Entering the seminar room, Mr. Ronny Heine, President, Konrad Adenuaer Stiftung, shook his head in disbelief; there were still 10 minutes to commencement of the workshop yet all the seats were taken in an astonishingly enthusiastic response. The occasion was the first ever media workshop on Climate Change and Deforestation, organized by the Senate Sub-committee on environment in collaboration with KAS at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS), Islamabad, another milestone in the sub-committee endeavours to raise awareness about environmental challenges.
The Convener commenced the workshop by highlighting the latest potential threat to Islamabad’s environment by the announcement of metro bus project. “We are not opposed to the mass transit project for Islamabad which we believe is the need of the hour, however, it must not harm or infringe upon the scenic beauty and green belts of this beautiful city or violate the master plan of the city,” he argued. The Senator further stated that his sub-committee has taken this issue on its next public hearing agenda which is scheduled for 17th March, 2014. Also, a petition will be filed in the Supreme Court to ensure that a thorough environmental assessment is made of this project. “Economic development is necessary but it must not be at the expense of nature which is irreparable,” the Senator explained.
Bringing together far and wide representation from the mainstream media, the workshop aimed at raising awareness about environmental challenges of Pakistan to garner greater propagation among the public, recognizing media as a bridge leading the parliamentarians to the people. Echoing this, the Convener of the Sub-Committee, Senator Mushahid Hussain, stated: “According PEMRA laws, 5% of the airtime has to be allotted to public service messages free of charge, which is why there is a need to institutionalize the awareness by launching such programs that build the capacity for larger reach and utilize the available opportunities in the best way.”
A premier media manual on Climate Change and Deforestation was also launched and handed out specifically for media persons, which in the course of 56 pages covers facts and data regarding the issue in simple, understandable terms. Not only this, the media manual includes chapters on reporting environmental issues, giving an understanding about how to do a story, use specific language and terms, and to identify issues for public awareness and interest. All this will help the media persons in bringing this issue in the mainstream media by effective and precise reporting, providing them with the latest and reliable source of information.
A presentation was given by Inspector General of Forests, Mahmood Nasir, which highlighted the impact of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Emissions from deforestation and forest degradation alone contribute to 17% of the total global emissions, a figure that is greater than the combined global vehicle emissions. In an informative speech, Nasir passionately covered the key points and facts about the topic, specifically its implications in Pakistan, informing the committee that REDD+ received US$ 3.8 million on the basis of the high calibre of the action plan submitted by the Climate Division. The Convener reinforced this by stating that cutting tress is a heinous crime which is punishable by law.
Pursuing the case of stone crushing in Margalla Hills, the ICT was invited to brief before the committee during which it came to light that stone crushers like FECTO Cement continue to quarry despite cancellation of all leases in the after math of the Supreme Court’s ruling of 25th Oct 2013. The ICT also informed the members that the Islamabad Electric Supply Corporation (IESCO) had been appealed to cut off the electric supply to these illegal operators but the electricity supplier expressed its reluctance to do as the power lines themselves are perfectly legal. It all boiled down to clearing the air between the ICT and the stone crushers regarding legal issues of leases and licences; meetings regarding this are under progress.
The workshop a full house affair which was also attended by Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Senator Hidayatullah, Senator Farhatullah Babar and Senator Dr. Saeeda Iqbal along with Shaban Khalid, President of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries; Shehryar Khan, President of the National Press Club, Christina Afridi and Dr Dushka Hyder Saiyid, leaders of Islamabad Green Movement and other representatives of the civil society.
The Senators were greatly appreciative of the initiative, lauding the Convener for spearheading the cause of environment. Senator Dr. Saeeda Iqbal called for inclusion of environment as a subject in academic curriculum to ingrain values for environmental preservation.
Christina Afridi cited a clause of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) that stipulates arrest without warrant on suspicions of environmental violation by any individual and stated that this law must be put to good use to stop crimes against the environment. Shaban Khalid assured the full support of the industrial sector of Islamabad for environmental protection, accepting the challenge of recycling waste, specifically plastic bags, in to energy. Shehryar Khan complimented the Convener for the media workshop, noting it to be very enlightening while also expressing his apprehension about truckloads of explosives that are freely transported for stone crushing industries without prohibitive checks; he said such movements of explosives can easily be used for terrorist activities.
The workshop is another stepping stone for ensuring environmental protection. Not only effective in raising awareness, the workshop was also successful in producing positive synergy between the parliamentarians, media, civil society and think tanks- all very necessary links in forming a formidable front for the cause. This was apparent by SDPI announcement at the workshop to collaborate with Senator Mushahid Hussain in launching training workshops on environmental for people from all walks of life.
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