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The News - 2 month ago

As the world moves to curb air pollution, Pakistan follows suit

LAHORE: With the climate crisis escalating in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan had come up a few days ago with a much-anticipated and timely strategy to tackle environmental pollution and smog etc., not much different from what many developed and under-developed countries are doing, or have been doing for decades, to harness this silent killer that claims over seven million human lives prematurely across the planet each year.According to government s recent estimates, air pollution impacts 4.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), besides resulting in various health hazards like lung diseases, child stunting and cancer etc.The incumbent Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) regime thinks that environmental hazards in the country are due to an increase in the transport plying on the roads, viewing that motorcycles alone have increased by 250 per cent during the last five years.The government feels that other key reasons for air pollution in Pakistan was the phasing out of clean transport with the stoppage of CNG in 2014, and a 70 per cent decline in the number of trees over the past 10 years, especially in Lahore.Before we see and analyze what the world is doing to clean the air quality, here follows a list of the numerous anti-air pollution measures that Imran Khan s regime intends to undertake in this context in near future:The Pakistani government plans import of environment-friendly oil with fewer chemicals, issuance of a stern three-year warning period for oil refineries to improve the quality of oil produced or be prepared for a shut-down, shifting of the auto industry s focus towards production of electric, hybrid or CNG-based vehicles, import of machinery to assist farmers in making use of the post-harvest rice crop, rather than burning it, making brick kilns use the pro-environment zigzag technology, removal of import duties on scrubbers top curb air pollution from steel factories and tree plantation over 60,000 kanals of land etc.What is the world doing to control the air pollutants:Air pollution is a global issue, as University of Birmingham has estimated that over seven million people die each year from air pollution across the world, with 34,000 people in the United Kingdom dying early as a result.Researchers at the University of Birmingham are working to identify the different causes and effects of air pollution, and applying their learning to public policy globally to help develop clean air solutions in areas such as India, China, and East Africa, as well as in cities and regions across the United Kingdom.In its November 4, 2019, the BBC News, an operational business division of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), has highlighted the steps various global cities are taking to counter this massive issue haunting the mankind right now.The British media house had stated: India s capital Delhi is blanketed under a hazardous shroud of air pollution. City authorities have imposed a car rationing scheme in a bid to bring levels down, but experts believe the real blame lies with crop burning by farmers in neighbouring states. Delhi is the latest city to try to come up with ways to tackle increasingly dangerous pollutants in the air. The afore-cited edition of the British public service broadcaster had also discussed what other renowned international cities were doing to in a bid to beat air pollution.It added: Thick smog used to frequently blanket the UK capital of London in the 19th and 20th centuries, when people burned coal to warm homes and heavy industry in the city centre pumped chemicals into the air. Referred to as pea-soupers, the most famous of these events was the so-called Great Smog of London in 1952. Cold weather in the preceding days meant people had burned more coal - often of low quality, which released more sulphur dioxide - while inner-city coal power stations added to the haze. The BBC News had maintained: An anticyclone then settled over London, trapping cold air under a layer of warm air. The smog lowered visibility to a few feet and, over four days, is thought to have killed more than 10,000 people. The esteemed media house, which maintains 50 foreign news bureaus with more than 250 correspondents around the world, has revealed that in 1956, the United Kingdom had passed the Clean Air Act to regulate both industrial and domestic smoke, imposing smoke control areas in towns and cities where only smokeless fuels could be burned and offering subsidies to households to convert to cleaner fuels.It further stated: The act was extended in 1968, and air quality substantially improved in London through the following decades. Air pollution still remains at hazardous levels in London. The city recently introduced an Untra Low Emission Zone, which charges drivers of more polluting vehicles. London City Hall said in October that toxic air pollution had dropped by a third in the six months since the measure came into place. The BBC News had more to say about London s unsatisfactory air quality: But the UK capital still has some of the highest pollution levels in Europe. Particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide remain the greatest concern, and thousands are thought to die prematurely every year because of pollutants in the air. With reference to Beijing, the BBC News opined that China s rapid industrialization had brought a huge rise in air pollution.It asserted: Coal-burning power stations and a boom in car ownership from the 1980s onwards filled Beijing s air with hazardous chemicals. A United Nations report this year shows that in the space of just four years, between 2013 and 2017, fine particles level in Beijing dropped by 35 isAllowed=y per cent, while levels in surrounding regions dropped by 25 per cent. No other city of region on the planet has achieved such a feat, the report says. The BBC News, enjoying services of 3500 staffers, went on to say that since then, the Chinese government has imposed ultra-low emission standards, created an advanced air quality monitoring system, and built more public transport, although Beijing hasn t entirely fixed its problem and the city still struggles with pollutants.What has China done to fix the problem?The United Nation data shows the importance of cutting vehicle emissions, government incentives for private businesses, data transparency, and diversifying the economy away from heavy industry to successfully cut pollution levels.About Mexico City, which was infamous during the 1970s and 1980s for its poor air, the BBC News, which generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online news coverage, had noted: Just breathing was the equivalent of smoking dozens of cigarettes a day. Its tens of millions of inhabitants driving across the huge city in hundreds of thousands of cars pushed pollutant levels sky high. The city s position within a high-altitude valley means the poor air is often trapped by