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Environmental Sustainability In Pakistan: The Challenges Faced

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By Meher Inayat:

From the lush green northern high mountains capped with snow throughout the year and beautiful valleys embedded in the heart of Gilgit, Baltistan to the vibrant seashores down south; Pakistan is blessed with natural beauty and natural resources. However, would the future generation witness the natural beauty of Pakistan and will they be able to enjoy the benefits of the natural resources? As the world is striving to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals which includes bringing environmental sustainability, the question that arises here is where Pakistan stands among all the countries? Pakistan is included in the third world countries because of its economic situation. On the other hand, the major issues today in Pakistan are not having energy generation and the lack of water; however, we do have plenty of coal that can be used to generate electricity which would be an easy way to minimize the demand of power. The Pakistan government and other NGOs have tried to conserve the natural resources in different regions.


One of the major steps taken by the Pakistan government is to promote awareness to guard wildlife through projects like the Himalayan Jungle Project, the Palas Conservation and Development Project (PCDP), the Indus Dolphin Project (IDP), the Marine Turtle Conservation Project etc. We know that there are animals that have become extinct either because of the climate change or due to the harm meted out to them. So, in order to protect the species it is necessary to provide them a favorable environment and be friendly with them. For example, in the Northern part of Pakistan, people used to hunt ibex for food, but the Pakistan government banned the hunting of the mountainous animals. Hunting ibex has had another consequence; when people hunted hundreds of ibex, the tigers came on the mainland and ate cattle because there was a shortage of food for them. Furthermore, hunting animals like tigers, deer, snow leopards, and migratory birds was banned through these projects. So, now people don’t hunt animals in the Northern areas of Pakistan due to which the ibex come on the land too.

Besides that, steps have been taken to conserve forests in Pakistan. According to the Government’s report, the total forest area, including rangelands is 10.5 million hectares, of which 1.4 million are productive forests. According to the FAO documentary report, “Wood for fuel wood is produced from state-owned forests, private farmlands, and waste lands. A study on Household Energy Strategy conducted by the Government with assistance from the World Bank, confirmed that the country’s consumption of fuel wood is high, with about 79% of all the households using fuel wood for cooking (82%), space heating (7.3%), and water heating (9.8%). Fuel wood is also used in the commercial sector by bakeries, restaurants, in ovens and brick kilns, for tobacco curing, in ceramic products manufacturing, food processing, etc.” This essentially means deforestation occurs in Pakistan on a high scale because most of the people depend on forests for fuel, especially in the tribal areas. In order to preserve the forests, commercial plantation on a large scale has been done, watershed rehabilitation through reforestation, increasing tree planting by individuals and communities through social forestry and extension programs, encouraging NGO involvement and increasing the price of fuelwood and timber in the country, and afforestation of sand dunes and sand dune fixation through shelterbelt plantations. So, this shows that few essential steps have been taken to come over deforestation and save the wildlife.

On the other hand, there are other issues that are disrupting the environment. If we talk about saving the natural resources then it entails controlling the usage and misuse of the natural resources. Pakistan is one of the richest countries in terms of natural resources; however, it has failed to manage those natural resources. Our experience from the past few years has remained appalling in terms of management in any sector and in fluctuation in terms of economy. This can be judged from the ongoing situation in the country where people are more concerned about their security than thinking about development. One of the major issues of Pakistan now is energy generation and secondly, agricultural lands are turning into deserts because of the shortage of water. According to Dawn News, Mrs. Shamim Humayun, a renowned academic says, “Geographically speaking, our country has been blessed by countless natural resources. The rivers that come down from the North make the building of dams perfectly feasible, and the amount of coal present in the country along with alternative energy can make Pakistan an exporter of energy if properly utilized. For that, our policies need to be more focused, and energies channeled in the right direction, rather in politicizing every aspect of developmental projects.”

This shows that there is a lack of management in preserving the natural resources and making it beneficial for the country. Today, the population is facing more than 10 hours load shedding in a day which do not only affects the people at home but the companies, factories, industries, and the markets in the cities cannot precede their work due to which the economy of the country gets affected. Many textile industries have been shifted to other countries because of the shortage of energy in the Pakistan. On the other hand, due to not having enough water the agricultural lands are turning into barren lands that are affecting the environment as well as the economy.

So, there is a need of conserving the environment and using the natural resources in a meaningful way. If we are using natural resources then we should find an alternative in order to preserve the environment.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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