Environmental degradation costs Pakistan over Rs 356 billion annually and it must be kept in mind that is money that can be saved. If only environmental policy was a part of the national debate. Referring to the “Environmental Protection” pledge made in his party’s election manifesto in 2013, the minister for Climate Change Mushahid Ullah Khan said that PML–N strongly believed in ecologically sound socio-economic development policies to preserve and develop the country’s natural and forest resources.

Two questions. It is 2015. Where is this policy for environmental preservation and have the minister and his party just woken up to this? There are protests on-going, right in the centre of Lahore against the Lahore Development Authority project to build an expressway on Jail Road on the Main Boulevard. With such blatant negligence of the ecology of Lahore and the environmental degradation that will ensue due to an unnecessary project, is the PML-N not even slightly ashamed of giving statements promising environmental protection? Only 3 to 7 per cent of the population of the city owns four-wheel vehicles, and all these projects in Lahore facilitate them only.

Giving a break-up of the losses Mushahid Ullah Khan said that of Rs. 365 billion in losses, inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene accounts for Rs 112 billion, agricultural soil degradation Rs 70 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. Would a lot of these losses not be covered from the money that would be saved if concrete difficulties were not created in Lahore anymore and of environmental policy and urban planning were on the same page?

If highways have to be built, why not improve the road from Lahore to Multan and Karachi? Or the roads out of Karachi where oil tankers and truck drivers regularly have accidents due to a lack of safe roads? And even if the PML-N wants to focus on the Punjab, Multan is a part of Punjab, is it not? An environmental strategy is non-existent and all manifestos seem to be hot air. In this time of climate change disasters, more hot air is not what we need.