumping of waste in its waters was a serious threat the river’s ecosystem. He said at least 42 kinds of fish and other species found in the river. “It does not look like a river anymore. It appears to be a cesspool,” he said. Alam said it was not safe to use the river’s water for agriculture or livestock.
Alam said at least Rs30 million would be needed to carry out the short-term project.
He said the government had yet to start planning for the long-term River Ravi Project under which seven waste treatment plants would be established along the river’s bank at a cost of Rs3 billion. He said there had been no progress on the approval of the project digest (PC-1) for the purpose.
Lahore Development Authority’s (LDA) counsel told the court that the authority had yet to prepare a feasibility report for the long-term project. He said it planned to acquire around 30,000 acres of land for the implementation of the project.
EPA TO START ENVIRONMENTAL SURVEY OF HUB INDUSTRIES
The News,December 12, 2015
KARACHI: Environment, Sports and Youth Affairs Balochistan Secretary Dr Shoaib Ahmed Golla has ordered the authorities concerned to speed up monitoring and environmental assessment of the industries in Hub Industrial Area (HIA) in order to ensure compliance of the environmental regulations and make HIA pollution-free industrial zone, a statement said on Friday.
A meeting of the members of the Lasbela Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) with Dr Golla at LCCI recommended that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Balochistan should gear up its monitoring and facilitating actions in order to get maximum number of industries under the compliance of environmental laws; thus, providing pollution-free environment to the people of Lasbela.
Ismail Suttar, chairman of the LCCI Subcommittee on Environment, said that under the guidance of LCCI President Maqsood Ismail, the chamber is continuously pursuing its members to follow the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) framed under the provisions of environmental laws and a large number of industries received NOCs for operations from EPA.
Now it was the domain of EPA to monitor and guide the industries for execution of mitigation plans and for submission of periodical reports, he said.
He also updated regarding the proceedings with respect to the coverage of Hub Naala and the setting up of Combined Effluent Water Treatment Plant and solid waste management facility at Hub.
Dr Golla advised the industry to execute the mitigation plans suggested in NOCs issued by the EPA and to initiate the process of getting NOCs by those industries who had not received the same within a specified time limit after which the EPA would start taking legal action against them.
Commissioner Kallat Division Dr Muhammad Akbar Harifall and Deputy Commissioner Lasbela Abdul Waheed Shah gave assurance to the participants to provide security not only to the personnel of EPA, but also to the industries in maintaining peaceful and friendly environment to continue industrial operations.
LCCI Vice President Anjum Raffatullah assured the chamber’s cooperation with EPA, Balochistan in getting the maximum compliance from the industries.
HEALTH AWARENESS: THE DEAL WITH DENGUE
Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 13th, 2015
With the change in weather the threat of dengue fever, which claimed at least 10 lives in Karachi this year, seems to have abated. Although dengue fever is not specific to any one part of the country, the Karachi administration declared an ‘emergency’ when over 3,500 victims were affected.
Though the city administration carried out spraying campaigns, it was reported that expired insecticide, alpha cypermethrin, a toxic insecticide, was used for spraying. The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has classified it as a possible human carcinogen (group C). Instead of depending on chemical sprays and other such interventions it would be better to educate the masses on preventive measures to combat such a threat.
Three species of Aedes mosquitoes are the vectors of the disease: Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus and Aedes scutellaris, with Aedes aegypti being more common. Aedes aegypti depend on water storage containers to lay their eggs. Only the female mosquito bites to obtain blood in order to lay eggs, and the eggs can survive long dry periods.
Aedes aegypti bites primarily during the day. It is most active for two hours after sunrise and several hours before sunset. It can bite at night as well. The female mosquito approaches a person from behind, and bites on the ankles and elbows. Eggs are often laid on discarded, old tyres.
Aedes aegypti is a peri-domestic mosquito, and seldom ranges very far from its breeding place and has a relatively short flight range. Hence, if mosquitoes are found in a house, their breeding sites must be outside that house. Like most diseases, dengue infection is very much an environment-related disease.
Dengue control can be achieved through environmental management, though poor environmental conditions can make it difficult. Rapid population increase, poor housing conditions, development of slums, poor efficiency in collection of solid waste (in Karachi only 33 per cent of the solid waste generated is collected), poor hygienic conditions in the neighbourhoods and stagnant water, aids in mosquito breeding.
Environmental management focuses on reducing breeding habitats, biological control, genetic control and waste management.
In order to eliminate breeding habitats, water in containers, old tyres and tins around the house should be drained out. If, for some reason, water cannot be drained off, then the containers should be covered with tight lids. The insides of the containers should be scrubbed with a brush, as larvae and eggs may survive on the damp sides and, continue their development as soon as the receptacle is filled again.
In Cambodia, a new long-lasting insecticide-treated netting cover for household water storage containers is used. The cover, fitted over concrete rainwater storage tanks, is designed to prevent mosquito breeding in containers.
Biological control can be achieved by the introduction of predators, parasites or other living organisms. Copepods (small crustaceans) and larvivorous fish are effective in controlling the larvae of Aedes mosquito. Small ornamental fish introduced in water storage tanks can feed on the larvae. Regular monitoring of these organisms is important for sustained control.
Vietnam has achieved remarkable success in controlling Aedes aegypti through biological control. Using copepods in large water-storage tanks, combined with source reduction, Vietnam has successfully eliminated Aedes aegypti in many areas, thus preventing dengue transmission.
In Tanzania, ‘azolla,’ an aquatic plant that grows on the surface of water making it difficult for larvae to reach the surface to breathe, was successfully used to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes in rice fields.
Genetic control methods are aimed at suppressing the target populations. Sterile Insect Technique is a species-specific and environmentally benign method for suppression of target population. The technique is based on mass rearing, radiation mediated sterilisation and release of a large number of male insects.
Waste management and clean areas provide effective dengue control. In the urban centres of Pakistan, used tins, bottles, old tyres and discarded containers should be carted away by the municipal agencies on daily basis. Household waste and rubbish should be moved to landfills, or subjected to anaerobic digestion.
In addition to environmental interventions, personal protection is important as it is the first line of defence. Insect repellents can be applied on the exposed skin (neck, wrists and ankles). Loose, long-sleeved and light-coloured shirts and trousers will help protect against the dengue mosquito. People should avoid places and times when the vector is most active, by staying inside during peak biting hours (two hours after sunrise and several hours before sunset).
The writer has a Master’s degree in environmental engineering from the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD NOVEMBER 30TH TO DECEMBER 6TH, 2015
THE GHOST OF THE MOUNTAINS
The News, December 02, 2015
Asif Ali Sandeelo
Changing climatic patterns across the world are not only affecting human populations but have drastically threatened wildlife species as well. Flash floods, widespread rains, cyclones, sea level rise, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), heatwaves and weather-induced incidents have resulted in large-scale human migrations, depletion of natural resources and decline in endangered wildlife species.
