PESHAWAR, July 27: Portraying a bleak picture of environmental degradation, the NWFP Environmental Protection Agency (Epa) has declared the provincial capital one of the most polluted cities facing with serious ecological problems.
“Peshawar is the most polluted one among other major cities of the NWFP with carbon dioxide emission reaching up to 23 particles per million (ppm) against the World Health Organisation guidelines of 10ppm,” reveals a study conducted by the agency.
Other major cities including Nowshera, Hangu, Karak, Haripur, Mardan, Abbottabad, Mingora, Kohat, Bannu and D.I. Khan have also surpassed the WHO limits pertaining to major air pollutants. Despite enactment of various laws including the Pakistan Environmental Act, action plans and formation of environmental tribunals during the last one decade, ecology is on the verge of degradation in urban and rural areas of the province.
The agency in its report “Environmental profile of the NWFP”, which is yet to be published, says that the province is confronted with growing environmental issues like urbanisation, population explosion and non-judicious exploitation of natural resources which are threatening the environment in socio-economic terms.
“Problems have been further exacerbated with the influx of million of Afghan refugees by putting immense pressure on the fragile resource-based ecology and nascent infrastructure of the province and triggering ecological demands including air and water pollution, solid waste problems, deforestation, soil erosion, growing scarcity of water, overuse of rangelands and wasteful energy consumption,” says the report.
The main sources of air pollution in the province, according to the study are: vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, emissions from brick kiln factories, massive burning of solid waste/refuse, domestic burnings, fuel adulteration and use of ill-maintained vehicles.
The more serious illnesses related to air pollution include bronchitis, asthma and cancer. It can even lead to mental impairment in children. Respiratory infections and allergies are very common diseases attributed to dust and smoke. Increasing number of roads accidents are also attributed to high level of carbon monoxide, causing drowsiness, headache and even death on heavy traffic roads due to the formation of carboxyl haemoglobin.
NOISE: Noise level also exceeds the permissible level of 85 decibels unit. Major source of noise pollution is road transport specially auto-rickshaws plying on roads with defective silencers, trains and aircrafts.
The industrial units in the province are scattered over a vast stretch of the province with greater concentration in and around the cities of Peshawar, Haripur, Charsadda, Nowshera and Gadoon Amazai. Industrial emissions from chimneys are also a source of air pollution in these areas. The combustion of old rubber tyres and used mobile oil in these factories emits hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. The increased number of brick kilns situated in the province particularly in Peshawar have almost doubled the level of air pollution mainly due to the use of large amount of rubber, low quality of coal and used oil for burning purposes.
SOLID WASTE: In the NWFP generation of municipal solid waste is estimated to be between 0.4 and 0.6 kilograms per day per capita and virtually, no proper waste management system exists. Approximately 40 per cent of the generated wastes remain at collection points, or in streets, where they emit a host of pollutants into the air, making it unacceptable for breathing. Also on roadside, the dump burning of the municipal solid wastes generates air pollution problem.
The Epa has found that quality of drinking water is often low and seldom met the WHO guidelines. Water in many parts of the province was unsafe for human consumption due to both bacterial and chemical contamination.
It says that water samples of Haripur, Bannu and Kohat districts were 70 to 80 per cent clear from bacteriological contamination. About 40 per cent water samples were found contaminated in Peshawar and Nowshera, almost 50 per cent in Mardan and Swat. More than 60 per cent contaminated samples belonged to D.I. Khan, Chitral and Mansehra. While more than 80 per cent contaminated water samples pertained to Lakki, Hangu and Malakand districts.
SURFACE WATER: The quality of surface water has also been identified as the major issue of water resources. Untreated waste discharged from factories, industrial units, residential areas and municipal waste are the prime culprits which are polluting sources of surface water. It said that Bara River received untreated sewage and waste water from the eastern and central part of Peshawar city and the sub-urban areas and ultimately discharges into Kabul River.
One of the sources of pollution in Swat River is the water coming from its main tributaries, the Mingora Khawar. All the waste and effluent in Mingora city are added to Mingora Khawar and these pollutants are further injected into river swat contributing to its ecological degradation as well. The main sources of identified pollution entering the Kabul River system are untreated industrial effluent from sugar mills, paper and board mills, tanneries and textile mills. In addition, ghee and chemicals contribute significant pollutants.
Untreated municipal waste effluents from Peshawar and Nowshera enter the system mainly via the Budni Nulla, Bara River and the Kalpani River. Several sewers also discharge untreated waste to the system. About four sugar mills discharge their effluent to the river Kabul. Nowshera Aman Grah, Peshawar, Hattar-Haripur and Gadoon-Amazi industrial estates revealed some frightening figures that indicated serious threats to the aquatic, terrestrial, atmospheric ecosystems, and to the well-being of human, plant and animal life.
GREEN SECTOR: About green sector problems, the report says that a very large livestock population and excessive grazing, and over harvesting of natural vegetation are the main causes of rangeland degradation in the NWFP. Despite serious environmental problems caused by excessive overgrazing, little has been done to rehabilitate depleted rangeland.
