alexa Legal Status of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Practice of Application and Challenges in Pakistan

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Legal Status of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Practice of Application and Challenges in Pakistan

Farasat Ali1, Imran Ali Khan2, Waleed Asghar2*, Zhenmei Liao2, Sobia Beghum3, Wim Douven4 and Kamran Ali Khan5
1Key State Laboratories, Nanjing Institute of limnology and Geography, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing, China
2School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
3Karakoram International University, GilGit Baltistan, Pakistan
4UNESCO-IHE, Netherlands
5Comsats Institute of Information and Technology, Abbtobbad, Pakistan
*Corresponding Author: Waleed Asghar, School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China, Tel: + 010-58806183, Email: [email protected]

Received Date: May 22, 2018 / Accepted Date: Jun 05, 2018 / Published Date: Jun 12, 2018

Abstract

This study addresses legal status of strategic environmental assessment (SEA), practice of application and challenges in Pakistan. The source of data was based upon a review of the literature, as well as structured and semi structured interviews with selected experts and consultants of the various backgrounds of Pakistan. This study shows that Pakistan transposed SEA in their national and provincial Environmental Protection Acts except for Punjab province. However Pakistan conducted a few SEA studies including SEA studies of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Hydropower Plans, Gilgit city master plan, Poverty and Social Assessment of Trade and Transport Sector Reforms in Pakistan and the Cumulative and Induced Impact Assessment study of the Upper Indus River Basin (UIRB) of Pakistan. The main challenges for SEA in Pakistan include: devolution environment from federal to provinces, less technical staff for SEA studies, weak knowledge, and training about SEA in the Environmental Protection Agencies, weak political priority for environmental, weak environmental screening and scoping process, lack of financial resources for primary data collection and SEA studies. Despite the fact that the SEA is implemented in rudimentary stages in Pakistan, few SEA studies conducted in Pakistan only for donor-funded policies, plans, and programmes.

Keywords: SEA, Pakistan, Legal status, Practice of application and challenges

Introduction

Strategic environment assessment (SEA) as assessment tool of policies plans and programmes appeared to be used after USA National Environment Policy Act-NEPA of 1969 and to address the shortfalls of projects level EIAs [1]. Although SEA become more popular across the globe after European Union Directive on SEA, 2001 and Keive protocol, 2003 [2], South Asia countries (e.g. Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Vietnam South Korea, and Indonesia etc) already transposed SEA as tool in their environment assessment system to consider environmental and social consequences of policies, plans and programmes (PPPs) [3]. SEA also appearing in Nepal, Pakistan and India in different PPPs particularly, forest planning, hydropower development, drainage programmes, coastal zone planning and industrial development [4]. India and Pakistan did not transpose SEA obligations in their national legislations but they adopted either for donor funded projects or voluntarily in some policies, plans and projects [3,5], Pakistan urgent need SEA along with EIA system to cope emerging climate change concerns and natural resource degradation to achieve sustainable development in the country [6]. Pakistan needs a strong institutional frameworks and legislation for an effective SEA system introduction in country [7]. The National Impact Assessment Programme is active in Pakistan to introduced SEA system, initially a study planned to investigate the effectiveness of SEA in hydropower development policy of Azad and Jammu Kashmir [8].

Materials and Methods

To document strategic environment assessment status, practices of application and challenges in Pakistan a qualitative research approach is adopt [9,10]. An extensive review of literature was conduct about Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as well as the practice of its application and challenges in Pakistan. The review of the literature was based on academic literature, policies and planning documents, environmental acts, environmental regulations, newspapers and reports. To understand SEA in Pakistan Eleven structured and semi structured interviews were conduct with selected experts and consultants of SEA in Pakistan. The list of interviews (Table 1) consists of key stakeholders in Pakistan, who are actively engage in conducting environmental impact studies, developing environmental legislations, regulations, policies and providing support to the environmental assessment system of the country (EAS). The mode of the interviews was face to face, as well as through internet (Skype, mail and LinkedIn) guided by a set of predefined questions (Table 2). The interview duration was from 20 minutes to maximum one hour, but this was depending on the interviews. All interviews perceptions about status, application and challenges to the SEA system of Pakistan were analysis separately for each category of government, non-government and international organizations.