Climate change, coupled with human-led activities, are leading to the deterioration of species habitats, exposing them to vulnerabilities. One such species is the snow leopard. The snow leopard is listed as endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
A recent study titled ‘Fragile Connections’ by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) states that warmer temperatures are resulting in the shrinking of the snow leopard’s habitat thus increasing their vulnerability to extinction. The report further confirms that there could be as few as 4,000 remaining snow leopards in the wild and just 2,500 breeding adults. The snow leopard range countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Although the snow leopard is believed to be resilient to climate change impacts associated with increased greenhouse emissions, the small size of its population is making it vulnerable to changing climatic patterns in different areas. Increase in temperature as a result of climate change is causing glaciers to melt at a relatively fast speed, thus contributing to loss of habitat for snow leopards. Poaching, human encroachment and disappearance of prey species also have a negative impact on the big cat’s population.
Climate change is exacerbating these threats for the snow leopard, which has evolved over time to survive on some of the harshest and highest mountains in the world. These animals prowl the rocky regions of Central Asia where vast areas of permanent frozen ground can be found. For the last few years, though, climate change has posed a serious threat to the population of the snow leopard as warmer temperatures are leading to the melting of glaciers and increasing aridity.
On the other hand, wildlife trafficking has become a serious issue as many endangered wildlife species are poached and smuggled. In some cases, snow leopard poaching has been reported from Pakistan. People kill this majestic species for its skin and sell its cubs; obviously this is against national and international law.
Deforestation and human encroachments are also escalating the habitat degradation of the snow leopard. The construction of roads as well as mining activities is affecting the snow leopard population and has driven them to other areas.
The conflict between humans and wildlife is the biggest issue the species faces across the world, including in Pakistan. Communities kill the animal in retaliation to loss of livestock, which the snow leopard kills as prey. According to WWF, around 70 snow leopards have been killed during the last 10 years in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
In addition to this, transmission of livestock diseases in snow leopards is a cause of concern for conservationists. Outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in snow leopards has been reported in Pakistan and India. Further, feral dogs are also said to be affecting snow leopards.
Although snow leopards are facing multiple threats, local communities are sensitised about the importance of the species as they continue to take steps for its conservation. On an icy-cold day in December 2012 a snow leopard cub was found along the banks of Khunjerab River, Gilgit-Baltistan and rescued by the Khunjerab Villagers Organisation (KVO) with the assistance of the Wildlife Department, Gilgit-Baltistan. The cub was named Lolly (which means ‘sweet younger brother’ in the Wakhi language) and kept in a cage for four months. Fed two kilograms of meat every day, it was also taken on regular exercise walks.
Such rescue operations are helping conserve endangered wildlife species in Pakistan. Saeed Abbas, conservation officer at WWF-Pakistan says that “proper mechanism is required to release them [rescued wildlife] into their habitat”. On Lolly, he says: “During the past three years Lolly has grown up in captivity, yet no one knows the fate of this animal. Therefore a proper policy mechanism needs to be devised to keep rescued snow leopards in captivity and later release them into their natural habitat.”
Snow leopards cannot survive without immediate human action. Therefore, WWF is campaigning to raise awareness among people, world leaders and politicians to take decisive action on climate change. Furthermore, WWF is also working on effective planning that can help mitigate the threats posed by climate change to the snow leopard population. It is also supporting and implementing projects in almost all of the snow leopard range states. Working with local communities has also produced good results for the conservation of the endangered species.
A robust conservation strategy is needed to increase the population of the snow leopard. Most important is trans-boundary cooperation between countries that are host to the snow leopard. A secure prey base for snow leopards should be ensured by increasing prey animals within its habitat.
Conservation organisations and relevant government departments should initiate awareness-raising campaigns focusing on rescue and release of injured or sick snow leopards and their cubs into their natural habitat. Illegal hunting of snow leopards should be strictly banned in the region and strict action should be taken against the poachers so that such incidents do not happen in the future. The human-snow leopard conflict, which is the biggest threat the snow leopard faces in Pakistan, can be reduced by introducing livestock compensation schemes and advising communities not to encroach on the snow leopard habitat.
There is a dire need to increase snow leopard protected areas in Pakistan and improve restoration and management of the existing snow leopard habitat to promote conservation. The government should encourage university students and researchers to conduct research on the various aspects of this majestic species. They should also document the impacts of changing weather patterns on the snow leopard’s behaviour and monitor its population if we are to succeed in conserving the ghost of the mountains.
The Express Tribune, December 3, 2015
The PTI government’s ‘Clean and Green’ campaigns a much-needed initiative for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). The campaign that was launched in Peshawar earlier this week, aims to reach all districts and villages of the province. An important part of the campaign is the building of parks on encroached land and the planting of more trees. Earlier in the year, the PTI had also launched its Billion Tree campaign in the province.
It remains to be seen how the ‘Clean and Green’ project pans out, but prioritising a cleanliness campaign for the city of Peshawar is definitely a welcome step. Pakistan is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world. Karachi ranks fifth in terms of the most polluted cities on the planet, followed by Peshawar and then Rawalpindi. The situation in this regard is dire and what is needed are not only short-term campaigns, but also long-term plans that systemise such projects so they can sustain themselves even after a particular campaign concludes. As things stand now, political leaders do not even work to improve the conditions in their own hometowns. The most obvious case in point is Larkana, the hometown of the Bhutto family. But as necessary as it is for political leaders to prioritise cleanliness in public spaces, it is also important to realise that the public’s role in making our cities both cleaner and greener is of utmost importance as well. It is a pity that citizens still need to be educated about something as basic as the dire consequences of littering and using plastic bags.
At the launch of the campaign in K-P, Imran Khan referred to the impact of global warming and said that 30 per cent of the land in the country should consist of forests, which at present is nowhere near this level. These are important and necessary conversations that we need to have. Deforestation has cost us immensely and worsened the impact of natural disasters. At present, Pakistan is among the 10 countries most impacted by climate change. Campaigns to improve the environment, therefore, are highly welcome.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD NOVEMBER 23RD TO NOVEMBER 29TH, 2015
WHO’S ANTIBIOTIC AWARENESS WEEK ENDS
Dawn, November 23rd, 2015
KARACHI: The awareness week observed worldwide by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as part of its strategy to ramp up its fight against antibiotic resistance came to an end on Sunday.
The WHO also made public its new multi-country survey, which shows people are confused about this major threat to public health and do not understand how to prevent it from growing.
The world health body said antibiotic resistance happened when bacteria changed and became resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the infections they cause.
Over-use and misuse of antibiotics increased the development of resistant bacteria, and this survey pointed out some of the practices, gaps in understanding and misconceptions contribute to this phenomenon.
It said almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of some 10,000 people, who were surveyed across 12 countries selected from various regions of the world, said they knew antibiotic resistance was an issue that could affect them and their families, but how it affected them and what they could do to address it were not well understood.
“For example,” said a WHO statement, “64pc of respondents believe antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, despite the fact that antibiotics have no impact on viruses. Close to one-third (32pc) of people surveyed believe they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than completing the prescribed course of treatment.”
