against climate change
A chicken and egg story
By Dr Noman Ahmed
As per time table, housing census has begun in the country. It is scheduled to conclude in the third week of April. This base work shall pave the way for mandatory population count in September and October.
The devolution ‘debate’
Devolution will definitely make the formal state more accessible to many ordinary people
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Is it not intriguing that epic experiments in ‘devolution’ undertaken by three military rulers in Pakistan generated much less controversy than the proposed ‘devolution’ of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) by the current (elected) government?
While the Ayub and Zia initiatives might not be remembered by too many of today’s shapers of public opinion, Musharraf’s self-proclaimed ‘silent revolution’ was widely hailed -- at least in the period after it was introduced -- as being the harbinger of crucial structural changes in the exercise of power in the country. It was much later that dissent against the initiative -- and identification of similarities to the earlier attempts of military rulers to reinforce their power -- became commonplace.
In contrast, the (organized) opposition of the intelligentsia and other relatively mobilised constituencies on the HEC issue suggests a predisposition to take on elected governments -- and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in particular. It is, indeed, quite amazing that an institution created less than a decade ago by a military ruler has become so popular, so fast, among such a wide array of social forces to the extent that it is being defended neck and crop against the allegedly shady agenda of the elected government.
I have no desire to weigh into the HEC controversy, largely because I believe that most of the polemic doing the rounds has very little to do with either education or devolution. To be sure, I think it is crucial to get to the bottom of the meaning of ‘devolution’ and whether and to what extent devolution is necessary for the health and longevity of our fragile federation.
It is necessary to start with the caveat that the Pakistani state is, on the one hand, centralised and insular, and on the other hand, fragmented and permeable. To clarify: the formal state is fundamentally indistinguishable from the steel frame that was created and maintained by the British. It is inaccessible to the vast majority of Pakistanis and features the overwhelming dominance of the coercive-administrative apparatus. The informal state is accessible to a wide variety of Pakistanis and reflects the imperatives of a rapidly changing society that cannot simply be lorded over by high bureaucrats, generals and the propertied classes. Yet the informal state is no more democratic or inclusive than the formal state insofar as the basic structure of power in Pakistan remains oligarchic.
The ‘devolution’ that was carried out by the three military rulers actually helped create and then reinforce the operation of the informal state insofar as those experiments aimed at eliminating political parties, ideology and the provinces from the power equation. An expressly localised and patronage-based politics was promoted in which ‘rishwat’ and ‘sifarish’ were crucial ingredients and a mass politics of structural transformation was actively undermined at the same time.
To be sure the ‘devolution’ championed by Ayub, Zia and Musharraf reinforced the formal state even while accommodating new contenders for power that had emerged as a primarily rural and agrarian social order gave way to an increasingly urban and service-dominated order. Joining the old landed aristrocracy and the refugee business families as junior partners of bureaucrats and generals were the trading/merchant classes, a religious elite and white-collar professionals associated with ‘globalisation’.
This project of ‘devolution’ is very different from that which is envisioned by (liberal) democrats under a Westminster system of constitutional government. Only by transferring the wide-ranging powers of the formal and centralised state to the provinces -- and subsequently transferring some of these powers to lower tiers -- can devolution of power actually take place. I would argue -- following the Marxist critique of liberalism -- that this devolution of power is also flawed insofar as it assumes that formal political equality, or in this case decentralisation of powers, can be abstracted from the question of how economic resources are distributed throughout society.
However, the point is that ‘devolution’ as it has historically been practised throughout Pakistan’s history does not even meet the basic imperatives of formal liberalism. Yet, like so many other such crucial political and intellectual issues in our country, this obvious fact has remained largely unspecified both during and after the rule of each of our three long-standing military dictators.
Which brings us back to devolution as envisioned under the 18th Amendment. It is a moot point that provincial authorities do not possess the ‘capacity’ to take over the functions that the federation must devolve. If the above argument has been understood, the formal state--- at all levels -- has ceased to possess the capacity to actually cater to the needs of ordinary Pakistanis. The higher bureaucracy and federal ministries know how to go through the motions of making policy and ‘serving the people’. Provincial authorities will learn this over time.
Will devolution make the state more representative and responsive? Not necessarily, but it will definitely make the formal state more accessible to many ordinary people who otherwise rely purely on informal networks to survive the rigours of the system and the abuses of powerful people. My firm belief is that the colonial origins of the state make it difficult to reform in any basic way. Yet there can be no question that ‘devolution’ of the kind that has been favoured by military rulers has actually retarded any meaningful process of reform, whereas the devolution that the parliament has initiated in the shape of the 18th Amendment at least represents the formal popular will.
Those who continue to defend the actions and institutional initiatives of dictators should do exactly as they deem necessary. But they should not present issues as if they are zero-sum games. It is not necessarily the case that a meaningful education policy (or institutions to boot) can be put together only by military dictators upon whom dollars were showered by cynical donors. I agree that certain initiatives and ideas should not simply be trashed because they are products of the Musharraf era. But black and white analyses of the kind that are too easily abundant in this day and age do no justice to the cause of devolution, democracy, or education.