S# Code Name of organizations
1 P1 Environmental Protection Agency, Islamabad
2 P2 Environmental Protection Agency, Lahore
3 P3 Environmental Protection Agency, Gilgit
4 P4 Environmental Protection Agency, Muzaffarabad
5 P5 Ministry of Climate change, Islamabad
6 P6 Ministry Water and Power, Islamabad
7 P7 Indus Water Commission of Pakistan
8 P8 World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan (WWF-P)
9 P9 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
10 P10 Hagler Bailly Islamabad (HB)
11 P11 National Environmental Consultants (NEC)

Table 1: List of interviewees.

List of guiding variables
1 What are key laws and regulations exist for SEA in Pakistan?
2 How much SEA studies conducted in Pakistan so far?
3 Which sectors policies; plans and programmes pass through SEA in Pakistan?
4 Which organizations conducted SEA in Pakistan?
5 Which government institutions are monitoring SEA studies in Pakistan?
6 What is the capacity of EPAs in Pakistan?
7 What is the level of knowledge in EPAs and stakeholders about SEA?
8 Are there effective assessment of the environmental impacts of (PPPs) documented?
9 Is there community is aware about the benefits of SEA?
10 Are there quality of information are available in SEA studies?
11 Level of stakeholder’s participation and influence on decision-making?
12 Is there any coordination mechanism existing among stakeholders during SEA studies?
13 Quality of SEA reports?
14 SEA findings influencing decision making system or not?

Table 2: List of guiding variables or data of interest.

Results and Discussion

SEA laws and regulations in Pakistan

After the constitution (Eighteen Amendment) Act 2010 of Pakistan, the environment is a provincial subject and all provinces have developed Environmental Protection Acts (EPA) which includes the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) (Interviewee P1). The majority of interviewees mentioned that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended amendments in section XII of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) of 1997 to include SEA as a legal requirement for policies, plans, and programmes (Interviewees P1, P5, P6, P7, P8, and P9). One interviewee P2 indicated that the government of Punjab has not incorporated SEA in their Provincial Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) 2012. The government of Gilgit-Baltistan drafted a new PEPA in 2014 and included SEA as a legal requirement for provincial PPPs (Interviewee P3). Likewise, the government of Azad and Jammu Kashmir amended the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) of 2000 and included SEA as a legal requirement (Interviewee P4). Baluchistan was the first province who approved their PEPA on January 2013 followed by Sindh government in February 2014 (Interviewee P9). The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa drafted a bill of PEPA 2014 and decided, only those policies, programmes, and plans will pass through SEA, which are approved by the Provincial Environmental Protection Council (PEPC) (Interviewee P9).

SEA studies are conducted in Pakistan so far

Only few SEA studies have been conducted in Pakistan, including the Cumulative and Induced Impact Assessment study of the Upper Indus River Basin (UIRB) of Pakistan to explore the potential benefits and risks of planned damming and hydropower plans (Interviewees P1 and P6). Three interviewees mentioned that the Gilgit Development Authority (GDA) supervised an SEA study for the Gilgit City Master Plan in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gilgit-Baltistan Planning Commission, Department (GBPCD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Gilgit, and other stakeholders (Interviewees P3, P9, and P10). Correspondingly, three interviewees mentioned that the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) voluntarily supervised an SEA study for the hydropower plans to investigate the effectiveness of the SEA in hydropower planning in collaboration with IUCN, EPA and other stakeholders (Interviewees P4, P9 and P10). One interviewee P9 indicated that the World Bank (WB) conducted a SEA study for the Poverty and Social Assessment of Trade and Transport Sector Reforms in Pakistan.

