Minister: (Awareness-raising vital to fighting environmental issues: Zahid Hamid)

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid has said that awareness-raising at all levels is vital to coping with environmental issues for achieving sustainable socio-economic development goals.

“Although awareness of environmental issues has increased in the last few years, there is still a lot of work to be done to increase public awareness, particularly in South Asian countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and India, where environmental degradation is at its height and is blocking the efforts aimed at achieving sustainable development goals,” he said during his keynote address at the launching ceremony of the weekly environmental news bulletin of South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP).

The important ceremony was held here in the Ministry of Climate Change here on Wednesday and was attended by representatives of different government and non-governmental organisations and media.

Pakistan is currently the Chair of the Governing Council of SACEP and about 2 years ago, on the 5th December, 2013 to be exact, I had the honour and privilege of chairing the 13th Meeting of the Governing Council here in Islamabad. On that occasion, Mr. Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister for Maldives, HRH Prince Mostapha Zaher from Afghanistan were present.

Like Sri Lanka and the other countries who are members of SACEP (namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives and Nepal). The minster he told the participants that environmental awareness campaigns are most successful when targeted to specific groups or populations.

“Many people don’t pay much attention to environmental problems because they don’t understand how the problem would affect them or their lifestyle. Showing people how much money they could save by purchasing a hybrid or installing a solar panel has helped to “convert” people who normally wouldn’t have paid much attention to environmental problems,” Zahid Hamid highlighted.

He suggested that in South Asian developing countries, the use of print, broadcast, and social media could be a great way to increase education and awareness about environmental issues and their possible research-based solutions.

The minister further said by working with the media, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions could help spread their message, either by holding press briefings, issuing printed press releases, or even setting up online databases that can be used as information centers. For, information centers would be effective tools to educate both the public and journalists about environmental concerns.

“It is in this context that the SACEP Weekly News Bulletin being launched today is a very welcome initiative. This Bulletin will not only be an excellent medium for dissemination of information and sharing of knowledge, but will also facilitate connectivity and inter-action amongst the regional environmental institutions.

I hope that the News Bulletin will also help motivate youth and young environmental professionals for the promotion of sustainable development and conservation and management of national resources,” he said.

The Minister suggested that All member countries of SACEP should synergize their efforts to make it an exemplary robust programme of the region. Pakistan is committed to this objective. We appreciate the role of the Government of Sri Lanka in supporting the programme and hosting the Head Office in Colombo.

The Ambassador of the Sri Lankan High Commission, Ms. Wijeyanthi Edirisinghe, also spoke at the event. She said that it was extremely important that for the South Asian regional countries to adopt a regional approach and strengthen intra-regional cooperation and efforts through bodies such as SACEP to focus on various options and instruments that can be adopted to address these common environmental and climate change challenges.

Addressing the event, Climate Chagne Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan said that biodiversity loss, water and air pollution, inadequate waste management, degradation of marine and river resources and now climate change are serious common environmental issues that call for common regional approach to deal with these common issues.

“These issues are holding back actualization of great economic growth and sustainable development potential in the region, which can help pull out millions from the poverty trap and deal with health, hunger, malnutrition and other environmental issues,” he highlighted.

Arif Ahmed Khan stressed that educating people through mass awareness campaigns at all levels, particularly educational institutions and media could effectively help address these common environmental changes being faced by the densely populated South Asia, which is home to over 1.6 billion people. Director-General of SACEP, Dr. Muhamamd Khursheed spoke on the key aims and objectives of the weekly environmental news bulletin of South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP).

He told the participant that publishing the weekly news bulletin aims to boost awareness among people, students and media about environmental issues and possible solutions being applied in the South Asian regional countries.

The news bulletin would also highlight research and new technologies being used in the regional countries for addressing common environmental challenges regarding water, waste management, marine, air and water pollution, etc. He said that thousands have already registered online, who will receive copy of the news bulletin through emails weekly.

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