“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognise it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today. It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world,” said the statement. “Antibiotic resistance is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases and undermining many advances in medicine.”
The global health watchdog said that the campaign was just one of the ways it was working with governments, health authorities and other partners to reduce antibiotic resistance. “One of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century will require global behaviour change by individuals and societies.”
The multi-country survey was conducted in 12 countries representing various regions, including Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.
In India, which represented South Asia that includes Pakistan, three-quarters (75pc) of the respondents think, incorrectly, that colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics; and only 58pc know that they should stop taking antibiotics only when they finish the course as directed.
While 75pc agree that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest problems in the world, 72pc of respondents believe experts will solve the problem before it becomes too serious.
Across the world, three-quarters (76pc) of respondents think that antibiotic resistance happens when the body becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact bacteria — not humans or animals — become resistant to antibiotics and their spread causes hard-to-treat infections.
Two-thirds (66pc) of respondents believe that individuals are not at risk of a drug-resistant infection if they personally take their antibiotics as prescribed. Nearly half (44pc) of the people surveyed think antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who take antibiotics regularly. In fact, anyone, of any age, in any country can get an antibiotic-resistant infection.
More than half (57pc) of the respondents feel there is not much they can do to stop antibiotic resistance, while nearly two-thirds (64pc) believe medical experts will solve the problem before it becomes too serious.
Another key finding of the survey was that almost three-quarters (73pc) of respondents say farmers should give fewer antibiotics to food-producing animals.
To address this growing problem, a global action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance was endorsed at the World Health Assembly in May 2015. One of the plan’s five objectives is to improve awareness and understanding of antibiotic resistance through effective communication, education and training.
QUAKE AFTERMATH: LANDSLIDE CUTS OFF 50 VILLAGES IN HAVELIAN
The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2015
HAVELIAN: A massive landslide has blocked the main artery in the Havelian tehsil of Abbottabad district, cutting off more than 50 villages from the rest of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
According to police and residents, giant boulders rolled down a hill, blocking a perennial stream, Samundar Kattha. Fearing more landslides, at least 30 families have evacuated their homes in a village and moved to safer areas.
Mild earthquake jolts northern Pakistan
A local representative from the Pakistan Peoples Party, Sardar Shamim Sheeraz, said the hill overlooking Poona Hill village in Nara union council had developed cracks at a couple of places after the October 26 earthquake. “Despite repeated complaints, the authorities did not take any preemptive measures,” he told The Express Tribune.
“On the night between Friday and Saturday, heavy boulders and tons of earth slid down the hill and not only blocked the sole road that connects the area with Havelian and Islamabad but also obstructed the flow of water in the Samundar Kattha,” he said.
As a result, a body of water, measuring over 600 square yards, has formed which is likely to swell rapidly if the blockage is not removed. However, he said, since the stream is several feet below the populated area, it does not expose the villages to any danger.
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According to Sheeraz, more than 250 families live on Poona hill out of which 30 have to move to the homes of their relatives.
“Villagers living close to Poona Hill and inhabitants of 50 other villages with a population of over 120,000 have to walk on hilly terrain for over two hours to catch a ride to Havelian.”
Hazara Commissioner Akbar Khan claimed that a team of engineers and machinery have been moved to Poona Hill to remove all obstacles from the road. The commissioner said that the route used by mine owners earlier has been levelled for the sake of villagers.
140 killed in Pakistan as 7.5-magnitude earthquake strikes
“Although the route is difficult and time consuming, the administration has established it to mitigate the sufferings of villagers,” he said. According to him, the blockage from the stream will also be cleared very soon.
“The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and military authorities have also offered their support but right now things are being handled with available resources,” he added.
However, Aurangzeb Khan Nalotha, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA from the area, told The Express Tribune that the provincial government has failed to even supply food items and tents to the affected villagers who had to evacuate their houses following the landslide.
Here’s what you should do during an earthquake
“More than 250 houses of the same village are currently at risk. Rainfall can trigger more landslides and aggravate things,” he said. Nalotha fears this may lead to an eventual shortage of food and medical supplies.
Nalotha disputed the Hazara commissioner’s claims about the alternative route, saying that no actual work had been started yet.
ECOLOGICAL DEGRADATION IRKS SUPREME COURT
Dawn, November 26th, 2015
ISLAMABAD: There was a time when Karachi Municipal Corporation used to be the strongest institution in the city, but now burning of huge piles of garbage in hundreds of localities every morning, emitting toxic gases and polluting environment, has caused immense ecological degradation.
This was stated by judges of the Supreme Court which had taken up a case relating to pollution and environmental degradation in the country on Wednesday.
“Should the Supreme Court intervene all the time to keep the metropolitan city of Karachi clean,” asked Justice Ejaz Afzal, a member of a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.
The resentment was expressed when Additional Advocate General of Sindh Shaharyar Qazi submitted a report on behalf of the provincial government stating that a number of industrial units functioning in Karachi’s site area had been put on notice for contributing to pollution. The report said that a number of schemes were being launched for water treatment and waste management.
The chief justice praised the articulated presentation through bulky file work by the provincial government, but said this signified nothing because environmental pollution had reached its pinnacle. There are many factories in certain cities where the environment around them has extensively deteriorated.
“Until it suits them the government turns a blind eye towards big fish,” the chief justice observed.
About the performance of environmental tribunals, he asked how many offenders had been penalised for their role in environmental degradation.
“You should be grateful to God that you are not living in Karachi,” the chief justice said while pointing to the provincial law officer.
“Who will take interest in cleaning the city is the real question,” Justice Afzal said, adding that an army of employees in the departments concerned is drawing monthly salary, but sitting idle.
Citing his personal experience, he said he had gone to a place in Karachi where standing for a while was the real test of patience because of putrefied stench. Should the judges themselves go and monitor the working of institutions, he said.
Leave Karachi aside, it was difficult to understand how people in towns like Talhar, Matiari or Tando Adam Khan lived, the chief justice said, adding that the new phenomenon of ghost employees had added to the woes of citizens. Should the court become oblivious of bad governance and leave people at the government’s mercy, the bench lamented.
Justice Mushir Alam recalled that the Sindh government had come up with initiatives relating to water and waste treatment schemes some time in 1992, but these were yet to be translated into reality.
Additional Advocate General of Punjab Razzaq A. Mirza informed the court that the provincial governments had appointed 36 magistrates to penalise the people found guilty of polluting the environment and an amount of Rs139 million had been allocated for dealing with environmental degradation. But he conceded that only one environment tribunal was working in Punjab.
“Why don’t we aspire to seek pleasure from the sparkling water flow of the River Ravi or clean environ around us,” wondered Justice Afzal. He regretted that the situation had become so bad that no-one could cross the Ravi Bridge without covering his nose. Natural streams in Islamabad have also been polluted.
Waqar Bilour, law officer from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, informed the court that the provincial government had launched a ‘billion tsunami tree’ campaign to plant saplings, besides installing sewerage lines along different nullah in Peshawar.
