Environmental degradation is a process wherein the natural environment of the planet is degenerated to such an extent, that the biodiversity and the general health of the planet is subjected to drastic reduction. In other words, this phenomenon can be defined as deterioration of the Earth's natural surroundings as a result of excessive exploitation of the available resources. These resources include water, air, flora, fauna, soil etc. Basically, the life on the planet is interwoven to such an extent that a decrease in a particular attribute triggers a domino effect on all the other attributes dependent on it.

  Sustainable development remains the cornerstone of government policies, and the concern for environment, its protection, renewal and enrichment is recognized as an obligation towards the betterment of all citizens. Concerns of environment sustainability are integrated in the country’s development agenda and as a crosscutting subject, are being addressed in all sectors of economy. The poverty-environment nexus has been of particular interest in the recent years as poverty in Pakistan, like in many other middle income countries, plays an important role in increasing the vulnerability of the poor to pollution and environmental degradation. Significant strides have been made in Pakistan for forwarding the environmental agenda from being a stand-alone topic to one identifying itself as an integral element of the national mainstream development with the recently launched Mid-Term Development Framework for 2005-10; this also lends itself to address sustainable environmental development as a vehicle for economic growth.[1]

  Pollution of air and water, climate change, ozone depletion, deforestation, desertification and vanishing biodiversity land degradation, lack of waste management, lack of urban land use planning and zoning, has resulted in ecological imbalance, threatening life and civilization. These imbalances, created by man over time, have to be immediately addressed. Hence, environment has to be integrated into all development efforts and policy formulations. The environment does not exist in isolation and there are several other sectors whose development impacts the environment. These sectors come under the purview of different ministries. For countries like Pakistan, such integration is difficult as the socio-economic costs of replenishment of ecology are not fully appreciated. But theses upfront initiatives are imperative and not even a shade of the socio-economic losses over years and generations, if left unattended.[2]

 The sectors where environment has a crosscutting effect and impact linkages but these are not properly integrated and coordinated with the environment sector. These sectors include the integrated pest management, application of pesticides and herbicides, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), green accounting/environmental economies, involvement of the private sector, medicinal plants, public private partnership (PPP), energy efficiency, industrial efficiency, transport, urban environment, cultural heritage, sustainable tourism/ecotourism, population, poverty and environment, communication for sustainable development, environmental education, gender integration, environmental health, education, governance, and mining etc.

  The negative impacts generated in the environment show up in the three broad domains, namely, livelihoods, health and vulnerability, and all of these have a bearing on poverty. A loss of livelihoods and economic growth opportunities accompanies the shrinking forest base, the desertification of rangelands, the silting up of dams (that reduces the supply of water for irrigation) and the degradation of agricultural soils, among other phenomena. Ill-health, as measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)—that is, years of healthy life either foregone due to a disability or lost due to premature death is at 47.45 DALYs or 36,500 per 100,000 populations in Pakistan. It is estimated that 45 percent of the losses were due to environmental factors. Environmental shocks such as floods and droughts leave the poor most vulnerable. The challenge is to identify areas of national and global concern and articulate and implement appropriate policies pro-actively. The exacerbation of poverty suggests that the pressure on Pakistan’s environment will be significant. The challenge also is to minimize the pressures arising from the future population on the environment. Another challenge is to enhance the management of urban growth in ways that minimize its adverse effects on the biophysical and other environments.[3]


1.Economic Survey 2005-06
2. MTDF 2005-10
3. Millennium Development Report 2004

(Muhammad Aamer Shahzad)