It says that the forest area of the province decreased by 10.5 per cent from 1991 to 2004-05 and the reasons for this fast rate of deforestation were rapid increase in human and livestock populations.
Environmental issues in Pakistan include deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, climate change, pesticide misuse, soil erosion, natural disasters and desertification. These are serious environmental problems that Pakistan is facing, and they are getting worse as the country's economy expands and the population grows. Unfortunately, not much is being done to tackle these issues, because the goals of economic growth and tackling terrorism within the country supersede the goals of environmental preservation. Although NGOs and government departments have taken initiatives to stop environmental degradation, Pakistans environmental issues still remain.
Economic consequences of environmental degradation
The majority of Pakistan’s industrial sectors, for example fishing and agriculture, which count for more than one fourth of the output and two fifths of employment in Pakistan, are highly dependent on the country's natural resources. Hence in order to sustain economic growth there is a high demand on already scarce natural resources. However it is ironic that what the country depends on for its growth is also what threatens the future welfare and success of the country. According to the World Bank, 70% of Pakistan’s population live in rural areas and are already stricken by high poverty levels. These people depend on natural resources to provide income and tend to overuse these resources. This leads to further degradation of the environment and subsequently increases poverty. This has led to what the World Bank refers to as a "vicious downward spiral of impoverishment and environmental degradation." 
The World Bank report in 2013 stated that Pakistan's top environmental issues include air pollution, inadequate supply of uncontaminated drinking water, noise pollution and the health deterioration of urban and rural populations due to pollution. These environmental concerns not only harm Pakistani citizens but also pose a serious threat to the country's economy. The report also stated that the increase in industrialization, urbanization and motorization will inevitably worsen this problem.
Trash thrown in an empty plot in Karachi, Pakistan
Main article: Water supply and sanitation in Pakistan
Pakistan faces a major scarcity when it comes to water resources, especially finding clean water. There is only one major river, the Indus River, which supplies water throughout the agricultural plains in Punjab and in Sindh, while the rest of the country has very little access to other fresh water. The scarcity of water not only threatens Pakistan's economy but also poses a serious threat to the lives of millions of Pakistanis.
The issue of water pollution further worsens this problem for Pakistan. The sources for water pollution include the overuse of chemical fertilizers, the dumping of industrial wastes into lakes and rivers, untreated sewage being dumped into the ocean, and contaminated pipelines being used to transport water. The contamination of fresh drinking water makes it harder for people to find clean water supplies and increases the prevalence of waterborne diseases. Consequently, most of the reported health problems in Pakistan are either a direct or indirect result of polluted water. 45% of infant deaths are due to diarrhea and 60% to overall waterborne diseases.
The megacities of Pakistan, such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, face the issue of noise pollution. The main source of this pollution is the traffic noise caused by buses, cars, trucks, rickshaws and water tankers. A study showed that on one of Karachi's main roads, the average noise level was around 90 dB and was capable of reaching about 110 dB. This is much higher than the ISO's noise level standard of 70 dB, which is not meant to be harmful to the human ear. However, the study also concluded that in Pakistan, "the traffic noise levels limit as laid down by National Environment Quality standards, Environmental Protection Agency is 85 dB".
This high level of noise pollution can cause auditory and non-auditory health issues. Auditory issues include the loss of auditory sensory cells; non-auditory health issues include sleep disturbance, noise and cardiovascular disease, endocrine response to noise and psychiatric disorder. Unfortunately there are very few, vague laws and policies in regards to noise levels. There is no accountability, and while the federal and provincial environmental protection agencies receive dozens of complaints on noise pollution from the public, these agencies are unable to take action due to legal constraints and the absence of national noise level standards.
Air pollution is a growing environmental problem in Karachi, especially in the large metropolises. According to a World Bank report, "Karachi's urban air pollution is among the most severe in the world and it engenders significant damages to human health and the economy"The inefficient use of energy, an increase in the number of vehicles used daily, an increase in unregulated industrial emissions and the burning of garbage and plastic have contributed the most to air pollution in urban areas. According to a recent study, Karachi's Environment Protection Department claims that the average level of pollution in big cities is approximately four times higher than the World Health Organisation's limits. These emissions have detrimental effects, including "respiratory diseases, reduced visibility, loss of vegetation and an effect on the growth of plants."
One of the greatest contributors to air pollution is industrial activity. The inadequate air emission treatments and lack of regulatory control over industrial activity has contributed to the deterioration of ambient air quality in major cities. In addition, the common practice of burning massive amounts of solid waste, including plastic and rubber, on street corners by the public, releases toxic gases, which are extremely harmful for residents in the area.
Main article: climate change in Pakistan
Climate change has affected the people and the environment of Pakistan in different ways. Although Pakistan is a relatively small emitter of greenhouse gas as compared to other countries, the country will, however, be greatly affected by the negative impacts of climate change. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey of 2014-15, the "increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events coupled with erratic monsoon rains causing frequent and intense floods and droughts" are the most prominent problems Pakistan will face due to climate change. The survey concluded that the change in weather patterns has destroyed infrastructures, has taken many lives and has had devastating impacts on the agriculture sector, which has in turn has affected Pakistan’s economy.
