ACCORDING TO the strategy, environmental degradation costs Pakistan six per cent of GDP per annum. NSDS calls for evolving a just and harmonious society in the country through promotion of a vibrant and equitable economic growth without overexploitation of natural resources with fair distribution of development dividends to all.

Pakistan has recently launched the strategy on the sidelines of the UN conference of sustainable development at Rio de Janerio, Brazil.

Though Pakistan played a leading role in Rio earth conference held in 1992 and it was one of the first country to prepare and present National Conservation Strategy (NCS) in 1992, the follow-up on the issue was as usual slow and it took it eight years to finalise NSDS, which was in the pipeline since 2004/05.

Pakistan prepared two drafts of NSDS after consultations held in 2006 and then again in 2009, but without finalising them. NSDS has not only pointed out problems of Pakistan in three major components, environment, economic and social issues of sustainable development, but also discussed strategic goals and means to implement them. The strategy, according to officials, is an attempt to define sustainable development and the pathway to a green economy in Pakistans context.

According to NSDS, the economic growth and development in Pakistan over the last decade has faced certain unique and unprecedented challenges such as a string of mega-natural disasters, most of them climate change triggered, and including two devastating floods in 2010 and 2011, two major droughts of 1999 and 2002, three big cyclones hitting the southern coast and the horrific earthquake, which shook the Northern Areas and parts of KPK and AJK in 2005.

Pakistans economic progress is marred with a number of inefficiencies in the water, energy and agricultural sectors. “Overall, it is challenged by the exponentially high population growth, rapid urbanisation, weak enforcement of environmental regulations and move towards unbridled consumerism all of which further drain an already strained economy. Pakistans inefficient economy also provides an inherent opportunity to shift the countrys economic growth towards a sustainable pathway by promoting cleaner production and encouraging sustainable consumption patterns in society and by prioritising a reversal of inefficiencies in the water, energy and agriculture sectors,” said Khan.

The NSDS also highlights the need to improve the overall governance in the country and addresses the challenges of delivery of essential services such as health and education for the people and encompasses the promotion of targeted social support policies and programmes that can lead to a reduction in inequalities and improvement in the food, energy security or security against natural and other calamities and emergencies.

The primary focus is on establishing a just and progressive society, as is the objective of the “Green Action Agenda”.

Climate change, according to NSDS, directly and very strongly impinges upon future planning for sustainable development in Pakistan.

It poses a major threat to food, water and energy security in the country.

The estimated cost for facing and adapting to future climate impacts ranges from $6 billion to $14 billion annually for Pakistan over the next 40 year horizon – the number of which is likely to escalate.

“These figures re-enforce the inescapable linkage between climate impacts and sustaining future development in the country and the need to not only integrate these into future planning, but also develop a comprehensive adaptation plan to control the costs and associated risks in the future,” it reads.

Experts doubt that NSDS would change anything on ground in Pakistan as it has taken a number of decisions on sustainable development like adoption of the Economic Growth Strategy 2011, approval of plans of action on maximising energy efficiency and developing renewable source of energy, the approval of a Climate Change Policy and the creation of a Ministry of Climate Change and launching of an ambitious programme of hydropower generation. But the situation on the ground has not changed.

At present, Pakistan is not producing more than 10 megawatts from renewable energy resources, while its share of hydropower has declined to less than 25 percent from 50 per cent in the energy mix.

The projected per capita water availability in Pakistan is less than 700 cubic meters in 2025 from more than 2,000 cubic meters in 1947. Pakistans water productivity in the agriculture sector is among the least in the world. Pakistan uses its 90 percent of water resources in the agriculture sector. It produces around 0.4 tons of wheat per cubic meter of water, while less than 0.3 tons of maize with the same quantity of water.

India produces around 0.9 tons of wheat with the same water quantity, while Argentina produces 2.5 tons maize with the same quantity of water. So, it needs an environment emergency to tackle all  problems and not only commitments on international conferences.

By Aoun Sahi

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