Punjab starts preparing first-ever environmental baseline profile

Punjab Green Development Programme will complete project within next three years

Punjab has started preparing the environmental baseline profile of the province, aiming to improve the environmental health of the province.

This baseline profile would be prepared under the Punjab Green Development Programme (PGDP) of Punjab Environment Protection Department (EPD) within the next three years.

This would be the first time in the history of Pakistan that any province took steps toward the basic demand regarding the environmental assessment of a vast area, while introducing new environmental quality standards and parameters.

Currently, the largest province of Punjab has been facing numerous environmental challenges. Punjab has its environment act, which was adopted by Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PakEPA) with some minor changes after the 18th amendment. However, despite the passage of 10 years, the government in the province remained negligent to put efforts in this regard.

Giving details about the environmental baseline profile of the province, PGDP Project Director Waqar-ud-Din Butt told MinuteMirror that without knowing the environmental impacts of any uplift project, any kind of development would lead to deterioration. He said that a brief survey would be conducted throughout the province to assess the exact environmental state.

“Currently, Punjab’s environment department is following the environmental standards adopted by the EPA, which are not sufficient as per the requirements of the province. All provinces should have to set a pattern to safeguard their environment but so far no province pays heed to make any environmental plan,” Butt said and added that with the help of this baseline profile, it would be easy to determine the characterization of any area prior to executing any development project.

“Unfortunately, in Pakistan, development comes at the cost of the environment without knowing its impacts on the future of the province,” he added.

Butt continued that Punjab was committed to taking steps toward launching development projects in the province and it was necessary to have sufficient information available to investors whether the project they decided to launch was environment friendly or not. He said that in the past investors invested money in housing projects, which was one of the major causes of environmental degradation, while a large number of industries also established in a way to harm the environment.

“Through the baseline profile every development project would be established following the environmental conditions of the area, while housing projects would be strictly monitored,” he said.

To a question, Butt admitted that several environmental quality standards (EQSs) were missing among the existing standards. “This baseline profile will keenly prepare the EQSs following the requirements of the province.

In the absence of any concrete policy, many factors have badly affected the ecology of the province. According to Butt, conversion of agricultural land was among the major reasons hampering the ecosystem of the province. He added that this baseline profile would focus on climatic conditions, drainage and water resources, soils, fauna and flora, air quality, noise quality, water quality, land use and socio economic impacts in the province.

Samiullah Randhawa is a correspondent covering environment, climate change, food, water and ecology. He is an International Center For Journalists alumnus and a fellow at Kettering Foundation Ohio, USA. He has won two Agahi Awards for reporting on climate change and water crisis. He tweets @sami_randhawa and can be reached at samiullahfarid@gmail.com.


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