Protected areas: CDA accused of issuing NOCs to proponents

The Ministry of Climate Change has accused Capital Development Authority (CDA) of issuing NOCs of protected areas to proponents in clear violation of rules and regulations, revealed a report. The report was tabled before the Special Committee on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which was scheduled to meet here on Monday with Shahnaz Wazir Ali in the chair, however due to lack of quorum, the meeting was called off.

According to the report available with Business Recorder, as per section 12 of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) 1997 “No proponent can start any developmental activity until issuance of environmental approval from the responsible EPA. The protected areas are notified by the respective provincial governments; however cases of violation have been reported in this regard.

The report further states that “in case of Islamabad, violations are taking place and in most of the cases, the proponents do have NOCs from CDA. The forum of Pakistan Environmental Protection Council is non-functional after 18th Constitutional Amendment, the report said.

Protected Areas coverage has been targeted from 11.25 to 12 percent by 2015 under the environmental sustainability MDG. The target has also been achieved as now more than 12 percent area of Pakistan is covered including 26 national parks notified by the provincial governments, however cases have been reported where violations do occur.

There are currently 245 protected areas in the country, which includes national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, game reserves and private game reserves. The IUCN is currently involved in conducting national assessment of protected areas. According to the report, Pakistan is lagging behind in achieving the MDGs, as progress has only been made on about half of the targeted indicators, while on the remaining half, the country has lagged behind.

“Sufficient progress has only been made on about half of the targeted indicators, while on others lag behind,” revealed in a presentation given to the standing committee. The MDGs are an eight-point roadmap with measurable target and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world’s poorest people, with major focus on poverty and hunger alleviation, addressing poor health facilities, gender inequality, lack of education, lack of access to clean water and environmental degradation.

In September 2000, leaders from around the world ushered in the new millennium by adopting the Millennium Declaration. The Declaration, endorsed by 189 countries, emerged as a roadmap setting out goals to be reached by 2015. Pakistan also signed on to the Millennium Declaration and agreed to meet the MDGs.

The eight MDGs include: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

The country’s forest cover enhanced from 4.8 percent to 5.01 percent by 2003-04, whereas, the latest assessment of forest cover is under process at the Pakistan Forest Institute in Peshawar. However, after devolution of the ministry of environment and transfer of mega forestry projects to the provinces with no PSDP allocation, it appears that target fixed for the MDG is less likely to be achieved.” Under the environmental sustainability MDG, the forest cover has been targeted to increase from 4.8 in 1990-91 to 6.0 percent by 2015. According to the report, Pakistan is off-track as far as meeting the safe sanitation target of getting 67 percent of the population with access to safe sanitation is concerned. Proportion of safe sanitation has been targeted to rise from 34 in 1990-91 to 67 percent by 2015.