But the court asked what would happen if the sewerage lines started leaking and mixed with fresh water. It was not pleased when told that the eventual outlet of sewerage lines would be rivers. The court regretted that the governments had failed to fulfil their promise to clean the environment and said the action in this regard should speak louder than words.
WILDLIFE UNDER THREAT IN WAZIRISTAN
The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2015.
Waziristan – a hotbed of the long war on terrorism – has not only seen the displacement of millions of people but also that of many species of wildlife. The war against militancy has caused great damage to the habitats of many animals, causing them to become easier targets for hunters.
Wild animals like pigs, monkeys, porcupines, jackals, foxes, wild rabbits were abundant in the thick forests of Shahwal mountains. These species now face severe threats to their lives. Shahwal mountains are between North and South Waziristan on the border of Afghanistan.
Ehsan Wazir heads Waziristan Nature Conservation Organisation (WNCO). He told The Express Tribune Shahwal the mountain range was where Operation Zarb-e-Azb against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was taking place in North Waziristan Agency.
Wazir said since the area was under war, habitats of these animals in Shahwal mountains have been exposed. “Six pigs were shot dead in Zare Noor area, west of Wana Bazaar by locals and Afghans,”
Wazir added, “1,700 cranes were either captured or killed, mostly in Zar Milan plain in Toi Khulla tehsil of Wana, South Waziristan this year.” He said Waziristan is not only home to indigenous wildlife but also a route of international migratory birds. “These birds live near Zohb River and pass it twice every year,” he added. According to Wazir, very little work has been done to protect wildlife in Waziristan. “Awareness campaigns through forest department are rare and many projects remain incomplete,” he said. “The administrative influence of unaudited and unaccountable political agents hinders the work of the department to a great extent.”
Wazir said in the absence of any protective measures and laws, the area has turned into a hub of hunters and smugglers.
Highlighting the struggles he went through to conserve wildlife in the district, Wazir recounted an incident about trying to rescue cranes. He said when local crane hunters from South Waziristan were caught by officials based on a tip-off he gave the department, the crane hunters called a jirga. There, Wazir was held responsible for the arrest.
“The jirga decided in favour of nanawatai to tackle the situation and I had to give two lambs in exchange,” he added. Nanawatai refers to a tribal custom where the offending party offers itself up to the aggrieved party which often decides on a violence-less punishment.
According to DI Khan Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Abdul Haleem, war is just one of the problems that has threatened wildlife in Waziristan.
“Population growth, forest cutting, and especially hunting done in the absence of wildlife laws are also endangering the animals,” he said. Haleem added while former K-P governor Lieutenant General Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah had suggested an extension of the wildlife act to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, no work was done regarding it and to date, it remains unimplemented.
“A fresh survey assessing the situation of current wildlife should be carried out soon,’’ Haleem suggested.
Waziristan is a mixture of fertile plains, valleys and mountains. Zindawar, the massive organic pine nuts field, is home to many animals but is unfortunately more accessible to hunters and smugglers.
The Sulaiman mountain range, also in South Waziristan, serves as a habitat to the leopard, black bear, Sulaiman Markhor, wolf, Houbara bustard and many other animals. Unless laws protecting these animals are formulated and implemented, wildlife in Waziristan will face extinction in many areas.
THIS AIR WE BREATHE
The News, November 28, 2015
Despite the fact that degradation of air quality in the country, in big cities in particular, has assumed alarming proportions, all air quality monitoring stations in the country have been lying shut down for the last six years except the one made functional in Peshawar last year.
According to a report issued by the WHO in 2014, Karachi is the fifth most polluted city in the world in terms of air pollution with toxic particulate matter (PM2.5) at 117 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air). Peshawar and Rawalpindi closely follow at 111 ug/m3 and 107 ug/m3 against the WHO’s permissible limit of 25 ug/m3 for 24 hours.
Particulate matter (PM2.5) consists of tiny inhalable particles, smaller than 2.5 microns, exposure to which can cause lung and heart diseases because they can get deep into human lungs, and some may even get into bloodstream. These particles are found near roadways, dusty industries and in smoke and haze.
An ambient (outdoor) air quality monitoring survey carried out in Lahore by the Environment Protection Agency in January 2010 showed that particulate matter (2.5) in the Township area of the city reached 80ug/m3 in the non-rainy season. In June 2014, when EPA Punjab rehabilitated Lahore’s two monitoring stations, they recorded particulate matter (2.5) in the city at 110ug/m3, which is more than four times the permissible limit.
The World Health Organisation gathered data from more than 1,600 cities for the years 2008 to 2013. The air pollution of the Pakistani cities cited by the WHO is also based on old data produced in 2008-2010 when monitoring stations in five major cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta were operational. It can be safely assumed that since then air pollution has worsened owing to an increase in the number of motor vehicles as well as growth in population.
No latest figures of ambient air quality are available for cities because fixed and mobile stations for monitoring and measuring air quality installed in 2007 in five major cities shut down in 2010. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had provided Pakistan a grant of $1,233 million to set up these monitoring stations with a warning that sustainability of these stations depended upon uninterrupted maintenance and supply of kits for laboratory tests. However, this advice fell on deaf ears.
In Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad, air monitoring stations are still non-functional. In Peshawar, the station has been restored last year. In Lahore, after having remained closed for three years, the two stations were made functional in 2014 but currently they are working at half their capacity for want of repair and maintenance; eight out of 18 analysers in these monitoring stations are out of order. The mobile station in Lahore does not even have a driver to run the vehicle.
The Punjab government doles out billions on luxury projects but cannot spare a small amount of Rs2.5 million needed for annual repairs and maintenance to keep them fully functional. Compared to our dismal state, 320 air monitoring stations are working all over India, 70 in Iran and 26 in Dubai.
The environment is quite low on the priority list of our provincial governments. For example, in FY2014-15, the Punjab government allocated an annual development budget of Rs190 million on environment projects but spent only Rs20 million (10.5 percent of the total). The same was the case in the preceding year 2013-14, when the Punjab government had spent only Rs47 million on the environment projects out of an original allocation of Rs164 million.
In 2008, the Federal Ministry of Environment had formulated a Pakistan Clean Air Programme (PCAP) but it proved to be non-starter. Following the 18th Amendment in April 2010, the subject of environment was devolved to the provinces which put the clean air initiatives on the backburner.
The rapidly increasing number of motor vehicles has increased the amount of nitrogen oxides whose value has been found to be four to six times more than the normal value in big cities like Lahore and Karachi. This can be checked by enforcing strict standards of emissions on motor vehicles. We need to adopt Euro-5 and Euro-6 emission standards if we need to save our future generations.
One major reason of the high levels of sulphur oxides in ambient air of big cities and on highways is that sulphur content in diesel in our country is about one percent – which is much higher than the 0.03 percentage in Europe. The government needs to fix new standards for sulphur content in diesel being used in our country.
Air pollution is not only contributing to increased respiratory and heart diseases but the haze and fog in winters in many parts of the country also bring life to a standstill. As the winter sets in, dense layers of fog envelopes most parts of Punjab for up to 16 hours a day.
