Green Change is Hard but Necessary for Pakistan

03:23 PM | 19 Aug, 2020
Green Change is Hard but Necessary for Pakistan
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Syed Asim Ali Bukhari 

The Clean and Green Pakistan vision of the current government seems to be following Newton’s law of motion, in which equal but opposing forces are acting on the country’s natural environment and apparently causing no change in the objects state. On one side the government announces the Billion Tree Tsunami project for environmental sustainability and on the other hand, it launches mega-scale construction projects with no green building standards, green supply chain standards, green cement, and brick manufacturers, or green financing incentives. All over the world, the construction industry is one of the greatest contributors to environmental degradation and resource depletion. The question arises, will the environmental benefits of the planned billion trees not be offset by the massive adverse environmental impacts produced by the allied industries involved in the government’s various construction projects. Pakistan does not need opposing forces rather it requires synergistic planning of various projects to ensure the environmental sustainability of the country. 

A number of initiatives have been launched by the current government such as the Billion Tree Tsunami, Digital Pakistan initiative, the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme, and recently the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project (RRUDP). All these initiatives require the creation of green equilibrium by fulfilling environmental, social, and economic sustainability objectives. In this regard, the recently launched RRUDP can play an instrumental role in shaping the country’s green finance trajectory. The vision of this developmental project includes the development of a sustainable living community but the strategies currently do not include green business partners such as green construction companies for green buildings, green cement manufacturers, zig-zag brick manufacturers, green supply chain partners, renewable energy sources and green banking. The RRUDP requires approx. Rs.5 trillion investments in diverse industries. It also involves the development of a water management project which will help the country in fulfilling the UN-SDG No 6, i.e. cleans water and sanitation. The fulfillment of the 2030 UN-SDGs requires annual green financing of almost Rs.450 billion. This project when linked with the clean and green vision of Pakistan and the UN-SDGs can prove to be a lucrative green financing portfolio for the banking sector of Pakistan. It can also prove to be a key for the greening of numerous industries in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can liaison with other institutions and private investors for nurturing this opportunity of sustainable business development. 

Similarly, green financing opportunities can be synergized with other projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and the Gwadar city. Green building standards should be inculcated in the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and this green housing scheme should be expanded in areas such as Gwadar. The CPEC requires the revamping of Pakistan’s logistics, warehousing, and transportation infrastructure. The up-gradation of Pakistan Railways’ Mainline-1 (ML-1) at estimated cost Rs11.44 trillion under CPEC is an example of potential investment opportunities existing in Pakistan. The CPEC also involves the development of cold storage chains and logistic networks across the country. But none of these projects are being pursued in line with environmental sustainability standards. Therefore rather than cleaning and greening Pakistan, these projects can result in further environmental degradation. 

A key stakeholder in this regard is Pakistan’s banking sector. Banks can play a major role in the greening of various developmental projects through green financing. Green financing is an integral part of Green Banking. It involves the provision of Green loans to environmentally friendly industries at lower interest rates. Banks can provide Green loans at low-interest rates to industries that are taking measures to mitigate their detrimental environmental impacts. Banks can also attract environmentally conscious consumers through the provision of loans for green housing or hybrid car loans on comparatively lower interest rates. A surge in the area of Green Financing can minimize the various international pressures arising from international environmental agreements and from organizations such as IFC for accelerating Green Banking adoption. 

Green governance is the life-saving medicine urgently required by the ailing economy of Pakistan. Every year the country’s economy suffers huge losses due to various climate change catastrophes and escalating shortage of natural resources. It is no way near the attainment of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs), which have been developed as a blueprint for the creation of a sustainable future. The ‘Clean and Green’ vision of the current government can prove to be the welcome breath of fresh air needed for the smog suffocated economy of Pakistan. However, the key to the successful strategic implementation of a vision is the creation of synergy within the different components of the system. In this Green Revolution, every step will bring us closer to realizing the vision of a Clean & Green Pakistan.

The author is working as a Green Banking Officer in Bank AL Habib Limited, Pakistan. He is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Green Banking from the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, Malaysia.