Among all the challenges being faced by Pakistan, the most troublesome and problematic is environmental pollution. It is an undeniable reality that environmental pollution has started posing serious threats to humanity all over the world. However, in countries where economic sustenance is grounded on the environmental factors, pollution of any level entails serious repercussions for its nationals. In this regard, Pakistan is no exception. Environmental pollution is negatively affecting health, agriculture and overall economy of the country. Additionally, air pollution has badly affected the overall health of the masses. According to the latest global environment performance index (EPI) ranking, Pakistan is in the list of countries which suffer from poor air quality. The climatic changes and global warming are most alarming issues risking millions of life across country. The major reasons of these environmental issues are carbon emission, increasing population and deforestation. Hence, it is vital to tackle this issue with a comprehensive approach. However, if not tackled properly, this issue would not only raise formidable challenges for the country at socio-economic fronts but its repercussions will also be discernible at national and international horizons.
Air pollution in Pakistan is the menace that is growing exponentially. Highly inefficient I energy use, accelerated growth in number of vehicles, increasing industrial activity without adequate air emission treatment or control, open burning of solid waste including plastic, and use of ozone depleting substances (ODSs) are some of the major causes of deterioration of air quality. Air pollution manifests its effects especially in winter when smoke, gradually making its way into the dense tog of winter, gets transformed into the unhealthy smog. For an economically crippled country like Pakistan, allocation of funds for the treatment of all the diseases originating from the inhaling of smog is something too difficult to ignore. Hence, this issue demands robust action from the concerned authorities and leadership of the country.
Another important environmental issue is waste management. Unfortunately, the factories and hospitals dispose thousands of tons of their waste into oceans, lakes and rivers, which are life-threatening for aquatic and human lives that are dependent on these water resources. Similarly, lack of proper mechanisms, allocated landfills sites and negligence on the part of local municipal corporations and public are main cause of wastes dumped openly on roads and streets. Karachi, that is considered to be the economic hub of Pakistan, has been facing plethora of challenges pertaining to the proper termination of garbage. Increasing population coupled with the scarcity of competence on the part of concerned departments and civilian authorities has made this issue more worrisome and difficult to control.
Water pollution has become one of the major threats to the public health in Pakistan. Drinking water quality is poorly managed and monitored. Pakistan ranks at number 80 among 122 nations regarding drinking water quality. Sources of drinking water, both surface and groundwater are contaminated with conforms, toxic metals and pesticides throughout the country. Various drinking water quality parameters set by WHO are frequently violated. Human activities like improper disposal of municipal and industrial effluents and indiscriminate applications of agrochemicals in agriculture are the main factors contributing to the deterioration of water quality. Water pollution has badly affected the aquatic life as well. Apart from that, one of the biggest issues is the increasing deforestation in the country. Pakistan could not achieve the UN's set target of 25 percent of forest cover on its total area. Besides, the increasing urbanization has furthered shrinking of greenery from those lands that were once rich in their capacity to produce oxygen through photosynthesis. Construction of new roads, buildings and infrastructure development prove to be fruitful only when they are not built at the cost of natural environment. If this pace of urbanization continues to increase, a time will come when climate of Pakistan will necessarily become hard to be inhabitable.
Fortunately, the incumbent government has started to show some semblance of prudence by curbing down a few factors responsible for environmental pollution. The recent decision taken by the DC Islamabad to ban the use of plastic bags is commendable. Furthermore, the billion tree tsunami project also shows the resolve as well as seriousness on the part of the incumbent government to counter the environmental degradation. However, given the increasing pace of environmental pollution, only a few steps in the right direction are good but not good enough. In order to tackle this problem properly, a more rigorous, comprehensive approach coupled with strong will and profound execution will be required.
Salman Qnyymn (Department of English)