Recently, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) approved the building of twin nuclear power plants close to Karachi. The project puts the entire city is at a risk of nuclear radiation exposure given the fact that the wind blows from the plant site to Karachi for the most part of the year. Environmental damage is never a consideration for policymakers and the country slowly becomes a concrete jungle.

In the Punjab scores of young and old trees were uprooted to construct the track by the Rawalpindi Development Authority and the Metro Bus, a project worth Rs38 billion. The government claimed that they were keeping the interest of the environment a top priority with an elaborate environmental monitoring management plan. Yet only one percent of the project’s budget was spent on environment protection. These blatant ‘tokens’ for speedy development that are being used to bank votes at the cost of the environment.

The Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Saturday allotted 9,000 acres of public forest land to the Pakistan Army, for distribution among the heirs of slain and wounded military personnel. The Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif personally asked for the allotment of the land. Policy states that forestland can be allotted only for agricultural purposes, and so the Pakistan Army has said it will use it for agriculture purposes. Why is the Army expected to cultivate land? Should reparations to the families of martyred soldiers not be made according to pre-existing programs from the Army’s own budget or the Governments budget? Are the forests not public lands subject to public opinion? Is this a ploy to appease the public and Army after Zardari’s outburst? This is not the time for the Army to be seen as grabbing more land, even if its intentions are pure. The secondary issue (that no one considers since it is not political) is the ensuing deforestation.

Environmental damage costs Pakistan’s economy over Rs 365 billion every year. Inadequate water supply, agricultural soil degradation, urban air pollution and land degradation and deforestation are key problems. We can do without more deforestation, landslides, soil erosion and air pollution at the hands of the Sindh Government.