Pakistan’s attempt to raise the living standards of its citizens has meant that economic development has largely taken precedence over environmental issues. Unchecked use of hazardous chemicals, vehicle emissions, and industrial activity has contributed to a number of environmental and health hazards, chief among them being water pollution. Much of the country suffers from a lack of potable water due to industrial waste and agricultural runoff that contaminates drinking water supplies. Poverty and high population growth have aggravated, and to a certain extent, caused, these environmental problems.
Although Pakistan is renowned for its mountain ranges and areas of untouched wilderness, the country passed legislation to protect its environment only in the past 10 years. Environmental groups have questioned the country’s commitment to environmental protection, pointing to the decision in August 1999 to allow oil and gas exploration in Kirthar National Park, the country’s oldest national wildlife park, by a multinational company.
In the cities, widespread use of low-quality fuel, combined with a dramatic expansion in the number of vehicles on Pakistani roads, has led to significant air pollution problems. Although Pakistan’s energy consumption is still low by world standards, lead and carbon emissions are major air pollutants in urban centers such as Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.
Theft or diversion of electricity in transmission, as well as a lack of energy efficiency standards, have contributed to Pakistan’s high energy and carbon intensities. To increase energy efficiency, the country is stepping up its use of renewable energy sources to bring electricity to rural areas. As urbanization continues and the population grows at a rapid rate, in the 21st century Pakistan will need to confront its environmental problems in order to safeguard the health of it citizens.