Pakistan is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources but also one of the poorest among them in their management. The country is abundant in the vital resources including that of energy, agriculture, minerals, population, and geography, but unlike the developed countries, these have not been properly exploited due to poor management. This dismayed situation is caused due to several, both chronic and acute, flaws which have led to poor governance of country since its inception except some brief spells of economic prosperity. Prevalent political rivalry and instability, worsening law and order and rampant corruption have catalyzed the situation to resource development impasse. Contrary to economic potential of its natural resources, Pakistan is a depending on foreign aid and debt, it is facing deficit in trade, acute energy crisis to run industry, and water stress for agriculture, to name a few challenges.
Before discussing what natural resources Pakistan possesses, it is important to understand what constitutes natural resources. These occur naturally within environments characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geo-diversity existent in various ecosystems. Some resources like water and agriculture are essential for survival of inhabitants while others like energy and minerals are secondary in nature but essential for economic development. However, efficient management of these resources is vital to achieve prosperity of nation. Natural resource management is a discipline with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations. It is interrelated with the concept of sustainable development.
Pakistan is blessed with huge quantity of resources but lags in management. Being situated at one of the best geographic and geostrategic locations on the map of world, Pakistan is affluent in the natural resources. It has enormous energy surplus resource potential of both renewable and nonrenewable, which is greater than that of oil rich countries of Gulf. Among the world’s 200 plus countries it has the second largest salt mines, second largest coal reserves, fifth largest copper and gold reserves, seventh largest wheat and rice production capacity. It is the sixth most populous country in the world having large share of young population. Had these resources been properly managed, this country would have been one of the richest economies of world. The detailed account of the natural wealth of Pakistan shows how such great potential has been untapped due to mismanagement.
There are plenty of nonrenewable energy resources like oil, gas and coal in Pakistan. It has more than 436.2 million barrels of oil, according to CIA World Fact Book, and 31.3 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves Moreover, there is resource potential of 27 billion Barrels of Oil and 282 TCF of gas reserves in the country which has not been explored due to lack of vision and flawed policies.
Pakistan has world’s second largest coal deposits of 185 billion tons. These are estimated to be equivalent to 618 billion barrels of crude oil. This is more than twice if we compare it with oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. The energy deficit is badly affecting the industry in country but no any serious initiative is taken for electricity production from coal. Besides, the geography of Pakistan enriches it with the renewable energy resources. Wind and Solar energy are other unused lifelines of Pakistan. 1046 km long coastal line gives potential of 40000 MW of electricity. The vast lands of Baluchistan can be utilized for solar electricity generation. But unfortunately these resources have barely been used due to technological backwardness and lack of innovative policies.
The lack of vision and policy planning in utilization of water resource is also severely affecting agriculture. Despite having one of the largest irrigation systems of the world, Pakistan is facing water scarcity for crops. Storage capacity of water reservoirs is quickly depleting because of annual sediment inflow and a substantial quantum of available water is lost in seepage as the canals have not been cemented. Out of 77 million acres cultivable area, only 55.5 million acres have been ploughed.
In addition, being an agricultural country it possesses tremendous scope of animal husbandry. Pakistan’s breeds of cow like Sahiwal cow are the best breeds of world. Due care to this area can lead to bulk of exports in dairy products. On other hand, fishing industry has an important role to play in national economy of Pakistan. The coast line of 814 km provides ample opportunity to enhance this industry, but poor performance and poor presentation of our cause in WTO have put this industry at the verge of destruction.
The minerals are also vital natural resources available in great quantity. Pakistan has fifth largest copper and gold reserves in the world. There are other partially untapped resources of rock salts, Gypsum, lime stone, iron, marble, and silica sand in large quantities. These resources have not been exploited due to corruption and bottlenecks in political and bureaucratic culture.
The most important of the natural resources in this globalized world is human resource. Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world having large share of ‘young population’ i.e. 63 percent below age of 25 years, according to United Nations Development Program. The resource which could be used to enhance the economic activity is left to no use which is adding to the increase in poverty.
The above analysis reveals that Pakistan is not poor, but poorly managed country. The factors which have caused the poor management of natural resources include political instability, political indecision making / divergence, lack of vision and planning, flawed policies, bureaucratic bottlenecks and corruption, lack of human resource development, worsened law and order situation. These factors have led not only to the poor management of natural resources but also to the poor governance of country.
It needs not to be emphasized 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 human could have made this country a wealthy economy. Instead, there been bleak picture of economy and undesirable image outside due to the chronic flaws in vision and policies. 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 eminence place in the world as a stable, growing and prosperous nation.