ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Climate Change Mushahid Ullah Khan on Sunday said that his ministry is taking all-out efforts to control environmental degradation that costs more than Rs365 billion to national economy every year.

“These efforts for the environmental conservation and protection are part of election manifesto of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and I would leave no stone unturned to put into reality my party’s promise,” the minister vowed.

Giving break-up of the losses, he said that out of Rs365 billion losses, inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene account for Rs112 billion, agricultural soil degradation Rs70 billion, indoor pollution Rs 67 billion, urban air pollution Rs 65 billion, lead exposure Rs 45 billion and land degradation and deforestation Rs 6 billion.

In a statement issued here, the minister said he believed that access to clean environment, of which people’s access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation are central part, is one of the basic rights of every citizen for healthy survival and overall socio-economic development of the country. Healthy nation is unprecedentedly vital for a country to progress in every sphere of social and economic activities, he added.

Referring to environmental protection pledge made in his party’s election manifesto, the minister said that the PML-N strongly believes in the ecologically sound socio-economic and development policies to preserve and develop the country’s natural and forest resources that is key to counteracting the negative impacts of global warming, which is main cause of climate change.

“However, achieving this is not possible without a coherent and workable strategy across all our provinces to cope with the impacts of changing weather patterns being faced by the country,” Mushahid Ullah Khan highlighted and cautioned that natural calamities never stop at provincial boundaries, saying the response of the provinces should not be lacking a coherent sequence or connection.

Talking about the hefty economic losses on account of the environmental degradation, the minister said that his ministry was collaborating with all provinces to check the losses to the national economy by addressing environmental pollution, providing clean drinking water and safe sanitation facilities to people, boosting tree plantation activities at all levels, fighting water-logging and salinity and ensuring proper waste management and disposal/recycling.

“In this regard, the role of environmental protection agencies (EPAs) in all provinces remains of unprecedented significance and these agencies need to work hard for controlling environmental degradation and ensure implementation of relevant laws in letter and spirit,” the minister Mushahid Ullah Khan emphasised.

He said that while the laws to check environmental degradation exist in the country, there is serious need for their enforcement in true sense. However, the enforcement of the laws is not possible without collaboration of the provinces, particularly in the context of the 18th Amendment under which environment is now a provincial subject.

Putting stress on significance of forests, the minister said that though trees play a vital role in fighting environmental degradation, floods and land and riverbank erosion, it is a matter of serious concern that forests on more or less 40,000 hectares are cleared or chopped down every year.

In this regard, the minister urged officials in the provincial forest departments to wake up to the dangers of deforestation and make concerted efforts to stop deforestation and bring deforested and new areas under forests with the help of local communities.

He said in this regard he would always provide his full political support at all scales to all the government departments responsible for environmental conservation and protection in the country.