Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 130-138. 2008.
Environmental Issues and Need of Sustainable
Development in the Earthquake Affected Areas, State of Azad Jammu
and Kashmir Pakistan
Village Barali Kass, Kotli Azad,
Issued 04 March 2008
The aim of this investigation is to provide an
overview of qualitative study of the earthquake affected area toward
identification of environmental issues and sustainable development. The
results of these studies suggest that Environmental issues and Sustainable
Development concepts have often been ignored in relief, rehabilitation and
development activities in the earthquake affected areas state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This study
contributes to our current knowledge of disaster relocation literature and
sustainable development of community. Hopefully, the information that is
provided here will help guide policy makers, practitioners, and researchers
in their applied and academic work and further the understanding of the
disaster relocation process and environmental management in future. This
could lead to new guidelines for a post-disaster development process. In this
regard, the current studies focus on the efforts, initiatives
and gaps and furthers our understanding of the significant
characteristics of the sense of community in the post earthquake development
scenario in AJK, and investigates the methods to strengthen this particular
area in the State (Cummings, 1999).
My study is based
on a review of the literature of post earthquake development scenario in the
State of Azad Jammu
and Kashmir and my own personal perceptions. Local
peoples are not so much aware of environmental issues and their sustainable development.
“Well-managed ecosystems can mitigate the impact of natural hazards. In
addition, productive ecosystems can support sustainable development and are
important assets for communities in the aftermath of a disaster. For
ecosystems to make these contributions, it is essential that they be factored
into development efforts in the post-disaster response phase. Not taking care
of critical ecosystems after a major disaster can cause significant economic
and environmental losses, and impose hardships on already vulnerable
Rizvi and Rietbergen,2006).
According to (Frazier,1997).“The
fascinating two-word phrase, ‘sustainable development’, used in the World Conservation Strategy 1980,
by the World Commission on Environment and Development and again in Caring for the Earth by IUCN/UNDP/WWF
1991, was employed to express profound concern for both humanity and our
environment. `Sustainable development’ is not just fashionable, it has become
institutionalized; and among the countless examples are numerous commissions
and organizations which define policy for biological conservation,
development, science, technology and society.” The World Summit on
Sustainable Development 2002 declared that “we the representatives of the
peoples of the world, assembled at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg,
South Africa, from 2 to
4 September 2002, reaffirm
our commitment to sustainable development." At the Earth Summit on
Environment and Environment at Rio de Janeiro
1992, the UN agreed that the concept of Sustainable Development is the global
strategy for further human development (Steiner, Stark and Huttler, 2000). Kurvey (2003)
states that "Developing countries should be concerned with the
environmental issues because environmental problems are not exclusively the
problems caused by industrialization and riches, but the environmental
problems are very much caused by poverty. Environmental damage is not just a
threat to national economic and to individual countries but has wider
Over the last two
decades, disaster deaths per year have gone down by around 30%, whereas the
number of people affected by disaster has gone up by 59%. World s` imbalance
in sharing of resources drive them in the jaws of extreme disaster (Wisner, Walker,
2005). From 1973 to 1997, an average annual worldwide total of 84,034
individuals were killed by natural disaster, and an additional 143,864,855
were impacted in a significant way (International Federation of Red Cross and
Red Crescent Societies. 1999). An estimated $500 billion were lost over the
past two decades (Mileti 1999). According to (Rajvanshi, 2004), a change in mindset is necessary for
is also supposed to be playing a very active role in the world s` Sustainable
Development efforts. The Government of Pakistans`
National Environment Policy also focuses on sustainable development
(Government of Pakistan, 2005). Further, Pakistan
has signed the International Convention on Biodiversity in 1992 and ratified
it in 1994 (Butt, 2006). The Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997(PEPA)
must be enforced. One of the main responsibilities of the Pakistan
Environmental Protection Agency is to create public awareness about
environmental problems and issues. But, on the other hand, according to
(World Bank-Pakistan), "Environmental degradation costs Pakistan
at least 6% of GDP, or about Rs. 365 billion per year, and these costs fall
disproportionately upon the poor." The level of compliance to environmental
law in the country is extremely low (WWF-P, 2007). In Pakistan,
only few petitions have been filed against the violation of environmental law
and there is not any strong lobby which highlights the real environmental
issues and convinces the Government to take action against these (Down to
The area of "Azad
Jammu & Kashmir is fascinating land of people, languages & culture
(AJK Govt, 2008)." Azad Jammu and Kashmir
13,297 sq. km territory (AJK Government, 2004). An estimated 42.62% of the
total geographical area of the state is occupied by forest cover and is a
major source of revenue generation for the state government, contributing
approximately 50% of the total revenue governmental receipts (Butt, 2006, Termizi and Rafique, 2001).