Sector policies, plans, and programs pass through SEA in Pakistan

Initially, SEA was tested in Pakistan for the hydropower and damming plans on the upper Indus River Basin (UIRB) of Pakistan (Interviewees P1, P6, and P9). SEA was also applied in city master planning in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) (Interviewees P2 and P6). Two interviewees responded that Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) governments passed hydropower plans through the SEA as a first case study in the state (Interviewees P3 and P6). One interviewee mentioned that the Trade and Transport Sector Reforms also passed through SEA in Pakistan by World Bank (WB) (Interviewee P9). Interviewees P3 and P4 revealed that the AJ&K and GB SEA processes were activated to pass all policies, plans and programs (PPPs) through the SEA from 2015 onwards. Interviewee P5 added that all federal PPPs would need to pass through a SEA procedure after approval of the amended bill of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997. Interviewee P9 mentioned that in 2013 all PPPs passing through the SEA in Baluchistan and similarly after 2014 the Sindh government and investors also bonded to conduct SEA for all important PPPs.

Organizations conducted and supervised SEA studies in Pakistan

The majority of interviewees responded that IUCN in collaboration with Hagler Bailly Pakistan, consultants and government departments coordinated SEA studies of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) hydropower plans and master plan for Gilgit city (P1, P3, P4, P8, P9 and P10). Interviewee P6 mentioned that the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) supervised the Cumulative and Induced Impact Assessment (CIIA) study under the Dasu hydropower project in collaboration with key stakeholders and consultants. One interviewee told that the World Bank organized a SEA study for Trade and Transport Sector Reforms (P9). Interviewee P11 mentioned that all environmental consultants can organize such studies, but it fully depends on the expertise of consultants and type of the SEA studies. The World Bank hired consultants for the SEA study of the Poverty and Social Assessment of Trade and Transport Sector Reforms in Pakistan (P9).

Government institutions monitoring SEA studies in Pakistan

The majority of interviewees believed the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) in collaboration with the federal and provincial line departments of the Pakistan monitor SEA studies in their jurisdiction. Few interviewees mentioned that the owner of a policy, plan and programme and relevant departments are responsible, along with EPA to monitor the SEA studies in the country (P1, P2, and P3). One interviewee mentioned that Gilgit Development Authority (GDA) monitored the SEA study for the Gilgit City Master Plan given their mandate by the government of the Pakistan for sustainable development of the Gilgit city (P3). An interviewee mentioned that EPA, Planning, and Development department of Kashmir is responsible monitoring SEA studies in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir state (P4). One interviewee mentioned that for all federal polices plans and programmes the federal planning commission of the Pakistan and EPA is responsible along with the relevant federal departments (P5). A representative from the federal ministry mentioned that the ministry itself is responsible for their SEA studies, along with federal planning commission and EPA (P6).

Capacity of EPAs in Pakistan to monitor SEA studies

Almost all interviewees mentioned that the environmental protection agency's (EPAs) of Pakistan have limited technical staff, funding and rudimentary knowledge about SEA. Two interviewees believed that EPAs have enough capacity to monitor SEA studies in Pakistan, but weak accountability in the department is the key hurdle for the effective monitoring of the SEA and EIA studies (P5 and P7). One interviewee indicated that the EPAs have enough capacity in Pakistan for EIA monitoring, but that SEA is relatively new and that there are therefore only few experts on SEA in the EPAs (P11). The EPAs have limited offices and laboratories in the country for effective monitoring of environmental pollution in different areas of the country (Interviewees 3 and P4).

Level of knowledge about SEA in EPAs and stakeholders of Pakistan

All interviewees indicated that Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a new approach for the country, so the level of knowledge is often limited in the majority of the organizations. Presently the level of knowledge is enough in only few organizations like IUCN and Hagler Bailly Pakistan, who often assist in conducting SEA studies in the country (interviewees P9 and P10). The Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) are not able to monitor Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies effectively in Pakistan while SEA is very new for all stakeholders and EPAs as mentioned by (P3). According to a representative of (P4), knowledge of SEA is weak, but enough knowledge is available about the EIA system. (P11) indicated that the key reasons for weak knowledge of SEA in the country are less experts and expertise of the SEA in the stakeholders and EPAs.