A study by the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) in 2007 pointed out that it is not only motor vehicles but coal-fired power stations in neighbouring Indian Punjab that are responsible for fog in our side of Punjab.
In Indian Punjab, 14 thermal units of coal-fired plants burn 13.6 million tonne of coal annually, releasing huge quantities of flying ash and sulphur dioxide into ambient air. Because of proximity and wind factor, these coal plants are causing air pollution and dense fog.
The long hours of fog have caused huge economic losses as it results in stunted growth of plants and reduced activity owing to low visibility on highways. But no government has ever bothered to take up this issue with the Indian authorities.
The overall approach of the authorities and the civil society is to ignore environmental issues. We are paying a high price for this neglect in terms of massive spending on health problems, and will pay a still higher price in the days to come if this attitude does not change for the better.
ENVIRONMENT IN 350 WORDS
The News, November 29, 2015
Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) convened to review the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) begins tomorrow (Nov 30) in Paris — a city struggling to regain normalcy after the recent terrorist attacks.
The conference, organised by the UN, has been dubbed the biggest ever for France, as it brings a large number of heads of states to the city. Some 50,000 participants, from government and intergovernment organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society, will be attending this mega event.
Tracing the history of these conferences, one finds that the implementation of international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of UNFCC. This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCC, which entered into force on March 21, 1994, now has a membership of 195 parties (states).
Unlike the 20 conferences held since 1994, this one will hopefully for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, “with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.”
On the run-up to COP21, the signatory states were asked to submit their respective voluntary Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) documents that explained their plans on how to cut carbon emissions at home. Around 155 countries submitted their INDCs documents well in time. But there were some that missed the deadlines – including Pakistan, that submitted the document six weeks late.
Amazingly, the INDCs document submitted by Pakistan is a 350-word one-pager that hardly talks about any concrete plans to fight climate change and lacks baseline data and targets. There is no mention of timelines or milestones — something that makes the whole exercise questionable. It comprises general statements regarding the government’s intentions and resolve to meet this challenge effectively.
This half-hearted response to an international call of immense importance is being widely discussed within the country and abroad, and equated with the country’s alleged negligence towards the issue of climate change.
Muhammad Arshad Rafiq, Chief Coordinator at LEAD Pakistan, a non-profit organisation working primarily on environment and development, is of the opinion that it would have been better not to submit a document than submitting this one-pager. He says, the purpose of calling INDCs from states is to know what exact challenges they face and what realistic targets they can set for themselves and ultimately achieve within the deadlines decided by them. “It is a bottom-up approach, totally different from the top-down approach, adopted in the past when states were given targets and asked to achieve them.”
Rafiq explains as states know their conditions and capacities better, it has been left to them to define their course of action. But in the case of Pakistan, he says, the said INDCs comprise generic statements that talk about intentions but not any clear-cut plans like cutting of carbon commissions to a certain level by a certain year.
The reason why the country is not prepared for COP21 in his opinion is that there was no climate change minister for many months, and challenges in the wake of devolution of environment ministry to provinces are yet to be tackled.
The good news, according to him, is that the superior courts have ordered setting up of climate change commissions in provinces — something which he says will help put things in order.
LEAD Pakistan has helped KP establish a commission and will soon be working with other provinces on similar plans, he discloses.
It is strange that despite having a comprehensive climate change policy and also an implementation plan, the country is shy of making any commitments. One reason, as shared by sources in the federal government, is that the top economic managers were reluctant to give any figures as they foresee a drastic increase in emissions during the execution of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director/Senior Research Fellow at the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), says though Pakistan is not in a strong position for the lack of a clear-cut plan it could still present its case strongly. He says Pakistan could have come up with a better INDC without fear as these are voluntary agreements and not legally binding.
The country, he suggests, should have focused on the fact that it has been a frontline state in the war on terror for the last 15 years and suffered irreparable loss of life, property and livelihood of its masses. Even today, military operations against terrorists are underway in the country.
Therefore, it needs global support to overcome its challenges, including climate change and technological backwardness, as it is one of the 10 countries most affected by this phenomenon.
Suleri says Pakistan can demand financial assistance from the global Green Climate Fund (CGF) set up to “assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.” He says Pakistan, which hardly contributes 0.08 per cent to the global emissions, has all the right in the world to demand financial support from the developed world that is the major polluter.
The country must also ask for clean technology transfer at affordable rates from the developed world to help reduce emissions, he says, continuing that it is quite unfair that these countries have achieved high levels of growth but imposed intellectual property rights on their inventions just to keep the developing countries where they are.
Suleri says even a big country like India which has promised to reduce emissions by 33 per cent in the next 15 years has made it conditional with receipt of global funds for this purpose. “Why can’t Pakistan?” he asks.
He is content with the appointment of Zahid Hamid as minister for climate change days ahead of COP21 and terms it a step in the right direction. “His appointment will help. He drafted the country’s environmental laws with Dr Pervez Hasan, the country’s leading environmental lawyer.”
Dr Adil Najam, Dean of Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, says, “In many ways I think the INDCs are less important. In some way, a distraction.”
The more important questions for him are: “Will we have a binding agreement? Will that agreement – and especially industrialised countries – take on real and binding commitments to take real action that will limit global climate change to 1.5 degrees or below. Not 2.5 or 3.5 but 1.5. Because if it doesn’t then life for vulnerable countries like Pakistan will become even more miserable.”
Meanwhile, PM Nawaz Sharif’s speech on Nov 30 at COP21 has assumed immense importance. He must convey to the world all that the hurriedly done one-pager failed to.
HOSPITALS CAUSING GROUND, AIR POLLUTION
Dawn, October 12th, 2015
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) has said hospitals are inadequately disposing of their hazardous waste and burning them in the open.
“Whether it is the Federal Government Tuberculosis Centre at Asghar Mall in Rawalpindi which buries the sputum of patients in the ground, Capital Hospital of the CDA, which releases emissions by burning its waste in an obsolete incinerator or Shifa Hospital at H-8 which buries the incinerated waste in an inadequate pit, all are causing ground and air pollution,” Pak-EPA informed the Environment Commission last week.
Dozens of pathological labs, clinics and small hospitals have come up in commercial plazas, from one end of Blue Area to the other. Most of these health facilities have no waste management standard operating procedures (SOPs). The few that do try to manage their waste have poor and insufficient criteria in disposing of dangerous throwaway, added an official of Pak-EPA.
Over the years, hospital waste management (HWM) has emerged as one of the major environmental hazards in the federal capital. Realising the issue, Pak-EPA undertook a survey and collected data from more than 60 hospitals, pathological laboratories and clinics about their practices.
Pak-EPA says scores of labs, clinics and small hospitals set up in commercial plazas have no waste management SOPs
The environment body found all hospitals mixing hazardous waste with the municipal waste. More than half of such health facilities with poor hospital waste management SOPs were served with notices.
