Monday, March 24, 2008

‘UNDP, IUCN have failed to protect environment in Pakistan’

Pakistan is first country in world allowing housing schemes in areas reserved for forests

Anwer Abbas

ISLAMABAD: Very few people in Pakistan are aware of 'environmental justice' which is not an ignorable issue in the global environmental scenario. It is functional in the European Union, Scandinavian countries and the rest of the West.

It is very unfortunate that Pakistan does not enjoy the concept of environmental justice and it is unfamiliar here. "The need of the hour is to introduce the said concept in the country which might contribute a lot to maintaining the ecological balance and curbing the anti-environment issues," said Munir Ahmed, a renowned environmentalist and senior communication expert, EU Visibility Study and Communication Strategy, in an exclusive interview with The Post.

His achievements include an advocacy campaign on Nullah Leh, anti-tree cutting campaign, and several stakeholders' roundtables on environmental and development issues in Islamabad. Munir said, "Under this concept one should pay as per one's consummations and pay all taxis and fines. It would help prevent a waste of natural resources." Criticising the national and foreign environmental organisations, Munir said all the investments being made by UNDP, IUCN and other international organisations and donors were being wasted and the goals and targets remained unachieved.

Citing the Shell Foundation project, the environmentalist said that the foundation launched a mega project in the area of Gulliyaat for forest conservation, installation of bio-gas plants and energy conservation in collaboration with UNDP. The project was closed after some time because the NGO failed to deliver, he maintained. "These kinds of projects waste precious money and time," Munir added.

Munir said the projects launched by UNDP had failed to yield fruitful results, adding such internationally reputed organisations were focusing on clerical jobs instead of practically implementing their projects.

Likewise, another project was introduced in Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir, for the construction of an international hotel that made the densely forested area deserted by cutting the forests.

Munir Ahmed lamented international institutions were wasting the money of taxpayers of the European Union and the United States. People and their respective governments should ask them why their money is being wasted, he said.

Severely criticising the government and the Ministry of Environment officials, the senior communication expert said retired and incompetent government officials who were unable to perform their duties any more and unaware of the environmental issues had been engaged for the environmental protection efforts in Pakistan.

Munir claimed the government and the Ministry of Environment were non-serious in protecting the environment, adding Pakistan was the first country across the globe where the government had allowed housing schemes in the areas reserved for forests. He added the government had introduced housing schemes in Loe Bhair, New Murree and Patriata. He said in the Balochistan province, the wealthiest province on account of its natural resources, coal, oil, Sui-gas and other fuel reserves, the people were being compelled to use the costly sandal wood as a fuel because the government hadn't provided them with the basic necessities such as electricity and gas. "Unfortunately, decades-old densely forested sandal forests had shrunk due to their improper utilisation, which speaks volumes for the government and the Ministry of Environment's failure to protecting the environment," he added.

Munir Ahmed, a postgraduate in Mass Communication, is a fellow of LEAD-Pakistan, an environmental organisation. He is also the founding chairman of DEVCOM-Pakistan (Development Communications Network). He has written extensively on environment and development for mainstream publications.

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