Environmental pollution kills over 50,000 Pakistanis, most of them poor, and costs the economy some Rs.356 billion or six percent of the country's GDP every year, a new World Bank report says.
The Pakistan Strategic Country Environmental Assessment presents an alarming picture of the air quality in major cities. The concentration of particulate matter in Islamabad, the four provincial capitals, and other cities far exceeds safe levels and claims 22,700 lives. Indoor pollution in rural areas each year causes 28,000 deaths, most of them women and children.
The report was released in Lahore on Monday.
The report identifies illness and premature mortality caused by air pollution (both indoor and outdoor) as being responsible for 50 percent of the damage caused.
Diarrhoeal diseases and typhoid, caused by unclean water supply and poor sanitation and hygiene claim 30 percent imposed by pollution. Reduced farm productivity because of soil degradation accounts for another 20 percent.
According to the report, waterborne diseases cost Pakistani Rs.114 billion, with municipal sewage, industrial effluents and farm runoff being the major sources of pollution.
Stating that the mechanism for identifying projects that need environmental impact assessment (EIA) is very weak, the report points out that in 2004, a mere 87 initial environmental examinations (IEEs) and EIAs were received by the country's five environment protection agencies.
It calls for improving the institutional framework to clearly define the responsibilities of the federal, provincial and local governments in controlling environmental degradation.
The report also speaks of the need to involve the judiciary, civil society and the media, as also the law-enforcement agencies for fixing the accountability of the polluters.