Bumpy road to recovery
Large tracts of agriculture land remain in bad shape in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh
By Irfan Mufti
A little more than eight months ago large parts of this country were inundated by the worst floods in living memory. The toll in human suffering was incalculable. Over 20 million people were made homeless or otherwise affected by the deluge. Some 1.7 million homes were destroyed and 5.4 million acres of land damaged. Still, the humanitarian crisis brought about by the flooding is far from over. Its effects are now very visible on the country, especially agriculture and rural economy.
In recent days, when residents of Shah Wasaye, a heavily flood-damaged village in district Dadu of Sindh, returned home for the first time after spending months in a government-run displaced persons camp, all they found was a field littered with debris. The formerly fertile soil was covered by a thin crust of salt left by receding flood water. No building was standing on the ground. The villagers were forced to build makeshift tents where their homes once existed.
"We are happy to be home, on our land," says Mohammed Omar, one of 400 returning villagers. "But it is very hard. We have lost everything we ever owned: our homes, donkeys, cows and crops."
People in Shah Wasaye and elsewhere in the flood zone of Sindh are waiting the government rebuilds vital infrastructure, while helping over 150,000 people get back to farming and other economic activity. Sindh is still waiting for rehabilitation and irrigation of agricultural land devastated by floods.
People who live in Sindh’s vast flood zones desperately need access to clean water and healthcare. Malnutrition, especially among children, is another chronic problem. Children drink stagnant water from ditches and severe diarrhea and malnutrition is often the result.
A similar story is told by Saleemullah Adeel and his family who abandoned their home in Muzaffargarh in August 2010. The road to recovery has so far proved rough for them. The wheat this family planted on 10 acres (four hectares) leased out by a landowner at an annual fee of Rs10000 per acre is doing well, and Saleemullah hopes for a good crop because weather conditions so far have been good.
Near his house, which is now partially repaired, there are neat rows of vegetables, and a few hens feed in the yard. But he has little else to be happy about, "I bought wheat seed and fertilizer after selling jewellery we had purchased for my elder daughter’s wedding, which was scheduled for this month. Now it has been postponed. I have used up all my savings and my two sons, who worked on fish farms, have lost their jobs.
The 2010 floods destroyed hundreds of fish farms in the Muzaffargarh area, leaving many, like Saleemullah’s sons out of work. But Saleemullah’s problems do not end here. Since he did not own the land he farmed, he was not awarded compensation by the provincial government, which gave landowners seed and fertilizer.
In many flood-hit areas, pools of water in low-lying areas have become rubbish dumps. This adds to the spread of disease, and dirty water sometimes contaminates clean supplies used for drinking purposes.
Agriculture in Sindh has still not been revived, especially in those districts that are still waiting for flood water to be drained completely and farm land revitalised. In areas where farming activity has started, farmers are still waiting for seeds and fertilizers. Fears are being expressed about unavailability of quality paddy seed for rice producers in the upper Sindh region in the coming kharif season. During floods, rice growers not only lost their paddy crop but also the quality local seed which they had stored for the next season.
Availability of certified seed for different crops, even otherwise, has always remained a problem in the province. The seven districts on the Indus River’s right bank in Sindh region are known for their paddy crops. Around 2.2 million acres are brought under paddy cultivation in the province that yields about 3.6 million tons paddy. But this year the paddy crop will be much lower than year average owing to the lack of seeds and farmland is not ready for cultivation.
Repair work of the main Tori bund is also important for paddy sowing, otherwise sowing would only be possible on 300,000-400,000 acres in that area.
Sindh’s standing cotton crop, which remained unaffected by devastating floods, came under pest and viral attacks, which resulted in huge production losses. Mealy bug, leaf curl virus, army worm and red leaf (reddening) disease have assaulted the crop on thousands of acres in Naushero Feroz, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Badin and Umerkot districts. Some 50 percent area under cotton is reckoned to have been destroyed by floods. Viral attacks have further reduced the province’s overall cotton production.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, rehabilitation of farmers and revival of agriculture in the post-flood phase is likely to be a slow process for want of enough funds. The cash-strapped provincial government has neither received any support from the federal government nor has the international community provided the required fund. To cope with the devastation, the PK government has asked the federal government to provide an initial amount of Rs10 billion.
Official estimates put the losses of crops, livestock, and irrigation system at Rs12 billion, Rs7 billion and Rs10.6 billion respectively. Some other sub-sectors of agriculture have also suffered loss of a few billion rupees. Flash-floods have not only destroyed standing crops and orchards in Charsadda, Nowshera, Peshawar, Swat, Dir, Shangla, Dera Ismail Khan and other districts, but also made lands uncultivable due to accumulation of mud and water. In Lakpani area of Barawal in Upper Dir, hundreds of acres of agricultural land worth billions of rupees have been washed away by the ravaging floodwater.