According to the official, hazardous hospital waste included human specimens, contaminated instruments, infectious tissues, chemicals and infectious waste generated by patients.
“Every day, some of this dangerous waste is mixed with municipal waste. Some makes it to the only proper incineration facility – National Cleaner Production Center in Rawalpindi. The rest is disposed of in CDA’s garbage dump sites where humans come into direct contact with it,” said the official.
He said burying the hospital waste in inadequate pits would eventually contaminate the aquifer where residents mostly drew drinking water from.
In its report, Pak-EPA informed the commission that some hospitals had developed their own waste disposal systems that did not follow set rules and regulations.
“The major issue is with small private hospitals, pathological labs and clinics which have no understanding and concept of handling the infectious waste,” the report said, adding: “Private hospitals and clinics have commercial considerations and, therefore, cut on the waste management costs. On the other hand, public hospitals have budgetary constraints.”
The environment watchdog suggested to the commission to make the hospital waste management rules 2005 mandatory for all health facilities.
It also suggested that the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) may ensure that every health facility applying for registration had an environmental approval from Pak-EPA.
Establishing a centralised facility for disposal of infectious waste away from human settlement and shutting down all incinerators within residential areas besides treatment of infectious liquid waste before discharging it in municipal sewage system were also among the suggestions.
POLLUTING THE ENVIRONMENT: TWO STEEL MILLS SEALED IN INDUSTRIAL AREA
The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2015.
ISLAMABAD: Two steel mills in the capital’s industrial sector have been sealed for violating environmental laws and creating pollution.
A monitoring team from the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) visited the city’s industrial area in Sector I-9 on Thursday and found Siddique Steel Mills and SH Steel incompliant with environmental laws.
The Supreme Court mandated anti-pollution devices were also found to be inactive at the plants during the monitoring team’s visit. The team also found that emissions from the mills’ online dust and stack chimneys were polluting the surrounding area.
In addition, the team found labour at the sites not using mandated personal protection equipment as well as poor housekeeping practices.
Pak- EPA Deputy Director Laboratory Farzana Altaf Shah directed these industries to shut down till compliance with environmental laws and working conditions is put in place.
“Steel mills do not use abatement technologies and personal protection equipment,” she said, and added that factory owners avoid running scrubbers and blurs in a bid to save electricity bills and emit suspended particulate matters and carbon particles in the open air.
People who live in the vicinity of these factories are subject to polluted air and water, she added.
Farah Khan, a resident of Sector-I/10, said factories should not be given a free pass to pollute the air and waterways.
“The Pak-EPA has continually failed to regulate pollution from industrial units,” Khan said.
“Air pollution from factories harms public health, the environment and quality of life,” said Tahir Hussain, a professor who lives near the factories.
“Despite the EPA’s acknowledgment of the harmful impact of factory polluted air for over a decade, it still fails to act on the matter effectively,” Hussain lamented.
At present, the capital’s industrial area comprises eight steel melting furnaces, 11 re-rolling mills, 25 flour mills, five oil and ghee mills, more than 30 marble-cutting and polishing units, more than 10 pharmaceutical units, two galvanising units and two metal works.
PROTESTS AGAINST COAL-BASED POWER PLANT IN HUB
Dawn, October 19th, 2015
QUETTA: Hundreds of people held a demonstration in the industrial town of Hub on Sunday against a coal-based power plant being built in the area by Hubco Power Company.
The protesters, including residents of Gadani, were of the view that the coal-based plant would create environmental problems for people and the marine life.
Holding banners and placards and shouting slogans against the construction of the plant, the protesters marched on roads before gathering outside the press club.
Addressing the protesters, speakers said the plant would create environment problems which would affect populations in the coastal areas of Balochistan and Karachi.
They urged the federal and provincial governments to cancel permission for construction of the coal-based power plant in the area.
NECESSARY RECOMMENDATIONS: EPA ASKED TO SET EMISSION LIMITS, MONITOR AIRBORNE POLLUTION
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2015.
ISLAMABAD: The concentration of toxic particulates in the federal capital’s ambient air exceed the standard set by the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS), says a report.
The report, prepared by an independent commission, has recommended the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) to revise quality standards and set emission limit, run an assessment campaign to monitor the amount of toxins, including mercury, to control pollution in the city.
In its report submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC), on Thursday, the 13-member commission headed by environmental law expert Dr Parvez Hassan said that based on a survey the ambient air quality standards for the city must be revised and emission limits be set.
The report says the present ambient air quality should also be displayed and shared with the public.
The commission that was constituted on the directives of Justice Athar Minallah of the IHC, in its report maintained that the ambient air quality annual average mass concentration of particulate matter and nitric oxide exceed the standard.
The commission underlined that major contributors of air pollution in the capital were motor vehicles and the emissions from the industrial units in sectors I-9 and I-10.
The commission proposed setting up permanent monitoring units, compulsory emission limits and re-introduction of self-monitoring and reporting tool (Smart) for the industries.
“This will monitor the emission quality and quantity as well as help in better reporting under the NEQs,” the report says.
The commission noted that Smart would also enable EPA to easily detect industries exceeding the threshold set by NEQS, and take timely action.
The commission has also recommended to strengthen EPA to enforce test protocols for inspection and maintenance of vehicles and industrial machinery, and “pre-emission cleaning and refining techniques” in the industrial area of the capital.
It has also proposed to introduce combustion efficiency in diesel engines in factories by using cleaner fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and promoting lead-free gasoline by giving incentives to refineries.
The commission has also suggested levying high taxes on diesel and other fuels containing high levels of lead and sulphur.
It has also suggested follow-up of commitments made in the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) of projects in the capital to ensure that vegetation cover removed for construction was replenished.
Private sector must be involved in plantation efforts, and the subsequent care, along major road works, such as the Islamabad Expressway, the report recommends.
It is, generally, and well-perceived that a lack of institutional mechanism for public consultation and participation has compromised the standards of transparency and accountability, which, resultantly, has led to arbitrary amendments of the Master Plan and the zoning regulations, and weakened the process of the EIA, the report says.
The commission had recommended setting up of an institutionalised permanent public engagement committee (“PEC”) for each zone.
The report suggests the PECs may comprise of parliamentarians, representative(s) of the elected local government, urban planners, architects, engineers, media, civil society, academics, and ex-officio members from the local administration.
2015 LIKELY TO BE HOTTEST YEAR EVER RECORDED
International New York Times, Oct 21, 2015
By JUSTIN GILLIS
Global temperatures are running far above last year’s record-setting level, all but guaranteeing that 2015 will be the hottest year in the historical record — and undermining political claims that global warming had somehow stopped.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the American agency that tracks worldwide temperatures, announced Wednesday that last month had been the hottest September on record, and in fact took the biggest leap above the previous September that any month has displayed since 1880, when tracking began at a global scale. The agency also announced that the January-to-September period had been the hottest such span on the books.
The extreme heat and related climate disturbances mean that delegates to a global climate conference scheduled for Paris in early December will almost certainly be convening as weather-related disasters are unfolding around the world, putting them under greater political pressure to reach an ambitious deal to limit future emissions and slow the temperature increase.