Effective assessment of environmental impacts of (PPPs) documented

Presently, it is too early to be able to draw a conclusion on the effectiveness of SEA studies in Pakistan because there are no studies conducted in this area (P1). According to two interviewees, the SEA studies of the Gilgit city plan and Kashmir Hydropower plans were effective studies as they recorded socio-environmental concerns of the plans (P2 and P3). Interviewee P6 mentioned, the Cumulative and Induced Impact Assessment (CIIA) study of the Upper Indus River Basin (UIRB) by Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) was a good example as it raised and discussed socio-environmental concerns of hydropower plans. The SEA studies in Pakistan were expensive and comprehensive and the organizations involved ensured quality of information in these studies, mentioned by (P8, P9, and P10). Some respondents mentioned, they were not aware of the effectiveness or quality of these studies (P2, P7, and P11). According to [8,11] the SEA study effectively documented and mapped all hydropower plans in different river basins of the Kashmir. the SEA study of the Gilgit city master plan effectively recorded all strategic concerns and provided realistic alternatives and guidelines for sustainable development of the Gilgit city The Cumulative and Induced Impact assessment of Upper Indus River Basin efficiently examined the socio-environmental consequences of hydropower plans on Upper Indus river basin and provided realistic alternatives, scenarios, and practical mitigation measures [12].

Community awareness level about potential SEA benefits

Some interviewees believed the community in Pakistan is still not aware about benefits and effectiveness of the SEA (P1, P2, P5, P6, P7, and P11). Targeted community members of proposed plans were aware about the SEA process and benefits (P1, P2, P4, and P6). Interviewee P3 and P9 mentioned that during the SEA studies in Pakistan public participation was ensured and their perceptions and opinions were documented in different consultative sessions. According to interviewee P6, SEA is new in the country and less practiced, which are the main reasons for lack awareness in community about the SEA and its benefits. Interviewee P8 indicated that it is difficult to measure the level of awareness in a community regarding benefits and effectiveness of the SEA. Awareness about the SEA and environmental concerns are ongoing process in Pakistan but needs continuous efforts to improve [6]. Pakistan needs awareness about the SEA but project related communities, media and judiciary in general are already aware about the importance of the SEA for environmental governance [8].

Information available for SEA studies of sufficient quality

The majority of interviewees believed SEA studies in Pakistan have good quality information available to address socio-environmental concerns at the strategic level. Some interviewees mentioned that they were not in a position to say that these reports contained high quality information (P2, P5 and P7). According to interviewee P3 the quality of information was assured in the SEA report of the Gilgit City Master Plan, but they were not aware about the quality of information in other reports. The good quality of information is available in the SEA report of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) hydropower plans (P4). Interviewee P6 indicated that the SEA report of the Indus River Basin offers good quality information about socio-environmental concerns of damming and hydropower plans on Indus mainstreams. (P8) added that the World Bank, IUCN, and WAPDA assured quality of information in these studies to document socio-environmental concerns of proposed plans. The IUCN and Hagler Bailly assured good quality of information in the SEA reports of the Gilgit City Plan and AJ&K hydropower plans (P9 and P10). The SEA report of the Kashmir hydropower plans offers good quality of information for environmental friendly decision-making [8-11]. The SEA study of Gilgit City Master Plan was expensive study and quality of information assured by the Gilgit Development Authority [10,11], however, mention that the Environmental Assessment reports in Pakistan in general contains poor quality of information due to minimal financial resource from project developers and lack of experience and knowledge in consultants and environmental protection agencies.