Soil erosion has already lead to legal fights over ownership of the farmland, holding up cultivation till the settlement of disputes. The destruction of irrigation infrastructure, like the Munda Headwork that irrigated around 0.3 million acres, is also a serious blow. With the main irrigation infrastructure destroyed and canals to remain closed for repair, there would be water scarcity for the next crops and there are fewer chances that land can be reclaimed for cultivation for at least another crop.
This would mean little wheat crop, and losses to irrigation infrastructure in all the ten major canal systems in KP amounts to Rs10.6 billion. Provincial government needs to take urgent measures to do the necessary repair and cleaning work to restore water availability within a month so that farms can be cleaned from mud and leveled for cultivation.
Similarly, in several areas breaking down of the communication system prevented farmers from transporting their farm produce to markets and these decayed in trucks on way or in fields. The disruption in supply of vegetables and fruit to market has also resulted in food inflation. The prices of vegetables, meat, fruit, wheat-flour and other food items have increased by about 30 to 100 percent.
Farmers have demanded that the government should immediately restore the communication system; address critical problem of demarcation and rehabilitation of fields and irrigation network. For this purpose, the government must arrange for tractors and other field-leveling machinery to the affected farmers.
In Punjab, since the recovery process was faster than in other provinces, Rabi crop was sowed on time. Farmers are hoping to hit a bumper wheat target. However, there are still large swaths of land in Muzaffagardh, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan that have a thick layer of sand and pebbles that need to be cleared before farmers start cultivation in these areas.
It has been more than 250 days since the floods hit fertile lands of this country in 2010 but not all of its agriculture land has been reclaimed. It is a matter of reviving country’s agriculture economy and farm income that provide bread and butter to more than 2/3rd population of this country.
A timely and appropriate response from the government could not only contain and mitigate risks to the economy but also turned it into an opportunity for economic revival. The government has, however, so far failed to deliver on these fronts. Revival of agriculture and farm activities should have been a priority.
Crisis situations do evoke exceptional responses. The present crisis provided an excellent occasion not only to formulate and execute post flood relief rehabilitation plan but also rebuild agriculture and villages on new and sustainable bases. It seems the country’s leaders have not only missed this opportunity but have neglected the basic needs of people suffering from this devastation.
The writer is Deputy Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global Campaigner
The simple way to contain fiscal deficit is to reduce expenditure or increase revenue
By Hussain H. Zaidi
In its Second Quarterly Report for FY11, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has projected 6.5 percent fiscal deficit for the current financial year, significantly surpassing the 4 percent budgetary and 5.3 percent revised target. In FY10, 6.3 percent budget deficit was registered. The persistently high budget deficit underlines the importance of fiscal discipline.
Before we discuss Pakistan’s fiscal problem, it may be pointed out that, contrary to popular view, fiscal deficit is not inherently a vice. Whether the government should have fiscal deficit or surplus depends on the state of the economy.
As famous economist Lord Keynes remarked, the government should seek to balance the economy rather than the budget. In case of widespread unemployment and deficiency of aggregate demand, fiscal deficit is in order to stimulate the economy, whereas in case of inflationary boom, fiscal surplus should be preferred. Fiscal deficit needs to be kept within manageable limits, otherwise it will destabilise the economy.
Increase in public revenue is not keeping pace with that in public spending. To bridge the gap, the government resorts to deficit financing, whose most convenient source is borrowing from the SBP. The borrowing adds to public debt as well as inflation. To repay domestic debt, the government again borrows and so on.
It is not that the government is not alive to the need of controlling budget deficit. During last three years, it has been the main plank of the ruling party’s macro-economic policies. The federal finance minister has been warning his cabinet colleagues as well as civil and military establishment that the economy is in a soup and if the highest level of fiscal responsibility is not exhibited, it may well fall apart.
The government has announced austerity measures from time to time with a view to containing public expenditure, especially on non-developmental side.
In theory, the simple way to contain fiscal deficit is to reduce expenditure or increase revenue. However, this is easier said than done given the political economy of Pakistan in the light of the war on terror, which is consuming a sizable portion of public resources. If there are to be any drastic cuts in public spending, these have to be on development expenditure. This is explained as follows.
In FY08, the fiscal deficit jumped to Rs777.2 billion, which constituted 7.6 percent of GDP. Under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sponsored macro-economic stabilisation programme, the government set out to reduce fiscal deficit in the range of 4-4.5 percent.
In FY09, fiscal deficit target was set at Rs562.2 billion. However, actual fiscal deficit at the close of the year was Rs680.4 billion, which constituted 5.2 percent of the GDP. The reduction in fiscal deficit was commendable. However, this ‘feat’ was accomplished not by improving revenue-GDP ratio, which in fact went down to 13.2 per cent from 13.7 per cent in the preceding fiscal year, but by sharp reduction of developmental expenditure. Against the budgetary allocation of Rs516.6 billion in FY09, the actual developmental expenditure for that year was Rs354 billion.
