Environmental Security in Pakistan - Are There Grounds for Optimism? (W-63)

Environmental Security in Pakistan - Are There Grounds for Optimism? (W-63)

Publication details

  • Friday | 01 Jun, 2001
  • Shaheen Rafi Khan
  • Working Papers
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Shaheen Rafi Khan 2001 Abstract Conventionally defined, the term security refers to the defense of sovereign states against violent attack, either from states or from terrorist or revolutionary groups within their borders. As such, security has an impersonal and organized aspect. Defined in more generic terms, security connotes conditions that make people feel secure against want, deprivation and violence. Environmental security is a subset of human security. By numbers and by the magnitude of their activities, human beings are causing rapid bio-geochemical changes in the Earth system. The term ‘activities’ is synonymous with unsustainable development processes. The absence of sustainable human development charts two paths to degradation: the direct route and the indirect route through social inequity and injustice. This increases the vulnerability of the poor to degradation. In turn, the poor are driven to prey upon the environment, a condition described as the poverty-environment nexus. Pakistan’s performance by sustainable human development criteria has been found wanting. Its social and environmental indicators show a marked degree of inequity, injustice and advanced stages of environmental degradation. Two case studies illustrate the insecurity-conflict nexus. An interesting paradox is presented, reflecting the interplay of social and economic forces. In the Dir-Forestry case these forces have established an almost surgical divide between the antagonists. Namely, communities are arrayed against a consortium of vested interests. Institutional redress mechanisms (official investigations, judicial recourse) lack transparency. Ultimately, they are subservient to powerful economic forces. There are very real risks that the combination of rapid deforestation and continued exploitation of the communities will escalate into large-scale violence. In contrast, the Kalabagh Dam study presents a different dialectic. While economic and environmental interests separate the antagonists, the lines of conflict are blurred by their social construction. Powerful lobbies exist on both sides of the divide, both with an interest in increasing water allocations. The government, as is its wont traditionally, defers to these lobbies, resulting in an uneasy compromise. But it is a compromise driven by power rather than environmental or social logic, which underscores its fragility. Environmental security is a still evolving notion that covers a vast area with diffuse causes and heterogeneous impacts.  In order to study environmental security—or rather insecurity—in the context of Pakistan, this paper will first briefly review the competing perspectives on environmental security.  The next two sections will root the discussion in Pakistan’s development experience—first outlining the paths to environmental degradation and then assign the impacts of such degradation on the human security of the poor in Pakistan.  This will be done in the context of sustainable human development criteria, focusing in particular on the resulting environmental impacts, the growing vulnerability of the poor, their responses, the induced insecurity and conflict potential.  A simple environment-security model, which is the formal setting for this paper will also be presented.  Finally, 2 case studies will be presented to highlight the application of the concepts developed in the chapter with a focus on the institutional prerequisites for transparent and effective governance.