Pakistan Environmental Profile

environmental problems of Pakistan

Pakistan is a densely settled land, having an area of approximately 88 million hectares and a population of about 140 million, growing at a rate of around 2.7 percent per annum.  Pakistan accounts for only 0.67 percent ofthe world’s land and 2 percent of the world’s population.

The forest covers only 87.98 million hectares, contrary to sustainable use requirements, which call for 25% forest cover.  The rate of deforestation is 7000 to 9000 hectares per annum.  Pakistan has the largest irrigation system and relies on irrigation for more than 90 percent of its food and fiber production.  Surface water is the main source of water for irrigation.  Water withdrawals have increased markedly since 1960-61, but there has been no significant improvement in water -use productivity/crop output per unit of water.

Only 35 percent of diverted water in the canals reaches the crop due to high levels of loss in the existing canal and watercourse network.  More than 80 percent of land in Pakistan has either been or is likely to be affected by desertification.  Soil erosion has affected 1.2 million hectares of land.  Salt affected lands are estimated at 4.2 million hectares, while 2 million hectares are water logged.

Pakistan generates over 5700 tones of solid waste per day, out of which nearly 19,500 tones come from urban areas.  Municipal corporations spend 20-25 percent of their budgets on solid waste collection and disposal; nearly 50 percent remains uncollected or dumped in low-lying areas causing considerable land pollution problems and unhygienic conditions.  Dumping of untreated municipal and industrial wastes into the rivers has severely threatened the aquatic life.  Similarly, no proper treatment is given to hospital wastes (solid and liquid) before disposal.  Pakistan has a 990 km long coastline.

The coast is rich in seaweeds and mangroves.  However, industrial effluents, domestic sewage and agricultural run-off find their way, untreated, into the sea causing serious threats to marine life.  Most striking is the depletion of the mangrove forests in the coastal areas due to oil slicks in creek areas, which has reduced natural fish and shellfish nurseries.

Issues and Problems

Deforestation resulting in soil erosion, desertification and flooding has caused considerable damage to our eco-system.  The country is facing serious environmental and human health problems due to industrial pollution, stemming from poor planning, environmental awareness, and inadequate pollution control facilities.  Indiscriminate discharge of industrial effluents and air emissions have contaminated ground and surface water, degraded land and air quality, and affected flora And fauna and human health.

The current level of industrial pollution is costing the country substantially in the form of increased illness, premature deaths, damage to crops, livestock and fisheries and even damage to buildings and infrastructure facilities. Emissions of carbon dioxide, Sulphur dioxide, and particulate are the major sources of air pollution at thermal power plants and in the cement industry in Pakistan.  These not only pose nausea and potential health hazards to human beings, they also damage landscape and wildlife.  Vehicular emission, mainly in cities, is the single largest source of air pollution.  Water logging and salinity remains Pakistan’s top environment challenge.

The country is losing 25 per cent of its potential crop production, a value of $2.5 billion every year.  Excessive percolation of water from canal system, evaporation of the saline ground water, inadequate availability of water from rain or irrigation to meet the leaching requirement of the soil, and irrigation from tube well with high salt concentrations are the main cause of water logging and Salinity in the country

Forests occupy only 4.224 million ha which is 4.8% of the total land area. Only one-third of the forests are productive in terms of timber extraction. Moreover deforestation in the country is increasing at an alarming rate.  According to the recent World wild life Report, Pakistan is facing one of the highest deforestation in the world, with the annual loss amounting to 4.15 per cent of its forest area.

Pakistan is also facing serious rangeland degradation problems.  About 80 per cent of the total rangeland in the country is believed to be degraded.  Much of the rangeland is threatened by overstocking, overgrazing and over harvesting of the natural vegetation leading to soil erosion and land degradation. In addition to these domestic issues, Pakistan faces trans-national and international environmental protection and preservation issues, such as soil erosion, wildlife, desertification, melting of glaciers, air pollution, depletion of ozone layer, disturbances in eco-system through international actions, ratification and compliances of international laws, Environmental legislation, WTO climate change, marine pollution and its effect on aquatic life, EL-Nino effect.  All these factors directly or indirectly affect the environment in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s efforts

In Pakistan, environmental concern started in the early 1970s, leading to some policy initiatives by the Government and involvement of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and private sector in conservation activities. A number of initiatives have been undertaken during the last decade.  The Environmental Protection Ordinance was promulgated in 1983, followed by the National Environmental Quality Standards in 1993 for municipal and industrial effluents, gaseous emissions and motor vehicles exhaust.  In March 1992, the Federal Cabinet approved the National Conservation Strategy (NCS) and set-up a Cabinet Committee for the implementation of Environment Action Programmers.

