Breaking the Vicious Circle of Poverty and Environmental Degradation

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"The link between poverty and environment cannot be denied and poverty alleviation is one policy instrument being employed by the government in ensuring environment protection". This was stated by Federal Minister for Defence Production, Engg. Illahi Buksh Soomro in his deliberation at a seminar on "Breaking the vicious circle of poverty and environmental degradation, "held under the auspices of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Environment and Urban Affairs Division (EUAD) in collaboration. The Seminar was held as a part of the celebrations of the World Environment Day at Islamabad. The others who spoke on the occasion included Imtiaz Ahmed Sahibzada, Secretary EUAD, V.A. Jaffrey of Chairman SDPI, Dr. Amir Mohammad from Asiatics, Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji from IUCN, Dr. Jamil Jalibi of Muqtadra Qaumi Zaban and Farhad Zaidi, Chief Executive of The Muslim. The minister for defence production was the chief guest.

Dr. Amir Mohammad said the issue of environmental degradation should not end as motherhood statements as in the past but must be supported with implementation. He said in its enthusiasm for economic reforms, the government had neglected the agricultural sector which forms the backbone of the country's economy. He expressed concern that the good quality land is being usurped by motorways, city expansions and rapid industrialisation. "We are running out of additional resources for water consumption," he added.

Aban Marker spoke about the importance of effective network of information on toxic materials and collective civic action. She said lack of knowledge and information has caused many deaths, while dealing with the poisonous waste and material. Access to proper information and collective action by the citizens, NGOs and the government agencies can solve problem more effectively.

Dr. Jamil Jalibi supported the concept of equitable distribution of wealth among people and said it is the exploitation of human and natural resources which causes wars and destruction. Spitting the enhancement of education in masses, he said change is needed in all system. Farhad Zaidi said environment issue is related to literacy and education and with literacy rate as low as 25 per cent, it was very difficult to raise awareness among people.

As you are aware the concern for the environment has increased dramatically in the last few years. At the global level, it has found expression in the prolonged discussions and negotiations in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) process, Pakistan played a highly constructive and important role, as the leader of the Group of 77. At the national level due to the untiring efforts of some very dedicated people environment awareness is increasing among everyone. For example the Environment and Urban Affairs Division in a very short period has been able to draw up various national programmes on environmental conservation and start rolling the process of environmental protection. It is evident that agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy accounting for over 25 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employing about 50 per cent labour. It provides livelihood to over 70 per cent of the rural population. Whereas owing to developments in this sector there has been improvement in the quality and quantity of food supplied, there have also been some associated degradation problems due to lack of environmental considerations. Salinity, waterlogging, denudation of mountains, deforestation, desertification are some of the examples. Shift towards sustainable development in this single sector for providing food and fibre can have far reaching effects. The government of Pakistan is not oblivious of its obligations in this connection, and is giving top priority to the augmentation of agricultural productivity and the enhancement of the standard of living of its people. At the same time, it is also pursuing people-oriented plans that are aimed at raising the income of people, especially the rural poor, and thereby strengthening their capacity to care for themselves. …