KARACHI - The National Forum on Environment and Health (NFEH) has expressed grave concern over the fast degradation of environment in the country, especially Karachi, in the past 12 years, which has cost huge losses to the economy posed threat to resources. In a fact sheet on environment protection, issued here on the occasion of World Environment Day 2009, president NFEH Naeem Qureshi said that environment was always given least priority by the political leadership due to the lack of political will and pressure from the influential. He alleged that despite the multifold increase in the budget of the Environment Ministry, rising from Rs 50 million to Rs 345 million in the last four years, and the foreign funded environment projects, no significant improvement has been witnessed in atmospheric and marine pollution. Quoting a report, he said that public transport contributes approximately 70 to the environment pollution in all big cities including Karachi. The level of carbon dioxide is higher by 13 percent of the normal level of 0.79 percent of 100 milligrams. This included the presence of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other particles. Major contributors are thick smoke emitting public transport vehicles and emission from industries. Though Pakistan introduced National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) in 1997 for enforcement in next ten years, yet the progress remained very slow and implementation has been less 10 percent in industrial units. Environmental pollution has reached an alarming level in large cities of Pakistan due to the rising number of vehicles on the roads. Nearly 1.7 million vehicles in Karachi and over 3.6 million vehicles in the country are plying on the roads, of which 30 percent are not fit for plying on the roads as they discharge thick smoke with half-burnt fuel. It is surprising that despite the orders of Sindh High Court against thick smoke emitting buses, no action has been taken so far. City District Government Karachi has been talking of introducing CNG buses in Karachi. But this project has not moved beyond talks despite the fact that the previous government had approved a fund in its last days as payment of customs duty on the import of CNG bus by the private sector. So far no infrastructure has been created to facilitate plying of CNG buses in the city. The Environment Policy was approved by the federal cabinet in July 2005 with the aim to reduce pollution by creating awareness among masses. But no progress has been made so far in this regard. According to the report of World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 30,000 people are dying every year of pollution related diseases like asthma, lung cancer and bronchitis, ENT and mental disorders. It is all the more alarming that about 9,000 tons of chemical, oil and industrial effluent is being discharged in the Arabian Sea, which has polluted marine life up to 20 nautical miles. Similarly, only 5,000 metric tons of total 8,000 tons of solid waste, generated in Karachi is disposed off property while rest is either dumped in localities of burnt in open space. Ship-breaking industry in Gadani is also polluting the sea through its chemical, metal and effluent without any check. It has been appealed the government to implement Environment Policy in letter and spirit in consultation with all stakeholders including representative bodies. The urged policies are that the government to man EPAs with sufficient technical staff who should have latest laboratories and analytical equipment and apparatus to check pollution levels. They should work in consultation with all stakeholders including industries, representative trade and industry bodies. At the same time NEQS should be implemented to reduce level of pollution, and Environmental Tribunals should be more active, moreover, the performance of EPAs must be monitored and their heads should be replaced with technical and professional persons. The implementation of the long pending mass transit system in all major cities also urged, in addition, all public transport buses, taxis, rickshaws and heavy duty trucks should be converted to CNG or LPG. The immediate stop of mangrove cutting along coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan should be done, adding that the previous government had introduced a clean drinking water program at cost of Rs 3 billion to install water purification plants in every locality and most of them are non-functional, thus an inquiry into alleged embezzlement of this fund was also urged. The government must encourage alternate energy projects including solar, wind and small dams to reduce dependence on thermal power generation and overcome energy crisis in the country.