The environmental degradation is ‘real’! | Pakistan Today

The environmental degradation is ‘real’!

The initiation and success of all economic activity heavily impinges upon and conveniently assumes easy availability of basic resources such as suitable water and land. While the developing world’s problems are summed up in the ‘lack of skill and capital’ argument, little attention is paid to the supporting and deteriorating rungs of nature which may limit economic activity in this region even if ideal standards of skill and capital are attained.
Thus, although environmental economics is a relatively unexplored discipline in the case of Pakistan, it may evolve be one of the primary deterrents of labor productivity after all other economy and skill related factors are taken into account. What remains unidentified is the sustainable level of water, air and land degradation which nature can cure on its own. The absence of an environmental lobby is comprehendible given that so many headline infrastructure issues, physical as well as judicial, are not attended to. But the facts stand; 40 per cent of reported deaths and 25-30 per cent of hospital admissions ascribe to a single source, water-borne disease.
Exploring water usage, pollution and its determinants in detail, about 69 per cent of the water is consumed by the agriculture sector, 23 per cent by industry and the remaining eight per cent is used for domestic purposes. In Punjab specifically, ground water extraction has resulted in increased water logging and salinity, adversely affecting arable land and subsequent yields. As a result, in Pakistan overall, about 11 million hectares of arable land, out of 23 million, is suffering from problems of water logging and about three million from salinity.
Further, industrial usage of water also involves disposal of untreated waste into rivers and canals the primary victim of which is River Ravi. Moreover, untreated water seeping in to the ground has resulted in contamination of ground water of more than 700 feet in Lahore, deeming it unfit for human consumption. Excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture has a similar impact.
Water and land degradation is also linked on other levels. The devastating floods of 2010, very-oft attributed to an increase in global warming, resulted in a manifold increase in deforestation, which as of a decade ago stood three times higher than the rest of South Asia, resulting in the country losing more than three per cent of its forest cover every year.
The future does not bode well for ‘environment’ either. The ongoing energy crisis and shortage of gas will make the government revert to increased usage of thermal power while diverting more resources to the exploitation of coal. This will imply an increase in sulphuric and carbon emissions detrimental to all forms of life. Currently, brick kilns are the more significant consumers of coal, where the latter has registered about 19 per cent increase over the last decade.
Delving further in to the aspect of air pollution puts the auto industry in the limelight. According to the economic survey, emissions from motorcycles and rickshaws are extremely detrimental for lung and respiratory health. To ‘complement’ this fact are statistics that enlist a 143 per cent increase in the number of motorcycles and a 24 per cent increase in rickshaws over the last decade. It thus stands out as a depressing fact that while the society is at large consciously warring with each other, it is also destroying the very foundations that sustain it. A sword for the brother and another for himself…one would now figure why the suicide bomber considers himself to be a true representative.
The writer is an economic researcher
and freelance journalist

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