“Life without conservation of natural resources would be like a deaf listening to music or a blind enjoying dance performance.
Natural resources affect the life of a modern man, directly or indirectly. The impact is quite visible at consumer level, industry level and means of transportation and so on. No one can deny the fact that natural resources in its different manifestations are the ultimate driving force. Consumer using it to run their daily life, industry needs it to maintain its production line while transport industry is using it to serve the commuters. As a result, this heavy dependence gave birth to the problem of resource management in itself and today a resource rich country lay exposed to the problems at social, economic, political fronts.’
There is no denying the fact that Pakistan is one of the richest countries in terms of natural resources and its immense geo-strategic potential. But sadly, it is one of the poorest countries in terms of management also. The country’s abundant wealth of resources including that of energy, agriculture, minerals, population, and geography needs no explanation, but unlike the developed countries, these have not been properly utilised due to poor management. This dismal situation is caused due to several flaws which have led to poor governance of country since its inception except some brief periods of economic prosperity. Prevalent political rivalry and instability, worsening law and order situation and rampant corruption have led to resource development impasse.
A broader overview of geographic position of Pakistan reveals that it is located in South Asia and has 650 miles of coastline on the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman. The west is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran. India is to the east and China in the far northeast. The country is strategically located between South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Our country is bestowed with some of the best soil resources, for instance, natural gas, oil, hydro power potential,
coal, iron, copper, salt, and limestone and so on. Our farmers produce wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, eggs, fruit and vegetables. We have large cattle farms which produce meat and milk in abundance. Primary industry includes textiles, food processing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, fertilizer, and paper products. Major exports comprise textile products, rice, leather goods, sports goods, carpets, rugs, and chemicals. Pakistan imports petroleum, machinery, plastic, edible oil, iron, steel, tea, and paper.
Coal reserves are estimated at 175 billion tons. This would equate to 618 billion barrels of crude oil. When compared to oil reserves this is more than twice the amount of the top four countries. Natural gas production is at a high level in Pakistan. Estimated reserves are 885.3 billion cubic meters (as of January 2009). Gas fields are expected to last for another 20 years. The Sui gas field is the largest, accounting for 26% of Pakistan’s gas production. Daily production is 19 million cubic meters a day. Under the barren mountains of Balochistan and hot sands of Sindh, there is unlimited amount of oil and gas reserves not touched yet. And still further, we have fertile lands of Punjab, ready to feed a population twice as big as we are now, the best irrigation system (waiting for more water reservoirs to enrich it), and the best quality cotton and rice. Balochistan is a mountainous desert area, consisting of 3.5 lakh sq. kms. It borders Iran, Afghanistan and its Southern Boundary is the Arabian Sea with strategically important port of Gwadar on the Makran Coast, commanding approach to the Strait of Hormuz. Its total population is 7.5 million. Balochistan occupies 43.6 percent of Pakistan’s total area and is least populated. Gwadar is an important district of Balochistan, having 600 Kilometres long border. Until 1958, it had been a part of the State of Oman. On December 1958, Pakistan bought it with an amount of 550 million Rupees. It was suggested as a suitable site for port in 1964 and thus in 2002, the construction of the port was initiated with the help of China. The Gwadar Port, being the third largest port of the world, is situated at the doorway of the Persian Gulf (180 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz through which 40% of World’s Oil passes) and at the largest trade route of the world. It is due to this fact that makes it geo-strategically more important to the world powers.
Rickodek, the part of Chagi (Tehsil of Balochistan), means ‘Hillock of Gold. Pakistan and International media has highlighted a new discussion on ‘Rickodek’. It is the world’s 4th largest deposit of gold and copper. It has been discovered that the mountains of Balochistan are filled up with much costly reservoirs of mineral. Nevertheless, it has also been proved that the gold and copper reserves of about $260 billion are buried under the Rickodek. But it is very unfortunate that Pakistan is dependent upon foreign companies for exploring, mining, surveying and refining of our natural wealth. Balochistan has been divided among Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. It has been overlooked since the times of the British Rulers. It is that part of Pakistan that consists of different linguistic and ethnic groups Pakistani leadership must focus on exploration of natural resources and their scientific management. Properly managed natural resources can play a vital role in national growth. Extensive geological survey is required to discover the resource potential. Planning and vision is needed to explore the untapped resources and effective strategy is essential to fully exploit the resources under use.
