South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) is an inter-governmental organization, established in 1982 by the governments of South Asia to promote and support protection, management and enhancement of the environment in the region SACEP member countries are Afghanistan , Bangladesh , Bhutan , India , Maldives , Nepal , Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The SACEP was created to fulfill a vision based on the following three assumptions
- Recognition of environmental degradation caused by factors like poverty, over population, over consumption and wasteful production threatening economic development and human survival,
- Integration of environment and development as essential prerequisites to Sustainable Development, and
- Importance of co-operative action in the South Asian region where many ecological and development problems transcend national and administrative boundaries.
“The Mission of SACEP is to promote regional co-operation in South Asia in the field of environment, both natural and human in the context of sustainable development and on issues of economic and social development which also impinge on the environment and vice versa; to support conservation and management of natural resources of the region and to work closely with all national, regional, and international institutions, governmental and non governmental, as well as experts and groups engaged in such co-operation and conservation efforts.
South Asia is one of the most diverse regions in the world. Bordered to the north by the Himalayas and to the south by the Indian Ocean, covers a diversity of ecosystems from lush tropical forest to harsh, dry desert. It is also one of the most populous regions, with over 1 billion people living in India alone. Although never remounted as a single country, the movements of peoples over thousands of years has resulted in strong commonalities between cultures. Yet there remains a huge diversity of languages, religions and outlooks across the sub-continent. . Most of the South Asian nations share many similar environmental problems, stemming from poverty and its consequences on natural resources. According to the World Bank, during the past decade, South Asia has been the second fastest economically growing region in the world, and their efforts at increased production have put increasing pressure on natural resources and the environment. Significant natural resource concerns of the region include depletion of water quality and quantity, dwindling forests and coastal resources, and soil degradation resulting from nutrient depletion and salinization
Many countries of the region have taken actions for the protection and management of the environment. They are also party to many multilateral environmental agreements requiring them to work cooperatively for the mitigation of concern issues. SACEP supports national government’s efforts for environmental protection and sustainable development.
Since its creation, SACEP has implemented a number of projects and programmes in the areas of environment education, environment legislation, biodiversity, air pollution, and the protection and management of the coastal environment. SACEP is also secretariat for the South Asian Seas Programme.
The Malé Declaration on control and prevention of air pollution and its likely transboundary effects for South Asia is another significant efforts which encourages intergovernmental cooperation to combat the transboundary air pollution problem
Some of the salient attributes of South Asia are as follows:
The region covers almost one twentieth of the earth’s surface and provides a home for about one fifth of the world population.
The degree of urbanization in 1999 ranged from 7 percent in Bhutan to 33 percent in Pakistan . Mumbai, Calcutta , Delhi , Karachi and Dhaka are fast growing cities with population more than 10 million.
Over 30 percent of the population earns less than one dollar per day and the per capita GNP for 1998 ranged from US$ 210 to 130. It is US$ 210 in Nepal to 1,130 in Maldives.
Although the economies of the countries are primarily agricultural, industrialization has increased during the past decade.
South asia is home to 14 percent of the world’s remaining mangrove forests and the sundarbans found between Bangladesh and India is one of the largest continuous mangrove stretch in the world .
6 percent of the world’s coral reefs are in the South Asian seas. The atolls of Maldives and Lakshadweep islands of the region, are biodiversity rich marine habitats.
Hindu Kush Himalayan belt is home to over 25,000 major plant species, comprising 10 percent of the world’s flora.
The region is prone to natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and landslides. From 1990-1999, the region accounted for over 60 percent of disaster-related deaths worldwide.
India and SACEP:
- Recently the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister has approved signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Asian Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP) for cooperation on the response to Oil and Chemical Pollution in the South Asian Seas Region.
- The MoU intends to promote closer cooperation between India and other maritime nations comprising the South Asian seas region namely Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for protection and preservation of marine environment in the region.
- Indian Coast Guard (ICG) will be the Competent National Authority and national operational contact point for implementation of “Regional Oil Spill Contingency Plan” under the MoU and shall respond to oil and chemical spills on behalf of Government of India. Further, ICG Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) will be the national emergency response centre for marine incidents.
- The SACEP jointly with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) developed a “Regional Oil Spill Contingency Plan” to facilitate international co-operation and mutual assistance in preparing and responding to a major oil pollution incident in the seas around the Maritime States of Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.