Environmental security is a major concern for the developing countries. Climate change is viewed as a threat to environment security. Environmental Consultancies and Options (ECO) is a professionally run, environmental and engineering consultancy firm in Pakistan. The company has specialised in diversified fields of Environment and Engineering Sciences, which continuously identifies the current and future demands related to environmental issues and their solutions. ECO was established in 2003 as one of the subsidiaries of the Global Group of Companies. BE’s Varsha Singh spoke to Dr. Asim Mahmood, Chief Executive, ECO, regarding his work at ECO, the major challenges that Pakistan is facing and what should SAARC countries do to combat global warming.
Q. How is your organisation advancing environmental security? What have been some of your major projects?
A. We are the first local environmental company in the private sector in Pakistan, established in 1998. We started with an environmental monitoring laboratory, which enabled industries to get their discharges checked, so as to find solutions. We also started the first hazardous waste disposal facility in 2001, which for the first time carried out research on different waste for devising methodologies for their environmentally safe disposal
We have carried out major bio-diversity risk assessment in industrial zones to assess the impacts of industrial activities and have devised mitigation measures. We have also worked on dispersion modelling to assess the impact of pollutants to different distances.
Q. What are some major steps that SAARC countries need to take to maintain the environment quality standards?
A. I think following are the most important points to consider:
The first is awareness and then agreement that the environment is critical and needs to be protected jointly. Second, transboundary pollution is not a myth and has to be jointly addressed. Third, the need to establish a research block to understand and mitigate different environmental challenges. Fourth, conduct research conferences to share each other’s good and bad experiences. Fifth, capacity building of implementing and law enforcement agencies.
Q. Air pollution is a growing problem of the SAARC region due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. How do you think this can be managed?
A. Off course induction of more and more cars, increase in demand of industrial commodities and exploitation of natural resources to overcome population demand is hampering the environment greatly. Everything that has to be made requires energy and resources. The challenges are: vehicular and industrial emissions, over-exploitation of resources, and the use of cheap fuels for generation of energy.
These challenges may be overcome through the following techniques: green taxation; emission tax, discharge penalties; rebates for greener technologies; solar panels, cleaner fuels, wind energy projects, self-energy and co-generation projects; use of hybrid cars; and strict environmental monitoring of automobile and industrial sectors.
Q. What are the major water challenges that Pakistan faces? What are the solutions to it?
A. Pakistan is no different from other developing countries. The environmental problems are as follows: rapid urbanisation and enhancement of population; over-exploitation of resources; scarcity of water; degradation of water quality; untreated discharges from the industry, and transboundary pollution.
Q. How, in your view, can India and Pakistan, combat global warming?
A. I think India and Pakistan have to play the most important roles as big brothers rather than adversaries. The time has come for us to understand the importance of our real role (what it should be) and be unselfish towards each other. We must realise that working together is the viable solution. We need to take the following important steps immediately to combat global warming: arrange and hold periodic regional global warming conference (inviting each other); create data base of air quality indexes, water quality; have inventory of environmental indicators; document development; create and share environmental reports; and create regional reports; exchange expertise; learn good practice from each other, and develop joint industrial and trade policies.
Q. What role can think-tanks play in order to advance the regional integration process?
A. Think-tanks need to think out loud. I think your effort is commendable in this case and media should play the positive role of disseminating the importance of joint implementation of efforts to enhance regional cooperation and integration. We must speak about regional integration in respective conferences, meetings and speeches. I believe that it is the only way we can succeed against the modern challenges. Only people power with economic benefits can change the political will.