The revised FY10 fiscal deficit target was 4.9 percent. However, the budget deficit of 6.3 percent was recorded during that year. Rise in the deficit was despite the fact that development expenditure was slashed to Rs444 billion from Rs630 billion budgetary allocation.
Fiscal deficit target for FY11 was 4 percent of the GDP, which subsequently was enhanced to 4.7 percent. The fiscal deficit reached about Rs500 billion (2.9 percent of GDP) by the close of first half of current fiscal year. Rs445 billion were allocated for development spending out of which Rs207.85 billion were spent during first six months (July-December FY11).
On the other hand, current expenditure rose from Rs1.55 trillion in FY08 to Rs1.65 trillion in FY09 and Rs2.01 trillion in FY10. For FY11, Rs1.99 trillion were earmarked under the head of current spending. Out of these, Rs1.22 trillion were spent during July-December FY11. The new Rs210 billion fiscal measures introduced in March vide a presidential ordinance provide for curtailment of development spending by Rs100 billion.
Efforts to shore up revenue to keep pace with the growth of current expenditure have not borne fruit. In absolute terms, total revenue has increased from Rs1.40 trillion in FY08 to Rs1.67 trillion in FY09 and Rs2.05 trillion in FY10 by 79 percent. Tax revenue has gone up from Rs1 trillion in FY08 to Rs1.25 trillion in FY09 to Rs1.48 trillion in FY10 by 48 percent. However, as percentage of the GDP, revenue collection cuts a sorry figure.
In FY08, revenue-GDP ratio was 13.7 percent, in FY09 it dropped to 13.2 percent and slightly increased to 14 percent in FY10. During the first half of FY11, revenue-GDP ratio was 5.8 percent. Tax-GDP ratio, which was 9.9 percent in FY08, came down to 9.8 percent in FY09 and slightly rose to 10 percent in FY10. During FY11 (H1), tax-GDP ratio was 4.2 percent. Direct tax-GDP ratio, which was 3.8 percent in FY08, slightly rose to 3.9 percent in FY09 and fell to 3.7 percent in FY10.
It may be mentioned that during the 1990s, average fiscal deficit-GDP ratio was 7 percent, well above the current level of around 6 percent. However, decline in fiscal deficit has more to do with fall in expenditure than increase in revenue.
During the 1990s, average expenditure-GDP ratio was 23.6 percent while revenue GDP ratio was 16.8 percent, well above the current levels of expenditure (19.8 percent) and revenue (14 percent).
Pakistan needs an expansionary fiscal policy to stimulate the economy and maintain healthy growth momentum. Economic growth feeds on itself. Growth creates jobs, revenue and additional incomes, which in turn spur growth. However, to avoid serious fiscal and other macro-economic imbalances, such as inflation, public revenue, particularly tax revenue, needs substantial appreciation.
Meeting meat shortage
Consumers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demand for a strict check on livestock smuggling
By Tahir Ali
The issue of livestock smuggling to Afghanistan and Iran and the resultant sharp increase in the prices of meat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has come into the limelight once again. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti told the Provincial Assembly recently he had received reports that animals were being smuggled to Afghanistan.
Conceding the issue of smuggling in the Provincial Assembly recently, Provincial Information Minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, informs that smugglers had set up a network to smuggle cattle to Afghanistan. "Cattle smugglers pay money to militants to help them in illegal transportation of cattle," he discloses. "The matter has been taken up with federal government and the ministry has been asked to change mechanism for exporting cattle to Afghanistan as it was being misused," he adds.
Meat and mutton prices have gone up to Rs200-250 and Rs350-500 respectively in different parts of the province as against Rs150 and Rs300 a few months ago. Prices of cattle and buffaloes have also risen by about 30-40 percent against last year for shortage of animals resulting from animal/meat export and smuggling to neighbouring countries, besides some other reasons.
Livestock farmers and dealers say the permission to export and the failure to check smuggling of animals and meat can trigger a crisis of meat across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan in coming months. Mehmood Ali Khan, a livestock dealer, says the federal government should check export licenses. "Adequate supply of animals is imperative to stabilise and control prices. As animal exporters are exploiting the facility, it should be banned until the government makes full arrangements to stop illegal transportation of animals," he argues. Another livestock farmer and dealer, Bashir Ahmad, says illegal smuggling of animals could be stopped through efficient checking.
Director General Livestock Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Sher Muhammad, says the federal government had issued export licenses for 0.25 million animals and 25000 of these were to pass through the Pak-Afghan border at Torkham. "The government has made elaborate arrangements. Check posts have been established both in settled and tribal areas to allow only legal export of animals and to check smuggling. Proper record is being kept of all the animals that pass through the route," he informs, adding "But one must remember that all animals going to federally administered tribal areas are not smuggled. The meat needs of the tribal belt have also to be met. Exporters of animals are also issued licences to export livestock to other foreign countries," he adds.
