Pakistan can face absolute water scarcity, drought by 2025: Experts

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LAHORE: Health experts have warned that Pakistan can approach absolute scarcity levels of water and face a drought as early as 2025.

These hazards, pose not only threats to individual health but also to economic growth, food security and environmental sustainability, they said and added efforts to include environmental considerations in all phases of policy making, planning and development must be actively pursued.

The experts expressed these views during a seminar held to observe “World Environmental Health Day 2017”, here on Tuesday. Project Management Unit-Punjab Public Health Agency (PMU-PPHA), Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department, Government of the Punjab organized the event in collaboration with UNICEF.

Dr. Shabnum Sarfraz CEO PPHA welcomed the Chief Guest, Begum Zakia Shahnawaz Khan, Provincial Minister for Environment Protection, Provincial Minister Primary and Secondary Healthcare, Khawaja Imran Nazeer and Provincial Minister Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Khawaja

Salman Rafique. Also present at the occasion were Member Health Planning and Development Department, Dr. Shabana Haider, and Captain (R) Saif Anjum, Secretary Environment Protection Department.

On this occasion, government officials from both federal and provincial departments and ministries including Punjab’s Environment Protection Department, environmental health experts, development professionals, and technical experts from UN agencies, as well as leading national and international organizations were also present.

Speaking on the occasion, Begum Zakia Shahnawaz Khan, Provincial Minister for Environment Protection, remarked that addressing the interactions of environment and health is vital for sustainable development. Moreover, the government is committed to providing safe water and food, adequate shelter and clean air to all people for ensuring prosperity and growth, she added.

Khawaja Salman Rafique highlighted the increasing burden of environmental factors on health systems and added that personal steps needed to be taken to combat the effects of climate change and its implications on human health.

Khawaja Imran Nazir emphasized upon the fact that environmental health today is not a single group’s challenge, we need the meaningful engagement of everyone to improve the health of the people of the Punjab and tackle emerging challenges.

Captain (R) Saif Anjum, Secretary Environment Protection Department, remarked that the Environment Protection Department is keen to play an integral part in promoting healthy living practices and sustainable development to ensure long term viability.

The celebrations were followed by a meeting of the technical working group in order to solidify long-term action plans for various policies including Punjab Environmental Health Strategy, Punjab Drinking Water Policy and other associated agendas.

Human health is profoundly affected by weather and climate, and despite considerable progress in health services delivery and reforms over the last few years, a mixture of environmental health challenges is emerging as a threat to healthcare services, the experts said and added that deaths from extreme weather events such as heat stress, along with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, infectious disease outbreaks, and malnutrition are on the rise. On top of that, Punjab is experiencing a population boom and consequently, the burden of disease on limited healthcare resources is reaching critical levels.

They said effects of climate change aren’t limited to human health or healthcare systems either, they also undermine food and water supplies, overload the existing infrastructure, and stress existing social protection systems.

Project Management Unit – Punjab Public Health Agency is working to coordinate efforts among cross-sectoral stakeholders for an integrated multidisciplinary public health approach in Punjab. Existing health challenges cannot be surmounted comprehensively without adapting the “One-Health Triad” approach, and Environmental Health is the third critical component of this model. Keeping this in perspective, the event was organized in a manner that gathered key stakeholders from government, health, environment, and development sectors, academia, civil society and the media.

The follow-up meeting of the technical working group culminated with a commitment to adopt measures that improve knowledge sharing and collaboration between various stakeholders and ensure sustainable action towards national and provincial policy agendas for environmental health, drinking water and sanitation.

Dr. Shabnum Sarfraz, Chief Executive Officer welcomed the participants and contextualized environmental health in Punjab, its importance for human health and the need to adopt a cross-sectoral approach towards environmental challenges.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Shabana Haider, Member Health, Planning and Development Department, called on the stakeholders to increase cross sectoral collaboration and adopt effective measures to improve environmental health indicators in the Punjab.

The presence of the Provincial Ministers for Environment Protection, Primary and Secondary Healthcare, and Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education communicated the resolve of the Government of the Punjab towards addressing cross-cutting development challenges in the province.

The ministers appreciated the efforts and support of the organizers in highlighting environmental health as a vital issue for the wellbeing of the people, and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to support efforts made in the domain of environmental health. – AFP

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Story first published: 27th September 2017

Originally Posted on SamaaNews

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