Level of stakeholder’s participation in SEA studies and their influence on decision-making

According to a few interviewees the level of stakeholder participation was enough in the current SEA studies of Pakistan, but their influence on decision making was not clear (P1, P5 and P10). The stakeholder participation is always ensured in Pakistan in the environmental assessment studies, either in EIA or SEA studies to make the process collaborative, as mentioned by (P3), As EIA and SEA are collaborative processes in Azad and Jammu Kashmir (AJ&K), state and stakeholders participation is mandatory under the Environmental Protection Act of 2000 (interviewee P4). Stakeholder participation is mandatory in the SEA process of Pakistan and its influence on decision-making depends on the type of project and the level of awareness in the community and stakeholders (P5). The level of stakeholder participation in the SEA study of the Indus Water River Basin was good while the influence of decision-making should be considered as appropriate (Interviewee P6). The IUCN conducted the SEA studies in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and communities as mentioned by (P9), while stakeholders influence on decision making needs further improvement (P8 and P9). The strategic consultation conducted for the SEA study AJ&K hydropower plans was limited because of its security risks and limited access to all project sites [8,11]. The Upper Indus River Basin SEA study conducted only few strategic consultations due to the border river basin [12]. In some cases relevant stakeholders developed a coordination mechanism in current SEA studies through consultative sessions to conduct SEA studies, but in general the EIA relevant departments of the project and proponents are responsible to set a coordination mechanism among stakeholders in the country (P1 and P2). Interviewees P3, P4, P8, P9, and P10 further added that IUCN arranged several consultative sessions for the SEA of Gilgit City Master Plan and Kashmir hydropower plans for consultation. The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) arranged several consultative sessions with support of other stakeholders for the SEA of the Indus River Basin for coordination and documentation of stakeholders perceptions as mentioned by (P6). Generally, coordination among stakeholders during environmental assessment studies is weak in Pakistan, it need to improve further [10].

Influence of SEA studies on decision-making

According to interviewees P1, P2, P3, P9, and P10 the SEA studies have an influence on decision-making system in the country. The SEA report of the Gilgit City Master Plan has been considering in planning of city and its influence on decision-making was considered high by (P3). The Government of Gilgit-Baltistan (GGB) approved the SEA report of Gilgit City Master Plan and recommendations were send to different government agencies for implementation (P3). The GGB provided financial resource to the Gilgit Development Authority (GDA), Municipal Committee Gilgit (MCG), Water, and Sanitation department (WSD) to strengthen their capacities for sustainable development of city (P3). In this regards, the GDA is engaged in several feasibility studies, including the sewage system and integrated solid waste management system for the city (P3). The SEA of the Kashmir hydropower plans had a strong influence on decision-making as mentioned by (P4). Some of these projects were redesigned and further feasibility studies were conducted to incorporate socio-environmental concerns and downstream flow (P4 and P10). The Azad and Jammu Kashmir (AJ&K) government developed a hydropower development committee for future hydropower planning (P4 and P10). The Government of AJ&K established a coordination committee among different hydropower development agencies to develop a joint vision for sustainable hydropower production [8]. Interviewee P6 indicated that the SEA study of Indus River Basin of the Pakistan had strong influence on decision-making system and strategic planning of the Indus river basin. The SEA studies had an influence on decision-making system, but it is too early to say how strong decisions were influenced. Interviewee P7 mentioned that the EIA had an influence on the decision-making system, but SEA influence on decision-making system is still unknown in our records.

Key challenges for SEA in Pakistan

Some interviewees had similar responses on challenges for Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Pakistan, including lack of technical staff, funding, laboratories, Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) site offices, trainings and weak knowledge of SEA (P1, P2, P3, and P4). Some respondent believed that corruption and lack of political will are key challenges for SEA in Pakistan (P5 and P11). Interviewee P5 added that Pakistan priorities totally shifted since 2001 due to war on terror not only ignoring the environment but also other key societal areas. SEA is a new approach in Pakistan and lack of experts and expertise are emerging concerns for the SEA studies in the country, mentioned by (P2 and P5). According to (P8), lack of reliable data and baseline information are major challenges for effective the SEA studies in the country. Interviewee P9 indicated that Pakistan mostly focuses on development instead of sustainable development and the environment has less priority in the country. The SEA studies are expensive in Pakistan and proponents or departments have less funding to conduct SEA studies for each PPPs (P10). A first challenge for SEA in Pakistan is the devolution of environmental authority from federal to province because a provincial environmental protection agency has weak capacities [8]. Second, is the weak knowledge and training about the SEA in Environmental Protection Agencies [8]. Third, confront for the SEA in Pakistan is less staff for the SEA studies in planning departments, EPAs and other development institutions [8]. Fourth concern for the SEA in Pakistan is financial resources for primary data collection and SEA studies [8]. The fifth challenge is the weak environmental screening and scoping process [10].

