Violation of global conventions on the protection of endangered species – OpEd – Eurasia Review
Conservationists commented in a virtual dialogue on Sunday (July 3, 2022) that neglecting necessary measures to protect endangered species of animals, plants and birds is tantamount to violating global conventions.
They further stated that the Haveli region of Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir is rich in natural resources and some endangered plant species.
Environmentalists have warned local communities that there could be a serious health crisis if garbage and sewage, the region’s biggest pollutants, continue to be dumped into rivers and streams.
Strict measures and regulations are needed to stop brutal and ruthless deforestation.
A citizen-expert dialogue on environmental issues in Bagh district was organized as part of the ongoing environmental awareness campaign by Press for Peace Foundation, a UK-based campaign organization.
Environmentalists Prof. Dr. Siddique Awan and Aftab Hussain Bukhari, Social Activist Major (Retired) Mahmood Khan, Journalist Raja Tahir Gulzar, Citizen Journalist Waleed Yaseen and other speakers addressed a virtual audience.
Dialogue participants agreed that the actions of government agencies in the face of environmental threats are disappointing.
The criminal silence of the region’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other government agencies to curb the spread of rock crushers in Bagh and Arja is regrettable.
Social leader and freelance columnist Major (retired) Mahmood Khan said that due to brutal deforestation, the region is losing its valuable asset. He said that the timber mafia was destroying the forests.
“If this continues, we will have nothing. When the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir was formed in 1947-48, the forest cover was 32%. This proportion is now 16 percent.
He added that forest laws need to be changed and stressed the need for increased coordination between civil society and forest officials.
Stone crushers provide jobs for local people, but these jobs cannot be provided at the expense of public health.
He warned that stone crushers in Bagh and Arja pose a threat to the health of citizens. The EPA and other agencies must strictly adhere to relevant regulations in this regard.
Journalist Raja Tahir Gulzar said there was a drinking water and sewage crisis in Bagh district as local people were dumping garbage and sewage into sewers.
He lamented that despite spending Rs 1.5 billion on post-earthquake reconstruction, Bagh residents were deprived of clean water and a modern sewage system.
The recycling system could not be activated. Stressing the need for a mass awareness effort, he said people need to be made aware of the use of filtered water.
While giving an example of incompetence and negligence by government agencies on health and environment matters, he said a dead monkey was found in the water supply system of Bagh town. The concerned official closed the investigation without finding the reason behind such incidents.
Prof. Siddique Awan, who is an eminent environmentalist and chairman of the department of zoology at the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, told participants that unhealthy and contaminated food has increased the number of deadly diseases in the region, such as appendicitis, kidney disease, hepatitis and heart attack.
He pointed out that these diseases are deeply linked to artificial fertilizers, water pollution and unnatural construction methods, as the requirements of the environment are ignored in modern construction.
Growing populations and poor planning pose a serious threat to forests and wildlife. “We must encourage organic farming and follow the principles of environmentally friendly farming and building that the older generation followed,” he said.
Himalayan Rural Support Program Chairman Aftab Hussain Bukhari said the Haveli region is rich in natural resources in terms of wildlife.
Neglecting the necessary measures to protect wildlife and forests amounts to violating global conventions on the protection of the environment.
He said the use of household and community filters should be encouraged in order to make the use of drinking water common among the population.
The Textbook Council should make necessary changes to the program in accordance with environmental requirements so that the message of environmental protection can be passed on to the new generation.
He said that for the protection of forests and the environment, a comprehensive and inter-institutional partnership and coordinated thinking among all departments are necessary to promote sustainable development.
In this regard, it is necessary to adopt the model of the developed countries for the protection of the environment.
The government should provide the opportunities and resources to benefit from the knowledge and experience of environmental experts in public sector universities.
Waleed Yaseen, coordinator of the Press for Peace Foundation and social activist, said the biggest problem in Bagh district was garbage.
Instead of dumping garbage near wells, streams and other sources of drinking water, modern recycling methods should be adopted.
Using contaminated sewage water spreads disease. Due to the poor maintenance of the forests and the emission of toxic gases, the forests are disappearing and the region is drying up.
The region could soon become barren if environmental issues are not addressed within the framework of an integrated policy. The speaker unanimously applauded the Press for Peace Foundation’s public awareness campaign and urged organizers to expand it to other cities as well.
The writer is an author, pedagogue and ecologist. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]