"As far as our departments are concerned, we facilitate legal export and see that unnecessary hurdles are removed while sick, pregnant and breed-endangered animals are not exported or sent to Fata," he informs. According to reports in the media, around a million animals are smuggled to Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asian States yearly. This has to be stopped or regulated.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for livestock, Hidayatullah Khan, says the government is working to stop illegal smuggling of animals to Afghanistan and Iran. But an official, who does not want to be identified, admits that the long and mountainous border and poor law and order situation in the militant-infested tribal belt makes the task difficult. Afghanistan shares around 2000 km border with Pakistan that spreads over seven tribal agencies and district of Chitral.
But smuggling is not the only reason behind shortage of animals and meat. Livestock losses in floods, high breeding/nourishing costs, increased transportation charges, the role of middlemen in the sale and supply of animals, and increased government/contractor levies are affecting livestock farmers as well as the common men. Last year, floods had killed 0.15 million animals, causing a loss of around Rs7 billion to the sector in the province.
The problem has been aggravated further by the absence of beef-breeds of cattle in the country. Pakistan has 25, 26, 25 and 57 million buffalo, sheep, and goat respectively. These animals belong to various breeds but none of those has been bred on a mass-scale to produce genetically superior beef and mutton breeds.
Meat production has remained mostly the same. No worthwhile investment has been made in beef and mutton production. Genetic improvement of local livestock species, fattening farms and reproductive efficiency of animals are some of the ways to meet the demand of mutton and beef in the country.
Hidayatullah Khan says one model beef farm would be established in every district of the province. But there is still no development on this count. The Policy Document Livestock Vision-2020 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa says the province is deficient in meat production. The average availability of red meat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 31 grams/person/day (GPD) whereas the requirement is 56 GPD. So there is a gap of about 25GPD.
Dr Sher Mohammad says since there are no beef breeds of cattle in the country, working cattle, cows and buffaloes that are no longer able to work or produce milk are slaughtered and consumed as beef. "Beef cattle farms produce more than double the beef and mutton produced through common ways. By establishing beef farms, the gap between demand and availability can be bridged. These will improve the socio-economic status of the farmers through increasing meat production. It will also bring self sufficiency in meat and check spiraling meat prices," he argues.
Sajjad Haider, another farmer, says the government should start a crash plan for the uplift of livestock farming. "It should import and use latest reproductive technology and breeding techniques to increase livestock population in the country. Steps to be taken include provision of fodder and feed to farmers on affordable rates, expansion of animal healthcare system, and improvement in breed and animal-fattening programmes. It should also provide soft loans for at least one year to help improve animal health and production," he says.
"Cross-breeding of local and foreign cattle, buffalos, goat and sheep will help improve local low-productive breeds into highly producing ones. For example, weight at the time of maturity of local cattle is 300kg whereas in case of cross-bred it is 350kg or even more," Sher adds.
But it also requires availability of semen for artificial insemination services. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, has only two semen production units, as many nitrogen-production plants at Peshawar that are vital to keep the semen safe and 361 artificial insemination centres (AICs). More such facilities are needed. Animal breeding and genetics experts should be involved in a campaign to increase meat production.
Human beings can save climate to a considerable extent by saving forests
By Muhammad Niaz
The global environment has compelled the world community to declare the year 2011 as the International Year of Forests with the objective to portray the significance of forests in socio-economic development.
Given the people’s central role in resource utilisation, pro-active management and large-scale awareness about the importance of forests it is indispensable to ensure sustainable development in the light of the growing environmental challenges.
Importance of forests cannot be underestimated in the form of products and services for the well-being of species and biodiversity. Adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the Forest Principles indicate the role of forests is multi-dimensional that control soil erosion, enhancing the life of dams, reservoirs; regulate water supply; keep climate moderate; sustain hydrological cycle; provide wood for industries; promote recreation, etc.
Forests also ensure needs of forest-dependent communities; support livelihood of about 1.6 billion people; contain medicinal plants, food, fodder, and in turn, provide job opportunities to thousands of people.
Deriving excessive benefits from forests render fragile ecosystems face multiple threats such as deforestation, habitat loss, and degradation, introduction of alien species, pollution and diseases, over-exploitation, and climate change. Since healthy forests are called "lungs of the earth", saving environment and natural resources have a central role in international climate negotiations reached at the Cancun climate talks last December.
To ensure conservation of biological treasure a network of protected areas has been designated over the globe. Constituting over 10 percent of the total forest area in most countries and regions, protected areas such as national parks, game reserves, biosphere reserves, and wilderness areas primarily contribute to conservation of biodiversity, cultural heritage, and protection of soil and water resources. Sustainable forest management is one of the options to guarantee better conservation and management of forest biodiversity.
Forests cover 31 percent of the total area and not only harbor 80 percent of the world’s bio-diversity but serve as carbon storage and sink. Carbon sequestration is the natural process in which case forests and the wood they produce trap and store CO2 the greenhouse gas, therefore, forests serve as catalysts to curb the global carbon emissions because they contain more carbon than currently present in the atmosphere.