Discussion

Pakistan transposed SEA in their National and Provincial Environmental Protection Acts after the 18th amendment in the constitution except for the Punjab region. This embedding in the legislation will help Pakistan to reach 2025 vision of sustainable development [8]. Nonetheless, Pakistan needs to develop proper SEA guidelines and procedures to achieve the desired objectives [8]. Pakistan conducted SEA studies for the Gilgit City Master Plan, Hydropower Plans of Kashmir, Hydropower Plan of Upper Indus River Basin and Trade Corridor Programmes. Nevertheless, all these SEA studies conducted for donor funding policies, plans and programmes [3].

The devolution of environmental aspects from the federal to provinces is one of the major concerns for the SEA implementation. In particular as the Provincial Environmental Protection Agencies (PEPAs) have weak capacities for effective monitoring of SEA studies [3]. Likewise, they need to improve their capacities and methodologies for effective SEA studies in the provinces [8]. However, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) experiences of provinces will help the Provincial Environmental Protection Agencies (PEPAs) for the SEA implementation [8]. The SEA is a new approach for Pakistan and their environmental authorities are worried about weak training and knowledge for effective monitoring of SEA studies. Similarly, the National Impact Assessment Programme of the International for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was the only single programme who helped Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) to strengthen their capacities in the SEA [13]. Pakistan political priority is the war on terror rather environment and SEA. The lack of good research centres, scattered and unreliable data and limited number of experts of the SEA in Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) are the institutional challenges for the SEA also because limited budget is a common challenge in all government institutions.

Conclusion

Pakistan transposed SEA in their federal and Provincial Environmental Protection Acts and this legislation made favorable conditions for the SEA in the country. Although, still there are lot of uncertainties for the SEA studies in Pakistan, particularly the weak capacities of the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs), least amount budget for SEA studies, poor quality of reports and weak coordination among stakeholders during EIA/SEA studies. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) of Pakistan are struggling for technical and financial resources due to weak political priority for the environment and natural resource management in the country. Pakistan has less experience of the SEA studies only for the donor funded policies, plans and programmes (PPPs). Pakistan need to improve capacities of environmental protection agencies and stakeholders to introduced effective SEA system in the country.

Recommendations

• Current programme management systems and tools developed and announced.

• Support the needs of the agency’s present monitoring mandates and schedules.

• Recognize and lay the intellectual foundations that will permit the agency to address current environmental challenges and challenges that it will look over the course of the next several years.

• Endure and continually rejuvenate a diverse in house scientific research supervise – with the essential laboratories and field capabilities – to funding the agency in its present and future assignments and in its active teamwork with other supports.

Acknowledgment

I am offering my warmest gratitude and appreciation to Prof. Kenneth Irvine, Dr. Wim Douven and Dr. Babar Khan (WWF-Pakistan) for their guidance, supervision and comments throughout this study

I want to thank Mr. Sheraz Memoon (Additional Commissioner) Indus Water Commission of Pakistan for his technical and moral support during this study.

I am offering my special thanks to all interviewees and organizations, who made available their precious time and contributed to the knowledge generated for this study.

Lastly, I want to thank the UNESCO-IHE account and fellowships departments for their administrative support to make the field work possible.

References

Citation: Ali F, Khan IA, Asghar W, Liao Z, Beghum S, et al. (2018) Legal Status of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Practice of Application and Challenges in Pakistan. Int J Waste Resour 8: 341.  DOI: 10.4172/2252-5211.1000341

Copyright: © 2018 Ali F, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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