In addition establishment of the Environment Section in the Planning Commission and Environment Cells in the P&D Departments at the provincial level, have significantly contributed to raising environmental awareness.  The enactment of the Environmental Protection Act-1997 was a break through that gave legal cover to environmental decision-making. The Provincial Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) were made functional and similar structures have been instituted by various organizations like WAPDA, OGDC, and Pak Steel etc.

The Eight Five Year Plan focused on; (I) environmental pollution control,(ii) conservation of natural resources and sustainable development, (iii) creating a coherent statutory framework, (iv) strengthening regulatory, technical and participatory institutions,(v) formulating and implementing a communication program, and (vi) implementing environment sector projects both at federal and provincial levels.  Efforts were made to improve environmental legislation, enforce National Environmental Quality Standards, initiate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures for public and private investments, and incorporate more environment-related investments into all development expenditures.

In order to effectively implement the environment programmers of the Eight Plan, all the provincial Governments formulated their respective provincial conservation strategies, delineating their action plans with emphasis to carry forward the process of NCS implementation. Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has prepared the Sarhad Provincial Conservation Strategy (SPCS) while Baluchistan is in the process of doing so.  The notable features of SPCS include the reorientation of existing environment Programmers to focus more on participatory project implementation involvement of the private sector, and to define the roles of both the Government and the community.

The private sector was involved in a crash a forestation campaign, beginning monsoon 1995, throughout the country.  The power generation companies in the private sector were asked to plant trees in the areas adjacent to their installations on the basis of 10 acres per mega watt produced.  The Federal and Provincial Governments made land Available without disturbing the proprietary rights.  The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) started a joint Environmental Technology Programmed for Industry (ETPI) with the collaboration of Dutch Government.

The ETPI envisaged promotion of environmentally friendly technologies for the production of environmentally safe products by Pakistan’s manufacturing/industrial sector. Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA) established a private company, Environmental Management Limited, for implementing a Combined Effluent Treatment Plant, a solid waste management program, an occupational health and safety program, and a drainage system for about 160 tanneries located at Korangi at a cost of more than Rs.1 billion.

The Sindh Government provided more than 46 percent of the finances through the Export Development Fund and individual tanners, while the remaining 54 percent finances would be provided by the international financing institutions.  In Punjab, PTA has been implementing the Cleaner Technology Programme with the assistance of the Netherlands Government.  “Initial Environmental Examination” of more than 260 tanneries has been completed.  The Pakistan Society of Sugar Technologies (PSST) and Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) organized two environmental workshops in collaboration with ETPI.  Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI) started an environmental project titled the “Up-gradation of Korangi Industrial Area”.

On the non-Government side, NGOs were involved in identifying and addressing pollution problems and suggesting mitigation measures for the industrial sector as envisaged in the policy decisions taken from time to time.  I addition, they work on conserving natural resources, conducting surveys and arranging workshops for mass awareness on Environmental problems. NGOs in collaboration with the public sector organizations focused on the textile industry for formulation of Action Plan for enforcement of National Environmental Quality Standards.  The NGO’s also developed close liaison and working relationships among themselves and with the Community Based Organizations

Environmental protection in the country

Pakistan is also playing an active role internationally by supporting and establishing new global partnerships to protect the environment at national, regional and global level.  The country has become a signatory to many international conventions /Protocols/Agreements like Agenda-21, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, Global Environment Facility (GEF), Commission on sustainable Development (CSD) and Convention on the Control of Trans boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal. During the year 1998-99 the following major scrotal programs were implemented in order to facilitate both the short and long-term environmental achievements.


The Environmental Protection Act 1997 provides base for developing a legal framework and implementation strategy in the country.  The Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines have been prepared for sartorial projects. Mass Awareness Campaign Responding to the pressing need for increasing environmental awareness, a massive Mass Awareness Campaign has been launched through print and electronic Media.  Kasur Tanneries Pollution Control Project The initial cost of the project was Rs. 263.8 million, which had been revised to Rs.378 million.  The objective of the project is to provide facilities for evacuation of the stagnant pools of wastewater, establish collective treatment plant and effluent Disposal systems, and arrange solid waste management systems and in house pollution Control methods in tanneries.

About 75-80% work has been completed.  An International Management Firm is going to be hired for the implementation of this Project. Pakistan has signed the Montreal Protocol to phase out Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS).  To this end, an Ozone Cell was established in the Ministry of Environment in 1996.  The country program has been completed and about 15 ODS phased out sub-projects in refrigeration, foam, fumigation and solvent sectors have been approved for grant of funding from the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol.  These sub-projects will help in phasing out 978.2 metric ton of ODS.  A grant Equivalent to about US $ 9.0 million has been allocated by the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol.

This Article is Written by “Raham Ghaffar” author at

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Hi! I am Main Raham Ghaffar , studying Environmental Sciences at University of Haripur. - Read more..

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