All government officials were absent from the first meeting of a commission created by Lahore High Court (LHC) to oversee the implementation of the climate change policy.
“The absence of government officials from the first meeting of the commission shows that they did not take it seriously,” LEAD executive director Ali Tauqeer Sheikh said on Thursday. Sheikh, a member of the commission, said they would not be allowed to do this again without legitimate cause. “The commission can take the matter to the LHC if they do not come to the next meeting. The court will ensure that they show up,” he said.
“The chair should have confirmed their presence before,” WWF-P director general Hammad Naqi, another member, said adding that they would be written to this time around. Naqi said government officials were usually appointed as focal persons for representation. “However, the secretaries and officials appointed to the commission should come themselves because they have been appointed by the court,” he said.
Secretaries of several departments and ministries are members of the commission. These include the Ministry of Water and Power and the Ministry of Planning and Development. Secretaries of the Environment Department, Food Department, Health Department and Agriculture Department are also members while the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority and the Director of the Provincial Disaster Authority have also been appointed to the commission.
According to the minutes of the meeting, a formal note was also taken of the members’ absence by chairman Pervaiz Hassan. “…They should inform the commission in advance if they are unable to attend,” he had remarked. Hassan had earlier told The Express Tribune that progress made by various government departments would be on the agenda of the first meeting.
Only the Irrigation and Agriculture Departments presented reports to the commission relating to work carried out in relation climate change. The meeting’s minutes noted that a template would be provided to the various departments and ministries in the next meeting and they would deliver presentations to members regarding the measures taken.
Naqi said the efforts undertaken still remained unclear due to the absence of a large number of reports and officials. “The departments are also uncertain about the contributions they have to make towards the policy,” he told The Express Tribune.
Naqi said the Agriculture Department had presented research undertaken on drought resistant varieties of various crops. He said the department had also levelled lands to make them more productive and was implementing more sustainable water consumption practices. “They have been doing such things for ages. There is nothing new about this,” Naqi said.
He expressed hope regarding the commission’s work despite the myriad of challenges confronting it. “We have already decided on how to streamline work underway,” he said. The commission, he said, would be specifically looking at the priority actions outlined in the framework for the implementation of the policy.
Sheikh appeared to be sceptical of the progress shown by the departments. “The government is great at showing off but we have to look at what they lack,” he said. Sheikh added that the measures presented at this juncture did not appear to be adequate.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.