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Green is the solution

Rio+20 will be held in Brazil to focus on green economy for sustainable development and poverty eradication

By Mohammad Niaz

A few head of nations met at Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to frame policy for environmental and bio-ecological resource management. Since then, efforts to protect the environment and natural resources have attained momentum. Because less investment was made in the conservation of ecosystem, biodiversity; water, and energy, socio-economic development has been fostered at the expense of natural capital deterioration.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit held at Rio in 1992, Rio+20 will be held in June this year at the same Brazilian city to focus on green economy for sustainable development and poverty eradication. Of course, the city will be the same but the environmental scenario is not the same as what was back in 1992.

The whole story revolves around two factors, i.e., the developmental approaches and the natural capital being one of the main pillars of socio-economic uplift.

Both aspects are essential but to strike a balance between the two is the colossal task the nations have to address to ensure environmental quality amid the concrete jungle (jungle of buildings).

Given this picture, about 60 percent of the major ecosystems of the world have been degraded due to increased biotic pressure and ecological footprints. That is why greening the economy is one of the options to supplement sustainable development without subtracting the benefits that the natural capital provide over a period of time through generations.

Green economy by virtue of green investment focuses on bettering human livelihood and environmental conditions through low carbon emissions and resource efficiency.

It spans around a number of sectors which accumulatively attains desirable outcome on sustainable basis such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, transport, waste, manufacturing industries, energy sector, and buildings play crucial role in environmental conditions.

There is a great potential for development of these sectors with environmentally sound approaches in our country. However, inadequate green investment has been a hurdle to achieve sustainable development indicators of the sectors. Greening of agriculture sector would ensure food security, contribute to improved nutrition and health as well as eradicate poverty.

In addition to this it will create rural jobs. Reduced chemicals, pesticides, diversified crop rotation, improved harvesting and storage techniques, and efficient water use will contribute to more socio-economic and environmentally desirable outcomes.

Fisheries sector is not only vital in sustaining aquatic and marine ecosystem but has also socio-economic significance. Therefore, greening of this sector is essential to contribute to survival and health of millions of people around the world that support their livelihood which can be achieved through sustainable fish harvest, and habitat management for improved fish yield.

At the same time, it will ensure green jobs for communities dependent on this vital sector with socio-economic activities contributing to their uplift. In a nutshell, it ensures sustainable fish consumption for the present as well as future generation. Unfortunately, little investment has been poured into our country to ensure sustainable fisheries development.

Water being the prime element of life has been managed unsustainably around the world. According to estimates, about one billion people lack access to clean drinking water while 2.6 billion people lack access to improved sanitation services.

Water scarcity has also been one of the major contributing factors for degradation of ecosystems over the last half century. For its wide range of benefits, water conservation can be ensured through wise use, and green investment in ecosystems and watershed management that are the prime water sources.

The role of forest in environment is indispensable at large. Proactive conservation measures ensure provision of goods and services with broader implications of supporting livelihood of over one billion humans. Green investment in the forestry sectors will not only contribute to uplift of the local people but will also improve tourism, energy, water management, carbon trading and forest-based products by maintaining the flow of benefits.

Given proactive management practices, green investment initiatives such as sustainable forest management, growth of protected areas, incentives to forest dependent communities, rehabilitation of habitats, afforestation and reforestation would contribute to prosperous future in the long run with socio-economic and ecological benefits. One of the major breaking achievements in forest conservation is to invest for reducing deforestation and provision of alternatives.

Appropriate renewable energy technologies can ensure greening the energy sectors through energy efficiency. Modern energy services are required to contribute not only to greening the energy sector but will meet development needs due to increase in human needs and population.

It will help to achieve the millennium development goals with cross cutting sectoral implications. Solar power generation, windmills installation, hydal power units, etc are some of the important green investment initiatives.

With implication of additional initiatives more jobs generations would benefit cross section of the society. Such green investment initiative will not only meet the growing demand of energy in face of the increased human population but will also considerably contribute to reduction of green house gases.

Industrial sector is one of the mainstream contributors to environmental conditions. Textile, cement, steel, chemicals, electronics, pulp and paper, and sugar are the main industries that significantly effect the environment. Improved resources and technologies and energy efficiency are the key indicators to ensure growth of green economy.

The waste generated in wake of the economic growth has phenomenal environmental impact with wide range of other associated problems. Recycling of waste has extensive potential to generate employment opportunities through appropriate institutional arrangement and policy which helps to alleviate poverty. The reduce-reuse-and-recycle approach has both environmental and social implications than incineration and land filling. Investment in the waste sector is increasingly essential due to rapid growth in urbanization.

Being the main requirements, infrastructure and buildings are the key physical features where more time is spent indoor due to which more impacts are registered on the environment in several manifestations.

It is estimated that about buildings are responsible to contribute about 40 per cent of the global energy use and add up to 39 per cent of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere along with other greenhouse gases.

Investment in green and environmentally friendly buildings will play essential role in minimizing and halting environmental degradation in the long run. There is large scale potential in our country to mobilize investment in the building sector for its wide range of benefits. A shift from orthodox buildings and architecture is needed towards improved eco-friendly and energy efficient buildings and infrastructural designs.

Transport sector consuming fossil fuels is one of the major contributors to environmental degradation with impacts on human health at large. In developing countries this is a growing issue with less investment in the transport sector. On the war-footing grounds improved vehicles, shift in modes of transports, shift from conventional fuel type, equal distribution of market delivering public goods than concentrated ones will help contribute towards better environmental and socio-economic conditions.

By ensuring green investment in the key sectors there is great likelihood that our national resources would not only be conserved effectively but eco-friendly environment will prevail at different levels thus fulfilling our national and international obligations under Multilateral Environmental Agreements. For this purpose multi-pronged approaches and mega initiatives are needed to arrest environmental degradation in time.

The writer is Deputy Conservator Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department

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