Trees and forests primarily remove CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it to carbon during the process of photosynthesis. In addition to the forest biomass, trees are generally about 20 percent carbon by weight.
The world’s forests store more than 650 billion tones of carbon, 44 percent in the biomass, 11 percent in dead wood and litter, and 45 percent in the soil.
The Global Forest Resource Assessment 2010 indicates that the biomass of the world’s forest alone stores 289 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon. Therefore, effective forest management practices and planning contribute to increased forest carbon stocks.
Reports indicate that globally there has been an annual decrease of about 0.5 Gt of the carbon stocks in the forest biomass during 2005-2010. Unprecedented forest fire events in the world also contribute to carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.
Key findings of the Global Forest Assessment Report 2010, containing data from 233 countries and areas, points to continued high rates of net loss of forests in many countries in South and Southeast Asia. The forest area in Asia is about 16 million hectares larger in 2010 than it was in 1990 as a result of large-scale afforestation efforts during the last 10-15 years, particularly in China.
The report highlights that in the last decade about13 million hectares of forest were converted or lost through natural causes per year. The total forest area in 2010 was estimated to be 4 billion hectares, or 31 percent of total land area. The total net change in forest area in the period 2000-2010 is equivalent to a loss of more than 140 km of forest per day.
According to the report of Millennium Development Goals 2008, Deforestation continues to pose serious challenges. Deforestation has not only posed significant threats to biodiversity and ecosystems but has also contributed to about 30 percent of the atmospheric CO2cocentration.
Vegetation and biological entities are some of the most reliable sources of determining the extent and impacts of climate change over a period of time. Therefore, vegetation is considered extremely important helping scientists to conclude what happened in climate system in the past or what will happen to it in future in the light of changing environmental patterns.
Mountains readily respond to the global warming and climate change which consequently affect associated flora and fauna. Thus, deforestation in the Himalayas has not only exposed mountain slopes and made them vulnerable to erosion but has also caused sedimentation of reservoirs. There is a need to perceive this complex relationship of deforestation, seasonal snowfall, rainfall, and evaporation, carbon uptake through afforestation and large-scale plantation.
A majority of forests in our country are located in the rugged mountainous track having severe climatic conditions where people lack basic amenities. Consequently, local people are highly dependent on natural resources such as timber, medicinal plants, fuel wood, and fodder. Ultimately, deforestation is generally attributed to demographic pressure, including expanding agriculture, increased livestock population, expansion of roads, and human settlements.
In Pakistan, forests occupy over 4.2 million hectares which is equivalent to 4.8 percent of the total land area. Deforestation rate in Pakistan is estimated at 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent annually which accounts for a 4-6 percent decline in its wood biomass per annum.
According to a report, annual wood consumption in Pakistan for domestic, industrial, and commercial purposes is 43.761 million cubic meters against annual forest growth of 14.4 million cubic meters and the gap between demand and supply of wood for fuel and timber would further widen in coming years. The red list of IUCN has listed 19 flowering plants species in the country.
By 2030 the world’s population is expected to grow on average by more than 100 million people a year. Developing countries would constitute more than 95 percent of that increase which will further exacerbate the pressure on limited resources of land and water. Extreme biotic pressure on the meager natural resources would throw a fundamental environmental challenge to the world community to mitigate climate change, ensure food security, and protect the natural resource base at large.
By celebrating the International Year of Forests, the world community conveys a message to nations to extend efforts to enhance forest cover and protect existing forested land from degradation through forest management programmes.
Besides ensuring proper monitoring of forests, one of the major grey areas to focus is to provide basic incentives to forest dependent communities in the core zones where people are compelled to cut forest and trees for meeting their needs. That can be dome by bringing in long term mega development projects that improve living standards of the people.
Forests are our allies to combat climate change but it is up to human beings to utilise these biological allies. Destruction and burning of forests would accelerate climate change phenomenon while afforestation and planting would contribute to controlling this menace.
The writer is Deputy Conservator, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department
Baggage of the past
Bringing down fiscal deficit remains a huge challenge for the government
By Afsheen Naz
The economy is burdened by a huge fiscal deficit along with heavy debt besides double-digit inflation rates. A deficit budget is not a new phenomenon.
In the budget of 2010-11 history repeated itself as deficit of Rs.685 billion was recorded in the total budget outlay of Rs.3259 billion. Recently, budget deficit has increased the planned mid-year limit, of 2.23 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and reached at the level of 3.3 percent of GDP. The present government has been blamed of incompetence to generate enough revenues.
During the first two quarters of the current financial year total debt reached at nerve-breaking rate of Rs11,054.7 billion, which constitute 69.1 percent of the GDP. In the debt policy statement 2010-11, three major reasons have been identified for rapid debt hike during recent years, i.e., high interest payments, large subsidies and growing security spending needs.
