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Environmental Pollution: A neglected issue in our society

By: Muhammad Bilal Khan

Since the evolution of modern industrialized society, environment is said to be the complex set of physical, geographic, biological, economical, social, cultural and political concerns that surround individual to determine its form and nature of its survival therefore environment influence how people live and how societies. Hence people, prosperity and economics development are sturdily correlated with environment.

iieMan being a rational actor of society always seeks prosperity without admitting realities and obligations levied upon him by nature so as in this race of incessantly changing modern life, there are many attributes which are leading towards a prosperous life on the cost of spreading severe harm to the nature (environment) known as pollution. Such harm to the survival of human life necessitates a balance between economic development and environmental protection. In today’s world, developed economies are well aware of environmental pollution and they have determined to expose their way out of this problem by educating their people and framing environmental pollution laws. On the contrary, it is regardless to say, in underdeveloped economies, environmental pollution is posing an unfortunate hiking menace to the human health and survival of life.

Pakistan is one of the underdeveloped economies where environmental issues threaten the population’s health and have been disturbing the ecological balance. The environmental conditions in Pakistan are a matter of serious concern. Firstly, it is a country of more than 180 millions inhabitants of which, 40% are living below poverty line. Secondly, elements causing pollutions are not the rapid industrial growth rather more precisely country’s poverty,  lack of social awareness, water pollution from raw sewage, inadequate methods of  industrial production, limited natural fresh water resources, soil erosion, pesticide misuse, deforestation, desertification, increasing traffic load and  substandard spread of  urban localities are inopportune sources of pollution.

Thirdly, governments have never been serious in bringing problem of environmental pollution on national level agenda and implementing environmental protection laws. The tendency goes further unceasing as all mainstream political parties, stimulating for participation in the impending polls, have placed environment issues at the bottom of their draft manifestos.

p17According to the report of Environmental Planning Commission of Pakistan (2013-14), Chapter 13:

Environmental degradation has resulted in climate change and ecological imbalance. Experts estimate that environmental degradation may cost Pakistan’s economy over Rs. 365 billion every year, of which inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene accounts for Rs.112 billion, agriculture soil degradation Rs.70 billion, indoor pollution Rs. 67 billion, urban air pollution Rs. 65 billion, lead exposure Rs. 45 billion and rangeland degradation and deforestation Rs. 6 billion”.

Some other environmental experts believe that the environmental degradation cost must have increased beyond Rs. 450 billions. Moreover, besides economics cost, water and air pollution are causing widespread diseases which are serious threat to human life and an unaffordable health cost is being paid by Pakistani people. A report of World Health Organization states, the level of air and water pollution in Pakistan is 30% higher than normal standard and, further contribution by its pollutants, is persistently increasing at an alarming rate. Environment in some urban areas of Pakistan is inadequate to human life.

Many Environmental Policies have been framed by different governments in different time periods but environmental issues have never been considered primary in the priority list of any government to provide people with health wise safe and hygienic environment. PML (N) is elected for third time to form the government but in their manifesto education, employment and energy are the main priorities. Without neglecting the facts, millions of people (most of them belong to poverty class) suffer from chronic and viral diseases caused by pollution every year and even many of them die including a large proportion of innocent infants—government still aims at heavy tax collection and hiking price level as their primary task to run the government.

Some other serious factors also involve in making environment dangerously polluted, I consider them important to discuss. Corruption may also be a cause to increase pollution in Pakistan. Construction of waste water sewage system and clean (potable) water supply channels is mainly done by private contractors; they use substandard material that does not go long, resulting wastage of public funding.

Govt. does pass laws to control air pollution by checking vehicles on roads and production units in industrial areas but officials do not perform their duties honestly – they pass vehicles and industrial units emitting poisonous smoke and fossil liquid for bribery.

