Addressing the 7th Asian Regional Conservative Forum of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated firm resolve of his government to pursue protection of environment as top priority. There is no doubt about his zeal and zest for providing clean environment to the people. Enumerating the causes of environmental degradation in the country, the Prime Minister attributed this phenomenon to rapid population growth and policies of previous governments which devastated wild life and forests. He referred to the success of billion tree plantation programme in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa during the tenure of previous provincial PTI government and appreciated the community response in this regard, particularly that of youth, women and children for their active participation in spring and monsoon plantation campaigns.
The unbridled forest cutting by timber mafia since 1986 and natural disasters has substantially reduced Pakistanis forests cover and made it extremely vulnerable to climate change impact. The changed weather pattern characterized by heat waves, floods and droughts are its glaring effects. The available data of national forest cover indicate that forest cover in the country ranges between 2 to 5 percent which is well below the UN recommended target of 12 percent. However, World Economic Forum (WEF) has acknowledged that total area under forests has increased to 25 percent .in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. It has entirely attributed this spectacular achievement of provincial government with mass participation of the people to personal charisma of Prime Minster Imran Khan. The WEF has described the addition of 350,000 hectares to area under forest a spectacular achievement.
The spillover effect of environmental pollution is difficult to be stopped. The burning of stubble in the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Madhyapardesh has not only caused thick smog in Delhi but it has spilt over to Lahore. India is one of the major carbon emisser countries of the world. Other countries are the United States and China.
To reduce the density of smog in Lahore the provincial government of Punjab has issued notices to Bricks Kilns to stop burning of coal and tires and suspend production activities. However, cement industry and steel rerolling mills and thermal power plant at Sahiwal are also run by coal. These industries have no built-in carbon scrubble devices to reduce the level of carbon emission into the air. The last PML-N government had agreed to install 13 coal based thermal power plants within the CPEC framework, out of which two such plants have been installed and made operational. The present government is not interested in setting up the remaining thermal power plants except one at Gawadar and has opted for cleaner and environment friendly hydel and solar power generation.
The United States (US) is the top most carbon and greenhouse gases emitting country. President Barak Obama administration had ratified the Paris Agreement of climate change for environmental protection. But now President Trump administration has informed the United Nations that US will walk out of this agreement on November 4 next year. According to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, adherence to Paris agreement of climate change is inflicting losses on the US economy. This is a classic example of observing double standards. The European allies of US are adhering to Paris agreement by switching over to cleaner energy producing sources by gradually shutting down coal based thermal power plants and installing sophisticated carbon emission reducing devices in industries. Collective efforts on regional and global basis will be instrumental in protecting the environment.