The immediate cause of the record-breaking warmth is a strong El Niño weather pattern, in which the ocean releases immense amounts of heat into the atmosphere. But temperatures are running so far ahead of those during the last strong El Niño, in 1997 and 1998, that scientists said the records would not be occurring without an underlying trend caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.
“The bottom line is that the world is warming,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with NOAA, in Asheville, N.C.
She pointed to measurements in several of the world’s ocean basins, where surface temperatures are as much as three degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, a substantial increase when calculated over such large areas.
“We’re seeing it all across the Indian Ocean, in huge parts of the Atlantic Ocean, in parts of the Arctic oceans,” Dr. Blunden said in an interview. “It’s just incredible to me. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” The combined effects of El Niño and greenhouse warming are already roiling weather patterns worldwide, probably contributing to dry weather and forest fires in Indonesia, to an incipient drought in Australia and to a developing food emergency across parts of Africa, including a severe drought in Ethiopia. Those effects are likely to intensify in coming months as the El Niño reaches its peak and then gradually subsides.
Past patterns suggest that El Niño will send unusual amounts of rain and snow to the American Southwest and to California, offering some relief for that parched state but also precipitating floods and mudslides. The California effects are not a certainty, experts said, but if they come, they are likely to be strongest in the latter part of the winter.
Earlier this year, the global warmth contributed to a spring heat wavein India and Pakistan that killed many people, possibly several thousand, with temperatures hitting 118 degrees in parts of India. The effects on the natural world have also been severe, with extreme ocean temperatures bleaching coral reefs around the world, and many of them likely to suffer lasting da
Forecasters have been issuing warnings about a strong El Niño. The coming few months will test whether governments, and the global relief agencies that support poor countries, have prepared, particularly to provide food relief for hard-hit regions.
“The warning is out,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, in New York. “The world has had time to plan for this.”
Though worldwide in its consequences, El Niño originates in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, when normal weather patterns shift in a way that allows the ocean to release large amounts of stored-up heat into the atmosphere. That perturbs atmospheric waves that can travel thousands of miles, redistributing heat and moisture around the globe.
The effects can be profound, with some research even suggesting that civil wars become more likely in tropical countries when they are under stress from an El Niño.
The World Food Program, a United Nations relief agency, is preparing for expanded operations across Africa, and appealing for donations. Harvests are down across large stretches of that continent, and the number of people going hungry in Ethiopia is likely to be in the millions in coming months, relief groups have estimated.
Scientists have long wondered whether human-induced global warming would alter the frequency or severity of El Niños, but so far, that does not seem to be the case. “We have no reason at this point to think that El Niño itself is responding to the forcing from greenhouse gases,” Dr. Seager said. “You can think of them as independent and adding to each other.”
For much of the past decade, people who question established climate science have been claiming that global warming had stopped. Their argument depended on picking a particular base year — almost always 1998, the final year of the last strong El Niño — as their starting point.
But mainstream climate scientists said that was a statistically invalid cherry-picking of the data, and their analysis of the entire record showed that global warming never stopped — at most, the rise of surface temperatures slowed somewhat, even as the oceans continued to warm at a brisk pace.
The record-setting warmth of 2014 and 2015 has undermined the idea that the problem of greenhouse emissions had somehow solved itself, though some Washington politicians continue to repeat the claims. Climate scientists have not wavered in their view that the long-term temperature increase poses profound risks and that emissions must be brought under control.
STUDY SOUNDS ALARM OVER CLIFTON BEACH POLLUTION
Dawn, October 26th, 2015
KARACHI: The Clifton Cantonment Board (CCB), responsible for providing municipal services to beach visitors, needs to adopt effective methods to clear the Clifton beach of polluting solid waste material that is posing as a serious threat to marine life, according to a recent Karachi University (KU) study. From the several types, those composed of buoyant and non-biodegradable synthetic plastic, polystyrene and aluminium foil raised the most concern.
The research titled ‘Quantities and composition of shore debris along Clifton beach, Karachi, Pakistan’, was published in the Journal of Coastal Conservation, Planning and Management. It was conducted by Ramzan Ali under the supervision of Prof Zafar Iqbal Shams at the Institute of Environmental Studies, KU.
A total of 2,043 items of 10 types with a corresponding weight of 12.66kg were collected from 10 sites of the Clifton beach in 2013.
According to the research, plastic (50.5pc) was the most abundant debris found along the beach, followed by food (20pc) and paper (6.6pc). In terms of weight, processed wood (25.5pc of the total) was the most abundant, followed by plastic (19.9pc) and metal (9.8pc).
The three-month average quantities of the debris collected showed that plastic items were significantly higher than any other type found on the beach. It also classified the debris on the basis of size and found that metal, glass, paper, plastic and rubber items were largely smaller in size while Styrofoam (made from a petroleum-based plastic), processed wood and cloth items were mostly large in size.
Beach visitors are the main contributor of debris along the beach. Restaurants, cafes and hawkers serve them with beverages, food and mild stimulants, such as betel nuts, fennel seeds and gutka, which are packed in plastic, polystyrene and aluminum foil.
“Moreover, the Clifton beach is flanked by two ephemeral rivers, the Lyari and Malir rivers, which carry the floating debris along the city’s effluents. A major part of this floating debris is plastic and polythene bags, which is ultimately largely deposited along the city’s shorelines,” the report says.
Highlighting the adverse impact of solid pollutants along the beach, the study also says that the persistent accumulation of man-induced beach debris is currently a major global concern since it has marked a visible impact on almost all beach fronts.
Even the most remote beach fronts on earth with little or no human activity, it says, have substantial quantities of debris particularly those composed of buoyant and non-biodegradable synthetic plastic and polystyrene.
Man-induced beach debris, according to the report, poses a serious threat to marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles mainly through ingestion and entanglement.
Clifton beach, it says, on an average, was contaminated with 8,172 items per kilometer in June, 10,562 items per km in July and 7,856 items per km in August while the average weight of debris on the beach front was estimated to be 50.7kg per km in June, 64.7km in July and 49.1kg per km in August.
“The debris along the beach, however, could be reduced by enhancing its periodic collection by the CCB, which is responsible for providing municipal services to beach visitors,” it states.
The study points out that the debris load along the beach front of Clifton is higher when compared to data from similar studies conducted in the Gulf of Oman, Australia and Falkland Islands. The high level of debris on the Clifton beach, it says, may be due to higher human population in Karachi and a greater use of the Clifton beach compared to these beaches.
However, if compared with beaches like those of the Caribbean Islands and South Africa and Belgium, the Clifton beach, it concludes, is moderately polluted.
The study is the first of its kind in Pakistan focusing on the abundance and composition of debris along the Clifton beach.
NDMA CHIEF WARNS OF MORE AFTERSHOCKS, LANDSLIDES
Dawn, October 28th, 2015
ISLAMABAD: Warning that more aftershocks of varying intensity could strike at any time, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Maj Gen Asghar Nawaz said the threat of landsliding still loomed over the mountainous areas due to large-scale movement of glaciers and rock formations.