Our commune (municipal body) system is also very pathetic where modern local development approaches are even not discussed and implemented; unplanned structure of rural urban development is openly passed without caring about health and hygienic  issues ‘where to setup localities and what sewage system they construct and how it will affect hygienic situation of other localities’.

p16People are usually well aware of pollution most likely about the use of clean water since it has been publically campaigned by ministry of environment and some other health organizations (including government, non-government and private medicine companies) that water pollution is causing widespread of chronic and viral diseases. However a large fraction of population is still bound to use contaminated water, though, knowing that they may get serious sickness. They do because they don’t have sufficient access to water filtration plants established by government. In addition to this, potable water supplied by private companies like ‘Nestle’ and ‘Aqua PEPSI’ etc. is instinctively a very expensive item to consume. Two main reasons are involved in this context. Firstly, water filtration plants and public water supply lines running under municipal bodies are leaked and rusted now. Secondly, majority of urban population is living in central city areas of unplanned structures where sewage drains system is substandard; drains water not only mixes with clean water supplied by leaked and rusted pipes but also with underground water consequently pollutes and contaminates natural source of potable water.

The use of substandard public transport like Chingi rikshas and heavy duty vehicles (buses, trucks and vegans) is causing air and noise pollution. Exhaust of Co2, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and small dust particles is rooting lungs, chest and skin diseases. Besides, noise pollution is increasing blood pressure patients and people are prey to psychological disorder.

iieeSocial backwardness is also cause of environmental degradation. Knowing that breathing in polluted air, use of contaminated water, noise pollution, cutting down the trees from rural and urban areas and widespread throwing out garbage  on the roads and streets in residential areas may cause serious risk to human health and life, yet people individually and collectively don’t seems serious to adopt anti-pollution measures. Their blind beliefs in their traditional social backwardness are making them handicapped and restrictive toward the adoption of standardized living standard. Every third person is career of Hepatitis B and C (lever diseases) in densely populated urban areas. Last week, I heard three persons died due to a severe attack of C virus in my town. Their age group was 45-55 years. They died so early. I was discussing with an ex-town councilor, ex-chairman of municipal body and some other local residents on the funeral ceremony of one deceased that water and urban pollution are causing lower life expectancy. Some of them including ex-town councilor replied, ‘those died in the cause of Allah, pollution had nothing to do with their lives’—their forefathers have been living in the same traditional social setup and nothing would change here against the will of Allah. But Allah says, ‘cleanliness is half of the faith’. Perhaps! They are half Muslim sharing their half belief in Allah ignoring cleanliness. Stupid assumptions and false beliefs people have.

p14Pakistan has a large population which is expected to be over 300 millions in 2050. Pakistani nation is also dreaming a rapid industrial growth to counter macro economics and social problems like unemployment, poverty alleviation, sustainable development in energy sectors and education. Hopes they will determine their path to achieve sustainable economic development in next decades. Contrary to this, environmentalists are forecasting a serious threat to the human’s health in the presence of forthcoming rapid industrial growth along with rapidly growing population on the basis anti-environment conditions. Thus, government must frame environment friendly economic policies to meet the challenges in future. Though the government has established Environmental Planning Commission to frame anti-pollution laws and also a signatory to Kyoto Protocol to adopt international environmental standard at national level unfortunately, laws and international standard are not yet effective because of the aforesaid reasons. Govt. has to correlate its economic policy with environmental issues. Government receives a large proportion of it revenue from indirect taxes levied upon the use of energy and consumption of industrial consumer goods. In my opinion, a part of that income should be directed to solve environmental issues related to air and water pollution. Furthermore, environmental tax should be levied upon urban population by local or provincial government body and people collectively be facilitated to provide with potable water, adequate system of sanitation and removal of garbage to keep the localities clean. Pesticides and fertilizer used in agricultural sector may be taxed to improve the health and hygienic conditions in rural sectors. Most importantly, special local and provincial task forces like police should be established to check and control each part of the society to bring environmental laws into force. Households and producers must be fined if they are found guilty in causing any kind of pollution at any level. I request to the central and provincial governments, opposition parties, local body administrations, forthcoming local body governments and the people, please takes some serious steps to save the health and life of Pakistani nation. If today, we take serious step toward environmental issues; our coming generations will spend quite better and safe lives than us. Save environment to save yourself!

The writer is credited with Master’s Degrees in Economics and International Relations (Pakistan), Graduate Degree For Courework  in European Economics (Sweden) and also have been certified in Human Rights (Sweden).

He can be reached at: bilalkhanus@yahoo.com



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