According to the BBC Climate Asia report, the majority of the Pakistani people surveyed claimed that climate change has heavily impacted their lives in the form of floods and droughts, and most importantly has affected the availability of resources such as energy and water. 53% of Pakistanis felt that their lives had become worse off than they were five years ago. Although the effects of climate change are evident, the survey found that the majority of the people were unaware of the meaning of climate change, and "ascribed changes in climate and extreme weather events to the will of God."
Main article: List of natural disasters in Pakistan
Due to Pakistan's diverse land and climatic conditions, it is prone to different forms of natural disasters, including earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, droughts, cyclones and hurricanes. A disaster management report claims that the provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Balochistan and AJK are vulnerable seismic regions and hence highly susceptible to earthquakes, while Sindh and Punjab constantly suffer from floods because they are low-lying areas.
Some of the worst natural disasters that Pakistan has faced include the 1935 Quetta earthquake when around 60000 people were killed, the 1950 floods when an estimated 2900 people died and 900000 people were left homeless, the 1974 Hunza earthquake where around 5300 people were killed, the 2005 Kashmir quake that killed at least 73000 and affected more than 1.5 million people, and the Pakistan floods of 2010 where 20 million people were affected.
Main article: Conservation in Pakistan
The government has expressed concern about environmental threats to economic growth and social development and since the early 1990s has addressed environmental concerns with new legislation and institutions such as the Pakistan Environment Protection Council. However, foreign lenders provide most environmental protection funds, and only 0.04 percent of the government's development budget goes to environmental protection. Thus, the government's ability to enforce environmental regulations is limited, and private industries often lack the funds to meet environmental standards established by international trade organizations.
National Conservation Strategy
The National Conservation Strategy Report has three explicit objectives: conservation of natural resources, promotion of sustainable development, and improvement of efficiency in the use and management of resources. It sees itself as a "call for action" addressed to central and provincial governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local communities, and individuals.
The primary agricultural nonpoint source pollutants are nutrients (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus), sediment, animal wastes, pesticides, and salts. Agricultural nonpoint sources enter surface water through direct surface runoff or through seepage to ground water that discharges to a surface water outlet. Various farming activities result in the erosion of soil particles. The sediment produced by erosion can damage fish habitat and wetlands, and often transports excess agricultural chemicals resulting in contaminated runoff. This runoff in turn affects changes to aquatic habitat such as temperature increases and decreased oxygen. The most common sources of excess nutrients in surface water from nonpoint sources are chemical fertilizers and manure from animal facilities. Such nutrients cause eutrophication in surface water. Pesticides used for pest control in agricultural operations can also contaminate surface as well as ground-water resources. Return flows, runoff, and leach ate from irrigated lands may transport sediment, nutrients, salts, and other materials. Finally, improper grazing practices in riparian areas, as well as upland areas, can also cause water quality degradation. The development of Pakistan is viewed as a multigenerational enterprise.
In seeking to transform attitudes and practices, the National Conservation Strategy recognizes that two key changes in values are needed: the restoration of the conservation ethic derived from Islamic moral values, called Qantas, and the revival of community spirit and responsibility, Aquila-UL-bad.
The National Conservation Strategy Report recommends fourteen program areas for priority implementation: maintaining soils in croplands, increasing efficiency of irrigation, protecting watersheds, supporting forestry and plantations, restoring rangelands and improving livestock, protecting water bodies and sustaining fisheries, conserving biodiversity, increasing energy efficiency, developing and deploying renewable resources, preventing or decreasing pollution, managing urban wastes, supporting institutions to manage common resources, integrating population and environmental programs, and preserving the cultural heritage. It identifies sixty-eight specific programs in these areas, each with a long-term goal and expected outputs and physical investments required within ten years. Special attention has been paid to the potential roles of environmental NGOs, women's organizations, and international NGOs in working with the government in its conservation efforts. Recommendations from the National Conservation Strategy Report are incorporated in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1993–98).
In a recent study conducted by Global CLEAN campaign, it was found that the average temperature in Pakistan had risen by .2 degrees in only two years, This is a dramatic change and puts emphasis on climate change campaigns.
- Arable land - 27%
- Permanent crops - 1%
- Permanent pastures - 6%
- Forests and woodland - 5%
- Other - 61% (1993 est.)
- Irrigated land - 171,100 km² (1993 est.)
Main article: Protected areas of Pakistan
Pakistan has 14 national parks, 72 wildlife sanctuaries, 66 game reserves, 9 marine and littoral protected areas, 19 protected wetlands and a number of other protected grasslands, shrublands, woodlands and natural monuments.
Pakistan is a party to several international agreements related to environment and climate. The most prominent among them are:
|Treaties and agreements|
|Specific regions and seas||Law of the Sea, Ship Pollution (MARPOL 73/78)|
|Atmosphere and climate||Climate Change, Ozone Layer Protection, Nuclear Test Ban|
|Biodiversity, environment, and forests||Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Wetlands, Marine Life Conservation|
|Rivers||Indus Waters Treaty|
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