Avoiding environmental degradation to ensure food, water security: Sharmila


KARACHI: Sindh’s Culture and Tourism Minister Ms Sharmila Farooqui said on Sunday that the biodiversity of the country is under threat due to the massive depletion of natural resources and the government is committed to counter it. The government of Pakistan recognized the need to conserve biodiversity and is now committed to several international protocols and conventions.

“Avoiding environmental degradation will ensure food, water and environmental securities in the future. Despite the integration of environmental consideration into development, the environment sector has not been given its due place in past,” Sharmila told PPI.

She said Pakistan is categorized amongst the highly vulnerable countries to the adverse impacts of climate Change due to its diverse topographic and demographic settings. Pakistan’s 5000 glaciers are on retreat. “They are retreating faster than any other part of the world. The country is vulnerable to a host of natural hazards particularly of hydro meteorological nature, the frequency and intensity of which has increased due to Climate Change. The recurring extreme events that Pakistan has faced in the recent years carried significant climate change footprints.”

These included flash floods, cyclones, heat waves, droughts, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods and intrusion of saline seawater into the Indus River Delta Region. Pakistan suffered economic losses of more than US$15 billion during floods of 2010, to 2012. The unprecedented floods of 2010 were described by the UN Secretary General as a slow moving Tsunami. More than 20 million people were affected and roughly 300,000 were displaced, she said.

Sharmila said Pakistan’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are low compared to international standards. In 2008, Pakistan’s total GHG emissions were 310 million tons of CO2 equivalents. These comprised: CO2 54% Methane (Ch4) 36%; Nitrous Oxide (N2O) 9%; Carbon Monoxide (CO) 0.7%; and Non- Methane Volatile Organic Compounds 0.3%. The energy sector is the single largest source of GHG emission in Pakistan; it accounts for nearly 51% of these emissions and is followed by processes (6%), Land use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) (3%) emissions and waste (1%).

“As such, the most important targets for mitigation efforts focused on reduction of GHG emissions are the energy and agriculture sectors. In the energy sector, integration climate change and energy policy objectives are particularly important. The buildings and transport infrastructure put in place today should meet the design needs of the future. Therefore, greater attention must be paid to energy efficiency requirements in building codes and long-term transport planning.”

She said: “Climate change is severely impacting the development aspirations of almost all developing countries. Although the developing countries do not have the historical responsibility for the present day challenges yet they are taking the brunt of its negative impacts. It even threatens the very survival of the small island developing states. The sustainable development prospects of Pakistan are undermined by the climate change in multiple ways which is already entrenched with numerous economic, security and social challenges. While Ministry of Climate Change is working to avert these challenges for Pakistan, climate change is serving not only as a threat but also a threat multiplier. Above all, it is seriously undermining the gains achieved in this regard.”

“It is inflicting huge losses to human life and property. It is also causing additional stress on the sustainability and access to natural resources both for the present and more importantly for the future generations. The actions to address climate change should ensure the sustainable development and sustained economic growth of the developing countries and the universal elimination of poverty, hunger and disease. In Pakistan alone, additional US $ 6-14 billion are required annually to adapt to the climate change adverse impacts,” she said.

She said: “Further to national Climate Change policy-2012, its framework for implementation is developed keeping in view the current and future anticipated climate change threats to Pakistan’s various sectors. In view of Pakistan’s high vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change, in particular extreme events, the vulnerabilities of various sectors to climate change have been highlighted and appropriate adaptation actions spelled out. These cover actions to address issues in various sectors such as water, agriculture, forestry, coastal areas, biodiversity, health and other vulnerable ecosystems.”

She said that furthermore, appropriate actions relating to disaster preparedness, capacity building, institutional strengthening; and awareness rising in relevant sectors is also a part of this framework for implementation of National Climate Change Policy which has been developed not as an end in itself but rather a catalyst for mainstreaming climate change concerns into decision making that will create enabling condition for integrated climate compatible development processes. It is therefore, not a stand-alone document but rather an integral and synergistic accomplishment to future planning of the country.

“Sustainable use of resources and environmental concern has become increasingly important. The inability to address the situation will result in extremely high environmental and economic cost in future. Environmental factors are changing drastically and if left unchecked, pollution and environmental degradation will pose a monumental threat to social and economic growth of the country. There is need to counter pollution that on a wide scale is damaging the land, water, and air as unchecked economic activity has decreased the availability of fresh water resources along with clean air,” Sharmila concluded.