Rs. One billion approved for premier’s Green Pakistan Programme

Islamabad, May 31, 2016 (PPI-OT):Secretary Climate Change Ministry said on Tuesday that an amount of one billion rupees have been approved for the Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme (GPP) to boost tree cover in the country as a part of the present government’s efforts for achieving climate-resilience.

“This is encouraging to see the present government’s seriousness towards fighting deforestation and increasing area under trees, which is central to achieving national climate resilience,” the Secretary Syed Abu Ahmad Akif told a media briefing held here in the Ministry. Under the GPP, 100 million trees will be planted across the countries.

The five-year programme aims to mitigate climate change-induced risks particularly floods, land and river erosion, land degradation, desertification and fight air pollution. It also aims to encourage all segments of society to plant trees for their own benefits and to secure future of the next generations to come.

The secretary said that it’s a matter of sorry that the share of the country’s forestry sector in national GDP is underestimated at 0.33 percent, mainly due to non-valuation of environmental and ecological services of forests. He emphasized “We must raise awareness among the policymakers, politicians and the people about the unprecedented socio-economic and health-related benefits of the forestry and engage them in country’s overall efforts for fighting deforestation and increase tree cover.”

He told media that an improving air quality must be ranked as a top national health and development priority. For, increasing air pollution levels are putting the health of millions of people in the country at risk and have proved a major roadblock to efforts being taken achieving for overall environmental development goals.

“We must have to strive hard to tackle air pollution and it requires effective mechanism to monitor air quality for durable maintenance of air quality standards in conformity with the World Health Organisation’s standards,” the Secretary Syed Abu Ahmad Akif told a media briefing. He said that before devolution of environment to the provinces under the 18th amendment, an effective air quality monitoring system was operational.

The Rs1.2 billion environment monitoring system (EMS) purchased from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) five years ago with assistance from the Japanese government has was functioning in all provincial environmental protection agencies and the Islamabad environmental protection agency was coordinating with them to control air pollution through an effective monitoring system under the EMS. But the coordination among provinces and the federal environmental protection agency hit snags and functioning of the EMS system had gradually slowed down since 2011 – the year of devolution of various federal subjects including environment to the province.

“But we are taking efforts to make the EMS system, so that overall environmental monitoring, particularly air quality monitoring is revived,” the climate change secretary said. Syed Abu Ahmed Akif told media that air quality monitoring has been revived in Sindh and Punjab and it was hoped that the same would begin in other provinces to fight surging levels of air pollution,, which has aggravated with rising number of vehicular traffic in urban areas of the country.

Sharing observations about two-day visit to the mangroves forests areas and polluted coastal areas of Sindh Province last week of the members of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Climate Change, he told that media that the Committee members were appalled over depressing state and severity of the human-caused threats to mangroves forests in coastal areas of Karachi and alarming levels of pollution in sea.

“The Senate body, headed by its Chairman Muhammad Yousuf Badini, expressed his anguish over relevant government departments for failing to protect the coastal and marine ecologies from unchecked pollution and the mangroves forests from land mafia and those involved in its illegal cutting, which has exacerbated the vulnerability of the Karachi and its coastal areas to climate change-induced risks, particularly storm surges, cyclones, sea intrusion and contamination of ground water resources,” the secretary told media.

The Secretary Syed Abu Ahmed Akif, however, recalled that the Senate’s body on climate change had urged the Sindh government to protect mangroves forests and increase area under them. They also asked the provincial government to increase number of treatment plants to treat industrial effluents, sewage and domestic wastewater before it disgorges into the sea for protecting and conserving marine and coastal ecosystems from contamination, he added.

Talking about environmental degradation risk further exacerbated by rapid vanishing of the vultures, he said all provincial wildlife departments would have to work to protect the vultures from extinction, which is integral part of biodiversity and vital to efforts aimed for coping with environmental degradation, which costs the national exchequer over Rs. 365 annually.

“There were nearly 200 million vulture birds in the country. But they have shown 99 percent decline over last several years. This has badly contributed to the ecological imbalance and disturbed the very cycle of the biological diversity,” the climate change secretary emphasized. He said that the shocking decline was due to the veterinary drug, diclofenac, toxic to any vulture that feeds on the carcass of recently treated cattle.

“The drug was banned for veterinary use in India, Nepal and Pakistan in 2006, and Bangladesh in 2010, but it continues to be sold and used illegally today,” he pointed out. The ministry had approached the Health Ministry to join the climate change ministry’s efforts to completely bank the veterinary drug to save vultures from extinction for the sake of environmental protection and conservation, he said.

For more information, contact:
Muhammad Saleem
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, ISLAMABAD
Ph: 051-9245565