October 8, 2005, parts of the Northern reaches of
Pakistan were struck by the most devastating
earthquake in recent history of the region. The earthquake, measuring 7.6 on
the Richter scale, had its epicentre in the of
district Muzaffarabad, AJK. The districts of Muzaffarabad Bagh, Neelum and Poonch in AJK were
the worst hit areas (IUCN-P An
Assessment of Environmental Risks and Needs, 2005). The estimated direct
damages caused by the earthquake amounted to Rs.
135.1 billion (US$ 2.3billion) (UNDP, 2005). Natural resources are still
under serious stress due to further reconstruction and the rehabilitation
process. These activities put additional stress on the physical as well as
biological environment in this disaster prone area (ERRA Environmental
Strategy 2006). The fledgling capacity of the formal environmental
conservation institutions responsible for impact assessment and monitoring
has also come under tremendous pressure (ERRA-UN Early plan, 2006). Identified here are some of the
following key environmental issues of the area (AJK Government, 2005, ERRA,
2005, IUCN-P An Assessment of
Environmental Risks and Needs, 2005):
Habitat loss and degradation.
Biodiversity loss and migration of wildlife
Flash floods and continued landslides/Soil
Pressure on dwindling natural resources.
Deforestation for fuel and construction/
Health hazard due to poor sanitation and
inadequate waste/debris management practices.
Increased transportation of construction
Dumping of debris in dry water courses and on
Contamination of water.
The damages due to heavy silt deposits in the
river feeding to the mangla water reservoir.
Psycho –social risk
ERRA (2006) has developed
an environmental strategy 2006-2009 based on the damages assessed in sectors
related to environment. The strategy is also based on ERRA’s
core principle "BUILD BACK BETTER" to address physical, biological
and socio-economic environmental issues, but a biodiversity and environmental assessment
post-EQ may not be very conclusive essentially due to limited previous
baseline biodiversity data from the earthquake affected areas. Now WWF-P is
keen to do work on a natural resource damage assessment in AJK (IUCN-P An assessment of
Environmental Risks and Needs, 2005). There is a great need to assess in
detail the damages caused by the earthquake on the environment, such as the
impact on agriculture, pasture land; trees and forests; wetlands, springs and
irrigation systems; water quality; ecosystems and biodiversity; protected
areas, cultural heritage etc. (IUCN-P
Preliminary assessment report, 2005).
In this area,
environmental issues are dealt by only the social scientists, but according
to (Dunlap and Catton, 1979), sociology has not
responded readily to environmental issues and threats. Generally, people are
blind to environmental concepts and ecological constraints, so there is need
of an ecological approach to deal with these issues. "Although one could
argue that environmental issues might not be the main focus during a
disaster, environmental concerns — along with poor governance of natural
resources" (Rieux, Masundire,
Rizvi and Rietbergen,
2006). There is a confusion of social, environmental, commercial, and
political aims (WWF-P, 2007). A range of local, national and international
actors were involved in disaster management and mitigation in the aftermath
of the disaster whether they considered environment issues primarily in terms
of managing and protecting ecosystems. Such issues included the contamination
or sudden depletion of water resources, sewage and waste management
(including the burying of bodies) and to debris removal. National NGOs and
civil society organizations are seen as having a low level of
awareness/understanding of environmental issues and a few major international
NGOs were cited as having a very good level of awareness (Paristti, 2005). The leading state Environmental Protection Agency AJK-EPA was
established in 1997 and also operates in the area to address environmental
The following issues are also responsible in
sustainable development activities in the area:
Issue of wilderness and the protection of landscapes:
Wilderness is important in providing
undisturbed habitat for wildlife and plants.
Issue of Rarity:
This is an
important criterion in both species and habitat conservation (Jarvis, 2000).
Issue of Displacement:
Where environmental constraints are predictable dispersal
of animal species also becomes a predictable solution to avoiding such
stress. Many animals travel great distances (Jarvis, 2000). Displacement of
large numbers of poor people in a disaster can lead to new risks/load to
fragile ecosystems (IUCN-P An Assessment of
Environmental Risks and Needs, 2005, Winser and
Walker, 2005, El-Hinnawi, 1985, p4).