Apart from heavy debt burden, debt-servicing is also making matters worse. There is a clear lack of effective policies of the government to generate revenue. It has been reported that almost 70 percent of the total national revenue is being consumed by debt-servicing, defense expenditures and in paying pensions while the rest of the 30 percent is spent on different development projects.
According to SBP reports, total services on external debt reached $2,211 million till December 2010 while total debt and liabilities servicing was 7.3 percent of the GDP.
Debt of reasonable size may not prove to be harmful in any developing country if it is meant to inject in the economy for development purposes. If the loan is invested judicially, it will yield positive result to the economy by raising productivity and widening economic activities.
Under the prevailing economic situation of the country, one cannot expect the GDP growth rate more then 2.8 percent at the end of current fiscal year. One of the main factors behind this slow growth rate of the economy is government’s inefficiency to overcome its fiscal deficit at a desired level.
Instead of taking steps to smoothen the ways for economic growth, Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) has been further squeezed by Rs100 billion. Alongside, new projects have been shelved and only ongoing projects are to be continued and that too with reduced allocation. Thus, burden of repayment of heavy borrowing and its servicing will further affect development projects.
The adverse effects of heavy debt on our economy may be gauged by the fact, as revealed by Federal Bureau of Statistics, that Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM) has shown a negative growth of 2.3 percent in the first five months of the current fiscal year in comparison with the same period last year.
Heavy internal borrowing is one of the main factors which have been responsible for this negative LSM growth rate along with other factors, i.e. deteriorating law and order situation, ever-increasing incidence of terrorism and natural calamities.
Apart from slow-moving growth in LSM, the phenomenon of high inflation rate can also be noticed. Prevalence of high incidence of inflation rate of 14.61 percent on an average in the first two quarters of the current fiscal year is another factor hampering economic development of the country.
Heavy internal borrowing by the government from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) can be held responsible for inflation as recently government borrowing has been over Rs1.5 billion per day from internal resources according to SBP.
The prevailing high bank rate of 14 percent is another important factor along with a huge size of deficit financing for mounting inflation rate. These two factors are acting as leeches for the economy of Pakistan as private investors are crowded out. Alongside, foreign investors have lost their confidence and, therefore, are shy away from investing in the economy. As a consequence, marginalised groups have become more vulnerable.
Another very important macro-economic variable -- employment -- has been affected adversely due to recent pressure on the economy. In an economy where such a low proportion of revenues -- 30 percent -- is allocated for project financing, along with gradual lowering down in subsidies, can the employment situation be improved?
In view of the present economic situation, it is almost impossible to maintain the value of rupee. It will keep on depreciating, resulting in further strain on the economy in the wake of ever-increasing external debt.
Scientific measures should be adopted by the government to enhance the tax base so that revenue generation may increase. Emphasis should be laid on collection of direct taxes instead of indirect taxes. Moreover, the tax base should be broadened by bringing larger number of people in the tax net.
Drone attacks have not stopped, and they will not in the near future either
By Salman Abid
There is no let-up in drone attacks. And there is a whole background to the crisis we are in today. Pakistan is facing serious internal and external challenges for the last ten years, especially in the shape of the war on terror and religious extremism. Which gave birth to what? It seems to be a chicken and egg story. And this is despite the fact that Pakistan is a major ally of the United State to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan and, by extension, from the whole region.
The major crisis we are facing is the trust deficit. The war on terrorism, drone attacks to be specific, are the main reason for this trust deficit. Internally, most of the political parties, political intelligentsia and others stakeholders openly criticise what we may call "drone policy" to stop drone attacks and killing of innocent people. Parliament’s resolution against drone attacks is there but, still, both internal and external forces have not taken serious action.
Interestingly, the state and political authorities are condemning drone attacks and criticising American policies and strategies. So, what is the situation on the ground? There are voices which say that drone attacks are being carried out with the consent and support from the Pakistan state and government agencies.
Can we say that the President, Prime Minister and Interior Minister have shown their helpless to stop drone attacks?
The news is (is it?) that the US has never shared any information directly with the civilian government of Pakistan. Some people are saying openly that the political government has already withdrawn from the decision-making process and there are some issues that are being planned by the military leadership and its institutions. That is why the criticism of drone attacks is not just to be blamed on political forces but also on the role of military leadership.
Drone attacks do not seem to be going away. The very next day after Raymond Davis’ release and evacuation form Pakistan the US replied with a drone attack, thus indicating that their policy of drone attacks in Pakistan will continue in future. It was for the first time that the military leadership openly criticised the US action and clearly stated that the continuation of drone attacks is not good for future relationship of the two countries. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani expressed unprecedented condemnation of the drone attack on peace jirga, saying they will no more tolerate that does not seem to have worked.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif also strongly showed PML-N’s commitment against drone attacks and appealed for another long march against the attacks if they continue in future. No political party has supported drone attacks but people suspect some parties are already on board on drone attacks. Is it why no ruling political party, including the opposition parties, wants to run a strong campaign against drone attacks?
