The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) continues to suffer from official neglect, as well as a severe lack of public awareness, when it comes to stemming pollution and protecting the environment.
The provincial capital, Peshawar, was termed by the World Health Organisation in 2016 as the second-most polluted city in the world. More recently, the city was still on the list of the most polluted cities in the world, according to a 2019 report on world air quality released by IQ Air. Even though the provincial government banned plastic bags last year and introduced a more environment-friendly variant, Peshawar’s drains are often found choked.
In the entire province, 3,500 tons of waste is produced every day and there is little to no proper disposal services available — and none that are entirely environment-friendly. Various official reports state that in Peshawar alone, over 1,000 tons of waste is produced daily. Followed by the provincial capital are the cities of Abbottabad and Swat, in terms of waste produced.
Officials of the Galiyat Development Authority — which oversees the scenic valleys of Nathia Gali — informed that last year, around the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday, the Galiyat region saw disposal of 500 tons of garbage owing to the tourist influx. As the coronavirus shuttered tourists’ plans this year, the situation has been much better.
Moreover, in the recently-passed budget for fiscal year 2020-21, no new environment-related development scheme has been approved whereas a total of just Rs40 million has been earmarked for four ongoing projects.
According to documents of the provincial finance ministry, of the four projects, three are in the settled districts and one is in the recently-merged tribal districts. The tribal district has seen an allocation of Rs10 million for the establishment of an environment cell at the provincial environment department, the total cost of which is over Rs100 million. In the settled districts, allocations have been made for a) activity-based capacity building of provincial Environment Protection Agency; b) inventory of industrial pollution in KP; and c) introduction of zigzag technology in construction and operation of brick kilns.
Speaking to Sabaat, KP Environment, Forest and Wildlife Minister Ishtiaq Urmar said that the government is focused on protecting the environment. He explained that over one billion trees have already been planted under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ drive and the project’s phase two is presently under way. He added that KP’s three divisions of Kohat, Bannu and DI Khan could see a change of one degree centigrade in the next 15 years for which the forestation campaign is being focused there.
Environmental expert Mushtaq Ali said a multi-pronged strategy is needed to improve the environment, not just a one-frame approach. He added that stemming toxic fumes from factories and vehicles, and proper disposal of plastic bags is key to protecting the environment.