a ring of mountains. In 1992 the UN gave it the dubious honour of being the most polluted city on the planet. In 1989, Mexico City became the first in the world to impose curbs on car usage by slashing down the number of cars on city roads by 20 per cent from Monday to Friday, depending on their number plates. It immediately helped lower pollutants.The BBC News had proclaimed: This was followed by a package of reforms dubbed ProAire, which expanded public transport and imposed stricter vehicle emissions standards, among other measures. All this helped improve Mexico City s air quality substantially in the years that followed. In May this year, the city officials declared an environmental emergency after PM2.5 particle levels rose to more than six times the World Health Organization daily mean recommended limit. Just as with other cities, Mexico City s experience show there is no easy solution to tackling air pollution. On October 16, 2019 report, Deutsche Welle or DW, the German state-owned public international broadcaster, had reported: Believed to cause seven million premature deaths every year, air pollution is increasingly recognized as a silent public health emergency. It s perhaps the most explicit illustration of how closely intertwined our health is to the state of our environment. Its particles have been found in human hearts and brains. It has been linked to asthma, Alzheimer s, dementia, cancer, and stroke as well as mental health issues and miscarriage. Despite its known damage, over 90 per cent of people around the world still breathe dirty air. Reporting a conference of various international Mayors, held in Copenhagen, the Deutsche Welle had gone on to state that Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, had revealed that although his city was proud of reducing smog by 90 per cent, they still had the worst air quality in America.According to the German media house, one of the priorities of the mayor of Los Angeles was to move towards 100 per cent zero emissions vehicles.The Deutsche Welle wrote: Mayor Garcetti shed light on the stories behind the statistics. He spoke of what it felt like for him as a child in Los Angeles. His home, at the intersection of two freeways, was situated on a street with a cancer cluster due to emissions. Both his parents and sister are survivors of a total of eight times between them. The eminent Bonn-based German media outlet said Tokyo, Paris, London, Buenos Aires and Los Angeles have committed to set ambitious pollution reduction targets by 2025, besides establishing targets that would set them on a path to meeting WHO guidelines for particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and sulphur dioxide by 2030.According to the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, some 150 microsensors have been installed in schools across the city, while the future plans include the development of more precise measurement tools and working to replace diesel-run buses.In its report under review, the 66-year old Deutsche Welle had held that India was one such country where a large number of the world s most polluted cities could be found.Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of New Delhi, said his plans included the creation of city-scale 269 water bodies, greenscaping of 500 kilometers of roads and induction of 1,000 electric buses.Similarly, Sayeed Khokon, the mayor of Dhaka South, told DW that rapid urbanization and development for cities were big challenges in tackling air pollution, and introduction of electric vehicles and increasing the pollution monitoring systems were integral parts of his plan.Last but not least, the May 17, 2016 edition of a widely-read British newspaper The Guardian had carried a report reading: Paris bans cars in many historic central districts at weekends, imposes odd-even bans on vehicles, makes public transport free during major pollution events and encourages car- and bike-sharing programmes. A long section of the Right Bank of the river Seine is now car-free and a monthly ban on cars has come into force along the Champs-Elys es. About the Netherlands, the newspaper said the Dutch politicians wanted to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2025, allowing only electric or hydrogen vehicles.By the way, the proposed new law in Holland would allow anyone who already owns a petrol or diesel car to continue using it. Most Dutch cities encourage bicycle use though.The Guardian had further divulged: Freiburg in Germany has 500km of bike routes, tramways, and a cheap and efficient public transport system. One suburb, Vauban, forbids people to park near their homes and makes car-owners pay 18,000 for a space on the edge of town. In return for living without a car, people are offered cheaper housing, free public transport, and plentiful bicycle spaces. About the Danish city of Copenhagen, the 198-year old British newspaper had contended: Copenhagen prioritizes bikes over cars and now has more cycles than people. The city calculates that one mile on a bike is worth US $0.42 to society, while one mile in a car is a $0.20 loss. Large parts of the Danish capital have been closed to vehicles for decades and the city plans to become carbon neutral by 2025. Meanwhile, the Norwegian capital of Oslo, according to this compact newspaper, plans to halve its climate emissions by 2020 and proposes a large no-car zone, the building of 40 miles of new bike lanes, steep congestion charges, a rush-hour fee for motorists, and the removal of many parking spaces.Meanwhile, the Guardian had also unveiled the climate-improvement plans of cities like Helsinki, Zurich, the Brazilian city of Curitiba and the Indian metropolitan of Bangalore.Here follow the plans of these above-mentioned cities in the words of this London-based newspaper having a circulation of 130,496, as of September 2019: Helsinki: The Finnish capital plans to drastically reduce the number of cars on its streets by investing heavily in better public transport, imposing higher parking fees, encouraging bikes and walking and converting inner city ring roads into residential and walking areas. The idea is to make the city s public transport so good that no one will want a car by 2050. Zurich: Zurich has capped the number of parking spaces in the city, only allows a certain number of cars into the city at any one time, and is building more car-free areas, plazas, tram lines and pedestrianised streets. The result has been a dramatic reduction in traffic jams, and less pollution. Curitiba: The southern Brazilian city of 2 million people has one of the biggest and lowest cost bus systems in the world. Nearly 70 per cent of the city goes to work by public transport and the result is pollution-free air and traffic-free streets. Bangalore: The Indian city is converting its 6,000 buses to compressed natural gas and discouraging the car. So far, says the city, it has reduced traffic pollution by about 20 per cent in a few years and one in four people who used to travel by car now use public transport.

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