Experts hone Sindh Environment Protection Bill

Sindh will soon get its own green law: Dr Sikandar

Environmental Protection Agency, Government of Sindh (Sindh EPA) arranged a consultative meeting in collaboration with National Impact Assessment Programme (NIAP) of IUCN Pakistan here on Thursday, to seek comments and suggestions on the draft of Sindh Environment Protection Bill, in which the need for redefining the environmental jurisdiction of Sindh, putting the element of dynamism in environmental solutions under the proposed act and extensive coverage of marine pollution control was particularly stressed by the participants.

Winding up the debate in concluding session Sindh Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Environment Dr. Sikandar Ali Mandhro said that no law could work effectively if it was made without the consultation of stakeholders. “Keeping this philosophy in mind Sindh EPA and IUCN conducted this consultative meeting to make the draft Bill a green law for the people, by the people and of the people”, he added.

He further said that soon after incorporation of all the valid and valuable suggestions given by the environmental experts, academia, legal experts, members of civil society and government organizations, the draft will be tabled in the Sindh Assembly for its enactment and ultimate enforcement. He appreciated the efforts of all concerned organizations and institutions who contributed significantly in the making of this draft of provincial green law that is “going to be the most comprehensive environmental law in the history of the province of Sindh”.

Provincial Minister stressed the need of covering all the aspects of environment with comprehensive provisions so that nothing is missed and it can be effectively enforced to make it a flawless legal tool for the protection, conservation, rehabilitation and improvement of environment of Sindh.

In his welcome address Secretary Forest, Wildlife and Environment Department Government of Sindh Mr Shafiq Ahmed Mahesar said that this is the hallmark of Sindh Environment Protection Bill that it is developed with lengthy process of deliberations, counseling and consultation to make it free from any lacuna and we can get an all-encompassing tool to protect the environment of Sindh from all types of hazards and violations.

He further said that “we took a little extra time to develop this Bill just with the intention to make it a piece of legislation that will hardly need frequent amendments so that a smooth process of its enforcement may continue without any internal hurdle.”
In his presentation Director General EPA Sindh Naeem Ahmed Mughal highlighted the salient features of the draft Bill and said that all the gaps found in its predecessor law i.e Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 were kept in view to avoid any error and anything missing in the Bill under debate.

He further said that the provisions of strategic impact assessment, post-EIA monitoring of development projects, stronger enforcement mechanism and enhanced power and functions of Sindh EPA were made in the proposed Bill apart from well defining the penalty procedure and monitoring of industries. He further said sections banning the hazardous waste and substances are further clarified in it apart from expanding the regulatory role for water and air pollution control.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Country Representative of IUCN Pakistan Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema provided a glimpse of IUCN’s long history of environmental conservation in Pakistan, spanning over three decades, and its assistance to the government in crafting a National Conservation Strategy – the first ever to be introduced in the country.

He also recounted IUCN’s role in the formation of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) 1997 in consultation with the government. “We have travelled a long distance, and there is a need to take a fresh look at that newly developed draft of Sindh Environment Protection Bill, especially after environment has become a provincial responsibility,” Mr. Cheema observed.

Mr. Ahmad Saeed, Project Manager NIAP, said that the provincial ministries and Director Generals of all provincial EPAs participated in an earlier meeting in Islamabad, where they agreed that NIAP would assist them, and there should be uniformity in legislations across the provinces. The provinces agreed on the development of a model act using PEPA 1997 as a base document, and subsequent meetings were held to highlight the gaps in PEPA 1997 with a view to removing them in the new act currently under debate.

The presentations and speeches were followed by an interactive discussion session during which the participants highlighted some critical environmental issues that need immediate attention.

Barrister Shahida Jameel, former Federal Minister for Environment, was of the view that this Act only targets the private sector more. It will discourage investments. According to her observations, vague terms create confusion; on the other hand the arbitrary powers increase the likelihood of undue meddling. She stressed upon the need of implementation of strategic environment assessment (SEA) as it is vital and the need of the hour to keep our strategic assets free from all types of environmental risks.

It may be pointed out that Environmental legislation in Pakistan has been governed by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997, but following the 18th Amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan, environment has become a provincial subject, and provinces are now moving towards promulgating their own environmental laws for enforcement. 

Funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN), NIAP is a joint initiative of the Government of Pakistan and IUCN, aiming to contribute to sustainable development in Pakistan by strengthening Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and introducing Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in the country’s development planning processes.

NIAP’s four partners are: the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA); Environment Wing, Ministry of Environment; Environment Section, Planning Commission; and IUCN Pakistan. Technical assistance to NIAP is being provided by the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA).

Former Secretary Environment and Alternative Energy Department Government of Sindh Shamsul Haq Memon, Former Director General Sindh EPA Brigadier Akhtar Zamin, Environmentalist Shahid Lutfi, Environmental Consultants Muzzamil Mirza, Nadeem Arif, Dr Samiuzzaman, Chairman Institute of Energy and Environment, Qaid-e-Awam University of Engineering and Technology Mr Kishan Chan Mukwana and Amber Alibhai of Shehri CBE were also present in the meeting.

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