‘Nature has given you everything: you have got unlimited resources. The foundations of your State have been laid, and it is now for you to build, and build as quickly and as well as you can. So go ahead and I wish you God speed.’
Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah
(Message to the Nation on the occasion of the first Anniversary of Pakistan on 14th August, 1948)
Pakistan, despite its natural resources, is still a problem ridden, poverty prone, underdeveloped and third world country. Economy of Pakistan is in shambles. All our important industries that once served as important contributor to the national GDP have been closed down. Sugar, cement and shoe industry is on its downfall while textile industry is on the verge of disaster. Foreign investors are not ready to set up their businesses in Pakistan. They have their own set of problems which include painful and lengthy procedure of getting licenses and work permits in Pakistan, power crises, terrorism aggravate the crisis. Multinational Companies are reluctant to open their offices and franchises in Pakistan. More than 70 MNCs have already packed up their business in Pakistan. Economic prosperity, however, serves as a backbone for the overall progress of a nation. One thing is common in all developed nations, ‘they are economically sound. When citizens of a country are freed from the worries of earning a livelihood to sustain their lives, they divert their attention to more useful things. They focus on education, manage healthcare, develop technologies that make life easy and much more. Poor economic condition is the root cause of so many problems that exist in a society. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s economic condition is pathetic. As if power crises, lack of foreign investment for the development of industrial zones, backward and out-dated technology were not enough, Pakistan’s indulgence in war on terrorism served as a fatal blow to the already crumbling economic state.
Moreover, Northern areas of Pakistan have been a place of great tourist attraction. The beautiful hills, the lush green valleys, shimmering lakes and flowing waterfalls brought many a tourist from all over the world to Pakistan. This contributed to foreign exchange. Tourism Industry was one of the booming industries of Pakistan. Besides attracting foreign exchange, it also provided employment to local people. In addition to that, tourist industry was a source of friendly relations with other countries. Nevertheless, war on terrorism has served as a serious blow to the tourism industry of Pakistan. Due to war on terror, local people of war-ridden areas are migrating to other areas of Pakistan. Country has seen the largest migration since its independence in 1947. These people have left their homes, businesses, possessions and property back home. This large influx of people and their rehabilitation is an economic burden on Pakistan. Unemployment was an ongoing problem for us and now the issue of providing employment to these migrants has become a matter of serious concern. This portion of population is contributing nothing worthwhile to the national exchequer, yet they have to be benefited from it. This unproductive lot of people is a growing economic burden for Pakistan.
70% population of Pakistan lives in villages. Most of them don’t have access to adequate basic needs of life. They are struggling to make both ends meet. A large chunk of population lives below poverty line. They live in miserable conditions. Lack of proper food, clothing and shelter, poor sanitation, unsafe and sometimes contaminated drinking water are some of their many problems. Poverty itself gives rise to various other social problems. It deprives children of poor people to access education and healthcare. A sense of deprivation manifests itself in form of various crimes. That is why every now and then, we read crime stories in newspapers that are characterized by lower orders of society who adopt illegal means to get the financial prosperity which they cannot achieve otherwise.
In order to take maximum benefits from natural resources there is a need of technical education of people involved in resource exploitation and management. The technical education ensures that there is minimum wastage of the resources. Hence, such education should be made compulsory for the people in concerned areas of activity. On the other hand, the politicians, policy makers and all the stake holders must adopt a rational approach not to politicize natural resources. It should be prioritized as the vital national interest and dealt with as such.
It needs not to be emphasised that Pakistan is not poor but poor management of its natural resources has made it so. The enormous natural resources of all kinds like energy, minerals, agriculture, and manpower could have made this country a wealthy economy. Thus, the daunting challenge of poor management of natural resources direly needs to be addressed not only to overcome the perils caused due to it but also to achieve economic self sufficiency and prosperity of the nation. By surpassing this challenge, Pakistan is destined to have prominent place in the world as a stable, growing and prosperous nation.
‘We should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play.’
Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah