ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Zahid Hamid, has said that the economies of South Asian countries are growing at a rapid rate but they are also facing severe common environmental problems.

However, these common problems can be tackled effectively only through unhampered collaboration and cooperation at the regional level, he added. "Regional cooperation and a collaborative approach represent the way forward to overcome our common challenges," he said.

He expressed these views in his keynote speech at the three-day 13th meeting of the Governing Council of South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP) and the 5th Inter-governmental Ministerial meeting of South Asia Seas Programme (SASP) held here Thursday.

The minister said that strengthened regional efforts need to focus on a range of response options and instruments to address these challenges of environmental degradation and climate change-induced disasters, such as floods that are common problem of the South Asia region.

"However, regional partners need to emphasise the realisation for increasing responsibilities and greater cooperative efforts by all stakeholders. Besides, increased awareness of ecosystem services should be adopted as important mechanisms to mainstream environment into social and economic development processes in the region."