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ENVIRONMENT

ENVIRONMENT A decade ago, environmental institutions in Pakistan at the federal and provincial levels were too weak to enforce laws, with the consequence that the country has seen a significant deterioration in various aspects of its physical environment Environmental awareness was non-existent, and whatever efforts were exerted made little change due to a low literacy rate In 1983, the first environmental ordinance was formulated Since the promulgation of this ordinance, Pakistan has made some progress in the institutional strengthening and capacity-building of institutions devoted to policy and planning, raising environmental awareness, and the promulgation of environmental legislation A set of National Environment Quality Standards (NEQS) was established, and environmental tribunals were constituted in the late 1990s The energy sector introduced lead-free petrol, and since July 2002, all refineries in the country are supplying lead-free petrol and promoting clean fuels, including compressed natural gas (CNG) After the approval by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Council in 2001, the National Environment Action Plan (NEAP) was formulated, which includes various programs, both large and small, for improving the state of the environment The major objectives of NEAP are to achieve a healthy environment and a sustainable livelihood by improving the quality of air, water, and land The plan emphasizes civil society cooperation For this purpose, the initial Environmental Examination (EE) and the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) have been made mandatory for public sector development projects



To implement NEAP, the government of Pakistan signed a NEAP Support (NEAP-SP) program with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in October 2001At the meeting of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) 26 August-4 September 2002, Pakistan made a commitment to significantly improve various aspects of the country’s physical environment The country assessment report for WSSD focused on the protection of the atmosphere; developed an integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources; made a commitment to combat deforestation and drought; and committed to launch sustainable development of mountain areas, to promote sustainable agriculture, to conserve biological diversity, to undertake environmentally sound management of biotechnology, and to protect the oceans The report is now the basis of some environmental operations supported by the World BankAir pollution levels in Pakistan’s most populated cities are among the highest in the world and are climbing, causing serious health issues The levels of ambient particulates-smoke particles and dust that cause respiratory disease-are generally twice the world average and are more than five times as high as in industrial countries The key factors contributing to air pollution in Pakistan are a rapidly growing energy demand and a fast growing transport sector Auto and industrial emissions are the main source of atmospheric pollution The growth rate of numbers of vehicles in Pakistan is about 12 percent per annum, and over the last two decades the total number of motor vehicles on the road has jumped from 08 million to almost 50 million (an overall increase of more than 600 percent)

Motorcycles and rickshaws using two-stroke engines burn fuel inefficiently and contribute significantly to air pollution The number of rickshaws has more than doubled while motorcycles and scooters have increased sevenfold over the past 20 yearsIncreased population, urbanization, and continued industrial development have placed immense stress on the water resources of the country The extended drought in the late 1990s, and the nondevelopment of additional water resources have aggravated the water scarcity situation, with water availability decreasing in the urban areas Per capita water availability has decreased from 10,000 m3 in 1951 to 5,630 m3 in 2001-2002 Therefore, the provision of safe fresh water supplies is at risk in many parts of the country Various estimates have been made over the years to determine water quality National Environmental Quality Standards are used as a reference point to compare how the average quality of water fares with various parameters While on most counts (including temperature, total dissolved solids, and biological oxygen demand) the urban supply of water is considered to be safe, increased demand for it is likely to result in the deterioration of quality Pollution levels are high in and around the big cities such as Karachi, Lahore, and Rawalpindi As far as chemical characteristics are concerned, the value of turbidity in some areas, such as Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Sukkar, and Ziarat, exceeds the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard value

The chemical quality of the water was found to be within recommended levels with respect to calcium and chromium However, higher arsenic contents were found in samples collected from seven sites, namely Lahore, Multan, Bahawalpur, Gujranwala, Kasur, Sheikhapura, and Hyderabad According to the WHO, the groundwater of Lahore as far as 700-meters deep has been seriously contaminated and should not be used for human consumption Forests in Pakistan are also under considerable stress, particularly in the mountainous regions in the country’s north and northeast These areas are poorly served by gas and electricity grids, and wood remains the main source of fuel and heat Deforestation is rampant, and forest cover is being lost at a troubling rate Deforestation has exposed these areas to natural disasters, aggravating considerably the adverse impact of earthquakes and floods

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