Before it’s too late, environment needs due attention
THE environment plays pivotal role in our lives. A healthy environment is necessary for survival of human beings and essential for growth of natural resources.
It helps in maintaining the bio-diversity, beauty of earth and eco-system in which we live.
The eco-system provides natural services for humans and other species that are essential to our survival, health and quality of life.
Thus, understanding the environment and its challenges are very important for all of us. 05 June, designated by UN General Assembly in 1972, is being observed as World Environment Day on a regular basis since 1974.
The purpose of celebrating it is to raise general awareness amongst people about the current environmental issues and take positive measures to protect and improve our environment.
On this day, special focus is given on the prevailing environmental conditions and problems, with their adverse effects on our future, and a way forward.
It is a day when the public and government officials get stimulated through awareness programs to kindle government’s attention as well as public actions to make environment better.
This activity encourages people to work for ecological issues and become active agents of the sustainable eco-friendly activities.
It is good news that in Pakistan, we have also started observing this day with more enthusiasm and seriousness for the last few years.
The existing efforts are, however, scanty as compared to the contemporary environmental issues in Pakistan.
Ever-increasing pollution and deteriorating environmental conditions in our country depict that most people do not understand issues related to environment.
Only a small segment of our society recognizes these issues, but majority are apathetic with environmental concerns. Our living habits and social practices are antithetical to an eco-friendly environment.
Our education system and social norms pay least attention on promoting general awareness on environment and our responsibilities in this regard.
The environmental crises are numerous, and they are accelerating at an extraordinary rate. There are many factors which play role in aggravation of environmental crises.
The common problems are mostly identified as air pollution, water pollution, municipal waste management, industrial waste management, global warming, biodiversity loss etc.
Some of the emerging issues, which need immediate attention, are e-waste and marine pollution.The e-waste includes discarded electrical or electronic devices.
Lately, a great deal of attention is being devoted to the impact of discarded computers and other electronic equipment on environment as they pose a serious threat to human life.
Chemicals used in computer motherboards, i.e., Beryllium and Cadmium (used in chip resistors or semiconductors) are usually poisonous and may lead to cancer.
Similarly, Chromium in floppy disks, Lead in batteries and monitors, and Mercury in alkaline batteries also pose health risks.
When the discarded electronics are improperly disposed of, the said chemicals would end into the air, water or the soil.
These chemical wastes are dangerous to human health and may damage human brain, heart, kidney, liver, bones etc.
In Pakistan, uncontrolled dumping of e-waste is emerging as one of the major hazards to the health of both people and the environment.
Old electronics are normally dumped into municipal waste and then burnt, releasing toxic and carcinogenic substances into the air. Used imported computers have great market value in Pakistan
. Therefore, over 50,000 tons of e-waste is being dumped in Pakistan by different countries every year. Especially Karachi has become a major dumping ground for e-waste from all over the world.
Similarly, local industry generates thousands of tons of e-waste every year. Unfortunately, no strategy has been devised so far to tackle e-waste in Pakistan.
There is an urgent need to see this problem more seriously and strategies must be evolved to control the generation and handling of e-waste in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, especially in Karachi, all sorts of waste including sewage, plastic bottles and bags, industrial waste, potentially infectious hospital waste, etc., are dumped into the sea.
The world‘s famous ship-breaking industry at Gadani is also discharging heavy metal impurities into the sea.
Increasing dumping of hazardous waste into the sea is severely affecting the marine life and fishery resources.
A report published in Science journal, ‘Nature‘ concluded that approximately 10 million tons of plastic is dropped into the oceans every year; harming the wildlife habitats and animals that reside there.
The research concluded that if no action is taken, the annual plastic pollution in oceans would increase to almost 30 million tons by 2040.
If the micro-plastics are also included into this, the cumulative amount of plastic pollution in the oceans could reach to 600 million tons by 2040.
National Geographic observed that almost 90% of plastic that has ever been produced was not recycled which is one of the biggest environmental problems of our lifetime.
In the recent past, we heard about oceanic garbage patches which have become a prevalent phenomenon.
For instance, the Great Pacific garbage patch and the North Atlantic garbage patch are some current examples.
Both are floating patches of marine debris that stretch for hundreds of kilometers with as much as 200,000 garbage bits per kilometer.
These garbage patches pose risks to marine life through plastic consumption and entanglement.
As wildlife consume the plastics, they can also end up in food chain and cause health risks to humans.
WED is observed every year for general awareness of public. The day is celebrated by millions of people and organizations across the world to share their experiences, challenges and solutions. A large number of countries participate in this event under the aegis of United Nations.
Every year, UN assigns the responsibility to a country to host the event and provide a platform to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals. This year, the responsibility to host World Environment Day has been given to Pakistan.
The theme for this year has been set as ‘Ecosystem Restoration‘ with special focus on creating a good relationship with nature.
Let us hope and pray that more of us understand environment issues and realize our responsibilities to control the pollution and improve marine environment.
—The writer who is affiliated with National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) Islamabad, contributes to the national press on a regular basis.