UMERKOT: Uncontrolled population growth is a major threat to Pakistan while absence of prior consultations and institutional set-up, highly centralised approach, inadequate progress measurement and monitoring mechanism are the key factors for the failure and poor implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
This was discussed in a consultative dialogue here on Tuesday on prioritisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was organised by a local NGO in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP-Pakistan).
The dialogue was aimed at identifying the key development issues of Umerkot district with regard to the SDGs. The participants were representatives from government departments, including those of education, livestock, ombudsman office and population. Youth groups and civil society activists also attended.
The discussion highlighted that Umerkot district lies at the edge of the Thar desert as 56 per cent of the total area of the district is desert and prone to severe droughts due to uneven rainfall pattern and deforestation. It was also discussed that 70pc people have no proper sanitation facilities and defecate openly.
Speaking on the occasion, environmentalist Nasir Ali Panhwar said that droughts occurred here frequently due to no or very little rainfall.
Umerkot faces at least three droughts and one famine in a decade, which has affected livelihood, human development and health too.
He also said livelihood of the people was not sustainable.
Javed Soz Hallai, a poet, said most of the youths in the rural areas faced a lack of job opportunities, and health and educational facilities, which escalated the risk against different hazards, including floods, rains and droughts. He pointed out that a long-term disaster management plan was crucial for food security as well as ecological well-being.
Peasant activist Punhal Sario said development must address people’s needs besides caring for the earth and environmental resources. Agricultural lands were being converted into shopping plazas; urbanisation was increasing alarmingly, which was a major threat to food security, he added.
Mustafa Khoso, a member of the district council, said that acute shortage of safe drinking water in the far-flung areas while presence of fluoride, arsenic and higher level of total dissolved salts (TDS) in water were the key problems of Umerkot.
Mir Hasan Arisar, a writer and social activist, said that despite a lot of efforts in the education sector, the district had lagged behind with poor competency level and isolated approach. Teachers’ trainings, punctuality, proper monitoring, infrastructure and behaviour change was needed, he added.
Participants prioritised education as the top-most priority for the district followed by health, water and sanitation, peace and justice, zero hunger and no poverty.
They also shared that malnutrition was the key reason for poor health of children and women, which was because health education was lacking. A number of children were suffering from malnourishment. They also lacked access to basic health facilities.
The participants further added that population influx led towards lack of access to resources. It is due to the population bomb that the government has failed to meet all the MGDs and now SDGs are a challenge. Contraceptive prevalence is less, but mother and infant mortality is increasing.
They suggested that implementation of laws, institutional development, an end to corruption and judicious distribution of resources could help achieve the SDGs at the local level.
Writer Sardar Bhayo, political activist Bansi Malhi, district population officer Suleman Rahimoon and Luqman Nuhrio were among the speakers.