KARACHI - The provincial governments before wasting any more time should assume their responsibilities pertaining to the protection of environment in the light of 18th Amendment as there is no obstruction in the way of the provinces to do their part to contain the phenomenon of climate change.

This was one of the demands contained in the keynote address of Annual Environment Conference-2019 delivered by former Federal Information minister and noted scholar Javed Jabbar. The National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) in collaboration with Environment Management Consultant organised the conference.

“The provinces should strengthen their institutions and provide resources to protect the environment in the light of the powers they gained after the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Nobody is stopping the provinces from doing so,” said Jabbar on the occasion.   

He said that the provinces had no choice other than to play this role in the light of the responsibilities passed on to them after the 18th Amendment.  “There exists Environment Department in the provinces as it needs to the strengthened. Till now the situation is such that the ministry of Environment Department in the provinces is given to someone either as an act of punishment or charity as this trend needs to be changed,” he said.

The former federal minister said that provinces should enact more effective laws for serving the cause of the environmental protection in best of the manner.

Jabbar said that population welfare was another aspect whose responsibility should be assumed by the provinces in the light of their increased role in governance.

He said that population growth rate had a direction relation with the situation of environmental degradation in terms of availability of resources, which are vital for human life. “It would be grave oversight on the part of the authorities concerned if they are ignoring the impact of population on the environment,” he said.

Also speaking on the occasion, Prof Dr Noman Ahmed of Department of Architecture and Planning of the NED University of Engineering & Technology, mentioned a recent statement of Commissioner Karachi according to whom there were 1578 designated public parks in the city as nearly half of them were encroached. He said that clearing these parks of encroachments was not an easy task as human settlements were involved in many of such instances whose eviction would cause a major social uproar.

He said that if in case all the proposed seven lines of the Bus Rapid Transit Service were built and made operational in Karachi then they would only cater to eight per cent passenger traffic that had to rely on commuter services daily in the city.

He said that a fresh city-wide plan should be adopted at the earliest so to tackle the ever exacerbating civic issues of Karachi in view of its depleting resources.

He said that Karachi had been once gifted with strong leaders in the pre-partition era who acted as mayors of the city. “The institutions of the city were also strong in that era, which is no more the case. Now Karachi lacks both strong leaders and municipal institutions,” he said.

Advocate Shahab Usto emphasised that Supreme Court-mandated commission on water and sanitation issues in Sindh should continue its work as projects initiated by it would go a long way in serving the cause of environmental conservation.

He said that the Water and Sanitation Commission had identified 750 points all over the province where sewage was being mixed with fresh water resource as 190 of them already been addressed.

He said that owing to the efforts of the Water Commission, industries of the province had given written undertakings to install pre-treatment effluent plants at their sites individually as earlier the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency had completely failed to discharge such responsibilities.

NFEH President Naeem Qureshi urged the provincial governments to empower their respective environmental protection agencies so that a cohesive nation-wide action could be initiated to tackle the damaging phenomenon of climate change.

Addressing the concluding session of the event as its chief guest, Sindh Chief Secretary Mumtaz Ali Shah said that provincial governments of Pakistan were very much onboard in the efforts being done nationally and all over the world to address the issue of climate change.

He said that one instance of such efforts was that no development project sponsored by any of the provincial government could be launched without conducting its prior Environmental Impact Assessment Study.

He said that Sindh government would allocate maximum resources and do best of its efforts to ensure best environmental practices in all development projects being undertaken in the province.