Issue of Gender:
Women have a large contribution to bring to disaster
risk reduction and local resilience, but women’s contributions are often
ignored (Wisner, Walker, 2005).
"Women are more vulnerable during disaster than men because they have
less access to resources" (ERRA Livelihood and Rehabilitation strategy,
2006). During disaster women’s sanitary needs were ignored. A lack of
information and knowledge compounded the difficulties for women (Bukri, 2008).
Issues of accountability and transparency:
"Corruption levels in developing
countries may play an important role in affecting the success of conservation
projects" (Smith, 2003). Disaster mitigation is also impacted by power
and the misuse of power. The misuse of power can be found in the ongoing
environment in which disaster mitigation tries to gain a foothold, and in the
effects that disaster and crisis have on opportunities for corruption (Wisner,
Issue of Ethnicity:
Variation occurs, due to differences in ethnicity,
in disaster victims’ ability to cope, recover and consider environmental
issues (Bolin and Bolton 1986). (Aptekar 1990)
argues that ethnic status contributed to victims’ psychosocial reactions to
disasters.” Post-disaster recovery and reestablishment of a sense of
community cohesiveness is more difficult for ethnic minorities because of
pre-disaster under representation issues” (Garrison 1985).
Issue of Political bias:
bias by relief organizations usually translates to people with connections
get help, whereas others do not. The social fabric in the areas is extremely
complicated and delicate; relief organizations not able to see what are going
on in the society (IUCN, 2005).
involved in Post Earthquake development activities in the area:
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority(Pakistan)
SERRA: State Earthquake
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority
Protection Agency Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Forest Department Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Wildlife and Fisheries Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Agriculture Department Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Department of Planning
and Department Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Department Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Asian Development Bank
United Nations System-Pakistan
U. S. Agency for
Save the Children
In any overall
conception of good management there will be many biological, social, economic
and political issues to be considered (Sist,
Fimbel, Sheil, Nasi, and Chevallier, 2003). Many developmental
activities are not vulnerable communities-based and development projects
should focus on qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to gather
data from these vulnerable communities. Qualitative data
sources include observation and participant observation, semi structured
interviews, questionnaires and photographs. Written data sources include
published and unpublished documents, company reports, memos, letter reports,
email messages, faxes, newspaper articles and the researcher’s impressions
and reactions. Qualitative research methods are designed to help
researchers to understand people and the social and cultural contexts within
which they live and this can be positivist, interpretive, or critical.
(Myers, 1997, Patton,1980). "Qualitative
analysis encourages the researcher to view the research situation from the
standpoint of the people who are being studied, from the folk or 'emic' point of view. Qualitative methods focus on the
importance of the quality of the data in terms of meanings and
interpretation" (Low, 1987). According to (Denzin,
1989), the qualitative method is useful when one looks into a problem deeply.
The Need for
identification of the following Targets during Study and Development:
of Environmental problems in relation to broader biological and human
interactions on the basis of sustainability.
Recognition of key environmental issues and
indication of gaps in current development activities.
management and sustainable development approach and their impacts in the
approach to development.
It is the best option to communicate directly with
the affected peoples of the area. What do they think? What are their
problems? How do they cope with these problems? What is their awareness
level? Methods for collecting this diverse information can be divided into
three main areas: interviews, observation, and informal/formal,
observation/discussion with vulnerable communities and field officials. It is
important to work closely with community of AJK during each phase of development
and involve them in development and mitigation process. Based on these
criteria it is very apparent to get information related to Environmental
Issues and need of Sustainable Development in the earthquake affected areas.
Defining and indicating a problem are not as easy as
one might initially suppose. Most of the words used in everyday language
communicate unclear and unspecific meanings. In science, it is essential to
specify exactly what we mean, and do not mean, by the terms we use (Babbie, 1998). Intensive semi structured and structured interview mechanisms follows a pre-planned
outline of topics, which are asked in a reasonably consistent manner, relying
primarily on open ended questions. One of the primary goals of intensive
interviewing is to develop a comprehensive picture of the interviewees’
attitudes /problems in his or her own terms (Schutt,
1996). The qualitative interviews engages the researcher more actively with
select residents; listening to lengthy explanations concerning the residents’
definition of sense of community, asking follow-up questions tailored to the
preceding answers, and seeking to learn (Butt, 2006). "Unspoken acknowledgement that the environment is too complex for
humanity to address adequately in every sense" (Khalid,
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