Issues such as urban infrastructure, genetically modified crops and water resources are being faced by almost all growing cities in the world today. On Wednesday, these issues were discussed by environmentalists from India and a group of academicians and environmentalists from Pakistan in a one of its kind round table conference in the city.
Hosted by the Pakistan India Forum for Peace and Democracy (Karnataka) and a host of organisations from the city, the conference sought to highlight various environmental and infrastructural issues being faced in the state for the benefit of the visitors from Pakistan. Issues like privatisation of water resources, bio-piracy and waste management were discussed.
“There is an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding the restriction of access to common areas. This is a major issue. Access must be allowed to all and the public must not be made to look at commons through a fence,” said Leo Saldana of the Environmental Support Group (ESG).
A presentation on biopiracy included case studies in which seeds of Indian crops were taken by multinational companies and modified before applying for a licence. “For the first time in our country, we are fighting a bio-piracy case in the courts. Companies have also approached your country for permission to access crops now, action must be taken,” said Bhargavi Rao of ESG.
Speaking about issues in Pakistan, Kamil Khan Mumtaz, an architect from Lahore, said, “These issues are big. Problems related to the degradation of environment are on a global level in terms of their causes and also their solutions.”
Sadaf Arshad, a researcher with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said, “We initially came here with apprehension, but the welcome was heartwarming. The fact that we are here today on a holiday shows the importance of these issues and dialogue. It is a matter of implementation and political will that both our countries lack.”
The discussion comes on the heels of the recent revival of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission on Agriculture, Education, Environment and other areas. Such discussions will provide scope for co-operation between non-governmental agencies as well. The talks come as part of a pilot project by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliaition and Lahore University of Management Sciences to bring representatives of middle schools and urban environmental groups from Karachi, Mumbai, Lahore and Amritsar to share concerns.