As this year’s World Environment Day was successfully hosted by Pakistan on June 5, the issues concerning environmental protection were once again put on the agenda. While China has done great in this field, Farzana Altaf Shah, Director General, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency shared her stories relating the work with China.
Through decades of persistent efforts, China’s forest coverage now stands at 23.04 percent of its land area, according to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China, while its grassland comprehensive vegetation coverage hit 56 percent last year.
Besides, the per capita green area in China’s urban areas averages 14.8 square meters and 441 cities have joined in a campaign to build national forest cities through multiple greening methods.
Farzana Altaf Shah has personally visited China many times. Among several Chinese cities she has toured, she especially named Xi’an City in the interview. Xi’an, an ancient capital city of Shaanxi Province, China, is known as the eastern starting point of the Silk Road, apart from which, Xi’an won the titles of Green Development Demonstration City and Eco-City in 2018.
For the city of Xi’an, she mentioned what impressed her most was the wide public involvement in environmental protection activities, and she believed public awareness played a key role.
She said that several factors may lead to insufficient public participation, such as a lack of awareness, communication with the public, media of communication, literacy rate, commitment to the public, etc.
“Each and every individual plays a role in environmental protection, for a single piece of garbage thrown away would make a big difference,” she noted.
When Farzana Altaf Shah strolled the Muslim Street in Xi’an just to enjoy culture and life there, she was astonished to see that a sanitary worker was using an empty oil container for the collection of garbage.
By citing this simple example, she said, “this thing is very clear for the protection of the environment. We don’t need much-advanced technology or lavish tools. It’s just awareness.”
“We have a lot of agreements with China on CPEC, like road construction, energy sector, trade, but I will urge that we should have an environmental awareness group through CPEC initiative in Pakistan as well,” said Farzana Altaf Shah.
Besides, she especially mentioned that what Pakistan can learn from China is the way to monitor water resources in cities and especially the cities where they are having water streams.
For example, when the Xi’an authorities once dredged the moat, some local residents who were forced to endure the stench volunteered to help, and after years of efforts, they turned the moat into a tourist attraction along with the famous city wall.
“We need to make this Belt and Road route an eco-friendly route. Our ecosystem of this entire CPEC route should be preserved, protected, and it should be sustainable development. Second, as for the way China controlled pandemic in their country and their success stories, we need to replicate here,” said Farzana Altaf Shah.
As COVID-19 still poses challenges to Pakistan, she talked about a major threat to the environment brought by the disposal of masks. She said that a randomly thrown-away mask can be full of microbes and gems, and may harm a person or wildlife that touched it.
Therefore, she urged that the used masks should be disposed of into a proper container at a proper place under a segregated category.