Environmental Vulnerability; a Social Challenge or an Economic Issue

By: Nazanin Shafahi
Source: Daily 8 a.m, July 21, 2010
Translated by: Jawed Nader

Have you ever thought about whether environment is an economic or a social problem? Or about how much a clean or contaminated environment does affect our economy? Perhaps, the widely held opinion is that environment is somewhat related to our culture and society, and there is no relation between environment and economy. However, such opinion is simplistic. Time is high to delve deeper in this issue and find the roots. It is high time to shun such superficial analysis because it can prove to be detrimental to our lives.

Environment is a crosscutting issue and relates to all major issues of our lives such as agriculture, health and economy. Some might question its relevance with economy; nonetheless, it has major economic implications.

In order to have expert opinion, I interviewed Mr. Saifuddin Saihon and Mr. Raza Farzam, who are both lecturers of economy in Kabul University. Mr. Farzam answered, “Environment is both an economic and social issue. The economic activities that harm the environment can cause social problems too. Industries and factories established around Kabul city have had an irresponsible attitude towards environment; as a result it has caused both ecological and social concerns.”

We are responsible for the problems we face, as they are created by us. We mostly emphasize on issues that have no value but in the meantime devalue issues that are of significant importance. Environment is one of these neglected issues. If we cautiously look around our surroundings and observe the environment standards, most of our problems will be solved.  

Farzam believes that the government has not regulated the economic activities, nor did it have a genuine monitoring mechanism in place. Enterprises trade off the environment with their motive of maximizing their profits. In fact, this is a global issue. In order to have a safer environment, the government and environmentalists need to have in place an environmental monitoring of economic activities. This will ensure the development of a clear and workable mechanism through which economic activities will be appraised from an environment perspective. 

Farzam adds that it will be a great breakthrough for the government to have a close monitoring on unrestrained economic activities. This also includes curtailing the import of inferior quality goods such as industrial and electronic goods and garments. The government has to control such imports; otherwise, they will cause an irreparable damage to the environment. Meanwhile, the public has a great role to play as well.

For instance, most of the imported goods from China and Pakistan are of low and inferior quality with a high level of environmental hazard. Million tons of wastes are produced daily, which are mostly residues of imported goods and have a high composition of plastic. However, merely the imported goods are not to blame. In Afghanistan, the culture of unaccountability is the key reason behind environmental pollution. 

This reminds us of our recurring statement that the environmental degradation in Afghanistan is due to lack of having a responsible attitude. However, the impact of our irresponsibility is felt in agricultural, health and even economic spheres. A sound economic future and the wellbeing of citizens can be ensured if we take our responsibilities and the needed commitment seriously.

Mr Saifuddin Saihoon, professor of economy in Kabul University, believes that, “environment has both economic and social aspects, which means that a lack of diligent approaches towards environment can endanger the very human existence. Destruction of natural resources and greeneries eventually harms the economic and production activities. Sustainable development is an important field in economy, which has an environment-based investment approach and ensures that the investment has an optimum output. Without considering environment in business activities, stable development cannot be achieved”.

According to Mr Saihoon, in successful economies, economy and environment have inextricable relation. In fact, these countries have used their systematic and regulated economy to attain high levels of social security. Meanwhile, natural resources as the backbone of the economic systems have both helped these countries to reach to a desirable economic condition and steady supply of basic services and social welfare. Therefore, it is essential to understand how they have used their natural resources. Resources found either on surface of earth or extracted from the land should be used with caution so that we have a systematic economy and sustainable development.

Linking economy with social life, Mr Sahihood adds, “We cannot have social welfare including access to health and education until we have a dynamic and sustainable economic development, which in turn is dependent upon proper use of natural resources”. We should maintain a sustainable relationship with nature so a steady supply of life resources is ensured. We should not destroy the forests and greeneries, as they are the sources of oxygen supply, and should not exhaust the natural resources and extract them in ways that pollute the water or endanger the lives of other living beings. The incident that polluted the water in the Mexican Gulf was an environmental and economic disaster, yet due to low environmental awareness in Afghanistan, very few people know about it. Creating a culture respecting the environment is a pre-requisite to environment protection and therefore it should be a policy priority for the government.

For reading the article in Dari version please click the link: http://8am.af/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13332:1389-04-30-15-52-25&catid=101:1388-12-19-18-57-21&Itemid=561