Addressing journalists, along with Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, at the Press Information Department, he said the death toll from the earthquake currently stood at 248. According to a preliminary assessment of damage and losses, he said, as many as 1,665 people had been injured and 4,392 houses were completely or partially damaged.
He said the number of deaths reported so far from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the worst hit province — was 202, while another 30 lives were lost in Fata, nine in Gilgit-Baltistan, five in Punjab and two in AJK. Of the injured, 1,488 were in KP, 78 in Punjab, 59 in Fata, 30 in GB and 12 in AJK. He said 3,952 houses were damaged in KP, 300 in Fata, 90 in GB, 44 in Punjab and eight in AJK.
He said old buildings that had developed cracks had been identified and the NDMA had proposed a legislation to declare the violation of seismic codes a criminal offence. He said that Monday’s 8.1 magnitude earthquake had been followed by 18 aftershocks of varying intensity, between 2.2 and 5.1.
Asked whether immediate relief was reaching all affected areas, the NDMA chief conceded that there might have been some gaps in the response in Chitral, but said that a helicopter had been provided exclusively for sorties in the region.
He also denied reports of quake-hit people spending a chilly night under the open sky in Balakot.
He said that about 2,250 tents, 2,500 blankets and other relief items had been sent to the quake-hit areas and the army had established three relief camps and 26 distribution centres and deployed two medical teams, including surgeons.
He said a comprehensive damage assessment exercise had commenced and the NDMA would soon obtain post-disaster imagery of the affected areas from the Pakistan Air Force.
Answering a question, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that banned outfits would not be allowed to carry out relief operations in the quake-hit areas. “We cannot permit proscribed organisations to spread venom under the guise of relief.”
He said that Operation Zarb-i-Azb had already broken the back of militant organisations.
Pakistan, he said, had the capacity and capability to provide relief to people affected by natural disasters on its own and did not need to launch an appeal for international assistance.
PROVINCES APPROVE DRAFT OF BIODIVERSITY ACTION PLAN
The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2015
ISLAMABAD: All provinces have supported the revised draft of National Biodiversity, Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) aimed at stemming the loss of biodiversity, restoring the ecosystem and promoting sustainable use of natural resources for the wellbeing of the present and the future generations.
The revised draft of the plan that highlights over 20 targets was launched at a workshop, organised by the Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at a local hotel, here on Thursday.
Sustainable use of biodiversity is not only a national need but also a global obligation under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
A biodiversity action plan (BAP) was prepared back in 2000 but its implementation remained slow due to a weak institutional framework. In 2010, in a global review it was revealed that biodiversity in the country was continuing to be lost and ecosystems were degrading and undermining human wellbeing.
In October 2010, a conference held in Japan adopted a strategic plan for biodiversity 2011-2020 with 20 targets.
“In Pakistan, the process of revision was started with the Global Environmental Fund (GEF) grant for enabling activities in 2014 and the fifth national report was prepared along with initial consultations with the stakeholders,” Ministry of Climate Change Biodiversity Programme Director Naeem Ashraf Raja said.
He said that the country was unable to implement the first biodiversity action plan completely mainly because of lack of clear mechanism for coordination between the provinces and the federation.
Raja said there was a need to align BAP with strategic plan of CBD 2001-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity targets.
He said that the biodiversity working group (BWG) was processed and first round of consultation was held in March 2015, and a draft prepared and shared with stakeholders and incorporated their suggestions. Raja said a second round of consultation was held in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
“There is no reliable mapping, assessment of ecosystem, habitats and species, no valuation studies in respect of benefit of ecosystem that exist in Pakistan,” the IUCN Pakistan Biodiversity Consultant, Javed Ahmed said.
He added that biodiversity was on low priority in planning and resources allocations besides legal and policy framework.
Ahmed said that institutional capacity was weak.
“We need a national level guideline to protect biodiversity,” Ahmed stressed.
“It is our national duty to preserve what we have, the MOCC and the IUCN are trying to preserve biodiversity,” the MOCC Secretary, Arif Ahmed Khan said and added that if out of 20 half of targets were achieved than too it would be a big achievement.
The AJK Biodiversity Director, Dr Aurangzeb said that biodiversity strategy was a working document.
“We need an act or policy to save nature in AJK,” he said.
Balochistan Director Biodiversity Syed Ali Imran asked the federal government to provide funds for conservation of natural resources of the province.
The G-B Forest Conservator, Walayat Noor said that nine out of 10 districts in the region had protected forests, and expressed intention to sign anMoU with the forest department and the MOCC to increase cooperation.
The K-P Biodiversity Director, ShandanaAzizullah, extended support to support to national policy on biodiversity.
“We are victims of not only natural calamities but also manmade calamity,” she said, and added that K-P government had allocated Rs42 billion for the local government and was taking steps to overcome trust deficit.
The Punjab Planning and Development Department Director, Dr Ahmed Bilal said that the NBSAP document should be monitored on a regular basis.
Sindh Biodiversity Director Abdul JabbarQazi said that for implementation on the NBSAP there should be dedicated offices in provinces for biodiversity.
JAPAN GIFTS 123 HYBRID CARS TO AID POLICE PATROLS
The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2015.
ISLAMABAD: A common complaint from the country’s police forces is the lack of fuel funds to pay for patrolling vehicles. While the government has been unable to address the issue, the government of a friendly East-Asian nation has responded.
Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Inomata on Friday handed over 123 Japanese-made hybrids vehicles to the Ministry of Interior. The Japanese embassy said the total cost of the vehicles is around 500 million Japanese Yen, or Rs435 million.
The cars are part of Japan’s Non-Project Grant Aid (NPGA) to Pakistan, a government sponsored fund to “contribute to the promotion of socioeconomic development efforts in developing countries.”
The handover ceremony was held at Islamabad Traffic Police Headquarters, with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan representing Pakistan.
Ambassador Inomata said, “Security enhancement is indispensable for successful socioeconomic development in Pakistan, and the Government of Japan remains committed to improving the capabilities of Pakistani law enforcement agencies.”
Ambassador Inomata also hoped that the NPGA will provide, “A good opportunity for Pakistani people to realise the positive environmental effects brought about by hybrid vehicles.”
Nisar reiterated the government’s sincere gratitude for Japan’s continued commitment to socioeconomic development in Pakistan.
Hybrid vehicles use less fuel and emit less greenhouse emissions as compared to conventional vehicles. The hybrid police cars will not only to enable the police to reduce daily fuel costs, but also to help address increasing environmental challenges.
The vehicles are widely used by Japanese police, government entities and public transport, while also gaining popularity among the public.
In the last decade, the Government of Japan, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has provided training opportunities to around 45 Pakistani police officers in areas such as forensic science, drug control and terrorism investigation.
In addition, Japan has also previously agreed to install scanning devices at three international airports and two international seaports in Pakistan, all of which are currently under way.