Are Environmental Concerns Being Overshadowed By Other Issues?
With the progression of time, the global community has generally come to realize the importance of our environment and so there has been an increased emphasis on the need for its protection. There has been an increase in the creation and implementation of laws for the conservation of wildlife and habitats around the world. In fact, the idea of environmental protection has grown so much in popularity that environmental law is now a growing profession with continuously growing importance. Unfortunately, none of this holds entirely true in case of Pakistan.
With problems such as terrorism, suicide bombings, drone attacks, etc. haunting Pakistan, environment is an area least prioritized or even considered by the legal system or the government. The last time this issue was directly addressed by Pakistan in detail was in 1997 when the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) was issued. This Act made many promises and was clearly a step in the right direction for Pakistan. However, despite this Act being in place, there has been a severe lack of its implementation by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Council which is the body that was entrusted with the responsibility of implementing it. This body is required to hold meetings twice every year but there has also been a failure to simply have these meetings with regularity. In addition, the fact that most politicians are industrialists and own businesses means that the implementation of environmental regulations will actually harm these politicians’ business interests the most, thus there is an evident lack of political support as well.
On an international level, Pakistan has signed and ratified numerous environmental agreements including the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Layer Depleting Substances, Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer, Kyoto Protocol, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and many others. The problem here remains the same, even though all these promises have been made, no active steps have been taken to ensure that the environment is protected. Moreover, the institutions dedicated to the implementation of such laws are weak in capacity and also face an issue of allocation of funds.
Even though environmental protection is overshadowed by problems such as terrorism, it is a huge misunderstanding to assume that environmental protection is a less pertinent concern in any way. The repercussions of the lack of attention given to the environment are deeply adverse in nature. The increase in pollution and increased contamination of water affect everyone on an individual level. This stems out to creating more and more health problems in Pakistan especially in the rural areas.
Since the Pakistani government has also not been playing an active role in conserving the wildlife and its habitats, researchers have found that several species have become endangered despite their importance to the world and to Pakistan as well. An example of this is the snow leopard in Pakistan which is actually an important source of tourism revenue for the local northern communities of Pakistan. There are extremely few countries that have the privilege of being host to this rare species which is admired everywhere around the world but despite all this, the government has shown no interest in the conservation of this species that has now been labelled as “endangered.” Similarly, the brown bears of Pakistan found in the northern areas are also considered important and unique in the sense that they are considered to be few of the only bears in the world that are purely herbivores, yet the government has not taken any initiative for their protection as well. As a result, the status of brown bears in Pakistan is deteriorating and due to the lack of attention given to them during the past 40 years, there have been numerous places from where this species has gone extinct and is now considered to be endangered overall.
The urgency of the matter could not have been clearer for the Pakistani government. The 18th Amendment passed in Pakistan has given the right of making and implementing environmental laws to the provincial governments of Pakistan. It is high time that the provincial governments as well as the federal government collaborate with the Pakistan Environmental Protection Council to make increased efforts for the conservation and protection of the environment. Proper funds should be allocated by the government to the Ministry of Environment of Pakistan, which has sadly not been the case in recent years. The environment is not being considered by the Pakistani people to be an imminent threat to Pakistan, but this lack of awareness is exactly what needs to be tackled and because of which the government must take up responsibility and make up for the environmental loss that has taken place in the past few years, in order to secure a better future for Pakistan.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.