As is the case, both the civilian and military leadership have failed make their case (if they had one) to create resistance to drone attacks. According to the 2010 Annual Report of CIA on target killing in Pakistan, released by Conflict Monitoring Center, Islamabad, the US agency carried out 132 drone attacks in 2010, killing 938 people, as compared to 53 strikes in 2009, 34 in 2003 and only nine attacks from 2004 to 2007 that have resulted in 1,114 deaths from 2004 to 2009.
The data also reflects serious actions of the American armed forces. The interesting thing to note is that both Pakistani and American leadership have never shared any data openly showing the exact situation. And this is in addition to the news reports that a majority of innocent people, including women and children, are killed in drone attacks.
For the first time the government of Pakistan finally announced some compensation for the victims of Data Khel tragedy and local tribes welcomed the decision. The government of Pakistan should come clean before the people on any agreement and understanding on drone attacks with the US government. It should openly share it with the people for a better understanding of the issue. On the other hand, if there is no understanding with the US government on drone attacks and if these are being imposed on, we should appeal to the International Court of Justice.
The consequences of these drone attacks have appeared in Pakistan in the shape of internal political crisis. They are not to be dealt with in isolation. But the issue also points to serious implications of anti-Americanism in the country. Unfortunately, many among us justify militant’s actions due to the US policies in the region, especially relating to Pakistan.
One cannot justify militant groups’ actions against innocent people of the country. That said, the US actions should be stopped to strengthen, by implication, the democratic process in the country. The ideal path should be for us to be able to form a better understanding between American and Pakistani people to get results in the war against terrorism.
The right and the left seem to be one on this issue. Left-leaning political parties in the country have also raised voice and mobilize people against the US agenda. So, this question of drone attacks is not very simple.
This is the right time to evaluate the whole situation in the backdrop of drone attacks. The question remains whether drone attacks stabilise the country or move it further into instability.
One way is to form an independent judicial commission with consensus of parliament and all political forces for evaluating the whole scenario. All major political parties and intelligentsia groups should sit together and build consensus for a response. Without consensus, better understanding, and people’s engagement on a larger level on war and terrorism both Pakistan and US can never achieve peace and stability in the country politics.
The writer is a political analyst and human rights campaigner. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
A lot depends on census-taking mechanism to ensure transparency in resource allocation
By Dr Noman Ahmed
As per time table, housing census has begun in the country. It is scheduled to conclude in the third week of April. This base work shall pave the way for mandatory population count in September and October.
Numerous objections, fears and apprehensions are voiced by different political parties, community groups and vulnerable sections of society. Certain vocals in Sindh have raised concerns about potential under-reporting of some locations due to logistics and accessibility reasons.
Displacements due to floods, migration for different causes to Sindh from elsewhere, horizontal movement of population and categorisation of housing typologies are also labelled as potential issues that shall have a bearing on census outputs.
The minority communities have feared incongruent listing of their existence, given the environment of intolerance prevailing in some parts of the country. Whereas every objection and concern is worth an impartial and objective investigation, few fundamentals may be established to streamline the progress of this vital assignment.
By its very nature, census-taking is a technical exercise to be conducted in a neutral manner. It is initiated as the first step in diagnosing the social, demographic, economic and developmental status of the people and the contexts they inhabit.
The information generated as a consequence of census has a bearing on the allocation of public resources, preparation of cases for dealing with extraordinary underdevelopment, updating of population listings in different constituencies, outlining development priorities, extrapolation of growth trends and many other attributes related to communication ventures.
Census-taking is also an exercise in impact assessment in respect to past public investments done in public health, education, social welfare and even physical infrastructure. The level of actual coverage and penetration of mass schemes such as immunisation is studied through tabulation and analysis of census results.
In other words, delivery mechanisms worked out by the various government departments, projects implementation units and donor-funded arrangements are examined for their effectiveness. Needless to say, technical appropriateness and veracity of this exercise is a pre-requisite towards fresh planning, modification and implementation of new initiatives.
Political parties, at various layers of their working and existence, fear the command and control of these exercises may impact their vote bank. Ethnic groups and their overt and covert representatives are concerned about the manner in which concentration of population is recorded.
Parties and groups dealing with specific regions and peoples wish to see results directly responsive to their aspirations. Proportional population trend in provinces is another fear. As population factor is a vital variable in resource distribution through NFC award, census results and their validation shall become a contentious issue. Census takers are obviously under pressure while performing this routine duty.
But these concerns cannot undermine the importance of census. The government can come up with institutional arrangements to deal with the conduct of census in an objective manner.
At the procedural level, a complaint cell can be created in each taluka/tehsil/town to redress applications made by various stakeholders. An appropriate method can be devised to implement this approach in an effective manner.
Monitoring mechanisms can be devised with consensus to enable various parties and groups to oversee the process. Research and development institutions can be taken on board for streamlining various problems, including access, registration, denial of information by various people as well as cross-verification.
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