ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Advisor for Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, on Tuesday said the Smog Commission Report has helped the incumbent government in setting a course of action for apposite climate change mitigation and pollution reduction measures in the region.
Speaking at the occasion of seventh Annual Green Office Conference organised by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Pakistan, he said that Smog is one of the critical issues being faced by the country in the spectrum of Climate Change, while referring to the World Bank 2006 Pakistan – Strategic country environmental assessment, adding that environmental degradation costs the country at least 6 per cent of GDP, or about Rs 365 billion per year and these costs fall disproportionately upon the poor.
“Despite the report, the issue has been left unattended which is regrettable as the nation has been paying the price in the form of lingering severe air pollution in the country,” he added.
The Smog Commission Report, he said was a comprehensive and much-deliberated document by various researchers and environment experts including other stakeholders facilitated the government to develop a mechanism with the earnest efforts mitigating the Smog risk. “Around 6.5 million people perish around the globe every year due to air pollution and it also gives the gravity of the issue of Smog we are dealing with,” he remarked.
Malik Amin Aslam said, “The present government is committed to playing its role in extenuating and combating the challenge and has taken concrete steps including planting trees, banning brick kiln operations, shifting brick kiln industry towards zigzag technology, curbing open crop stubble and waste burning, controlling vehicular emissions.”
He added that the government was also looking at measuring pollutions of the cars and to issue a fitness certificate to the car emitting less harmful emissions every year, adding the steel mills were the next major environmental violators where 700 of them have been converted after installation of scrubbers for reducing dangerous emissions.
“The Billion Tree Tsunami initiative has been cordially welcomed by all of the provinces as after 18th amendment the environment’s subject was devolved which was a setback for provinces to fully implement the department due to lack of expertise and resources. However, all provinces are on board and we are in the final stage of decision making about the targets to be achieved by the provinces under the initiative,” he remarked.
For the trans-boundary pollution breeding Smog, he said it needs attention and proper vigilance as it will not reduce even after our indigenous efforts and Pakistan would like to support a convention on air pollution on the matter and bring it at international level for mindful and inclusive solutions to address the issue.
“There are no liquid treatment plants in the country and the government intends to take steps over the issue and we want to provide proper water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and clean drinking facilities as a recent study revealed that a chunk of country’s population lacks the facilities which are their fundamental rights. Our country dumps 40 million-acre feet into the Arabian Sea which would be utilized to charge underground depleting water table through developing reservoirs at various locations of Sindh and Punjab as we are collaborating with China for the project,” he added.
Director General WWF-Pakistan Hammad Naqi Khan in his opening remarks said that WWF being the largest organization globally in general and in Pakistan, in particular, believes that corporate sector in the country has to contribute its share in Smog and air pollution mitigating initiatives. He added that Green Office programme was established to take corporate sector on board for reducing harmful emissions from their energy and production units as they under the project sensitize their workers and adopt environmentally-friendly technologies and practices. “WWF has certified 15 companies with Green Office Certificate so far,” he informed.
“Lahore and Karachi are among the ten most polluted cities in the world in terms of air quality, according to air quality monitor AirVisual. The ranking today puts Lahore at the top of the list, and urgent action needs to be taken to tackle this issue (Smog) as it has become critically important,” he said.
Khan said that Public health emergency should be imposed in the hotspot cities as air pollution caused by traffic, industries, crop burning and burning of solid waste are major contributors of smog and the layer of smog is expected to thicken in the coming days. Urban air pollution in Pakistan is among the world’s most severe, significantly damaging human health, quality of life, economy and the environment, he added.
Following DG WWF-Pakistan’s address Energy and Air Pollution Analyst Green Peace, Lauri presented his research on the prevalent air quality of Pakistan’s leading cities. He informed that European Union and the United States have undergone massive environment deterioration in the past 5-6 decades which they tackled systematically, however, China has turned the trend around. Satellite Mapping has helped to indicate hotspots along with the polluting sources or locales to identify the exact level of pollution and consequent measures for preparedness and management, he said during his online presentation from Jakarta.
Director General Environment Protection Department (EPD) Punjab Syeda Malika apprised the participants about the current Smog Policy and shared highlights from the Punjab Clean Air Action Plan. “Smog is a form of severe air pollution when air quality changes drastically,” she added.
The EPD, she said records the Air Quality Index every day and takes stern actions against violators adding, industrial units, brick kilns or any unit found polluting the air is sealed unless it has air pollution control systems installed. “Solid waste and crop stubble burning is banned and first information reports (FIRs) are registered against the violators and the EPD, so far has installed air quality monitors in Multan, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Lahore the one at Wagha to monitor trans-boundary pollution,” she informed.
Associate Professor, Government College University Lahore, Faiza Sharif presented that brick kilns are a big contributor to air quality pollution and therefore, the working dynamics and benefits of zigzag technology aims at decreasing pollution and also rendered comparisons and successful outcomes of the technology resulting in increased revenue and energy efficacy.
However, a panel discussion was also conducted comprising of environmental journalists Rina Saeed while issues pertaining to social, economic and health impacts of smog were brought under consideration.