PM unveils government’s strategy to tackle environmental pollution, smog

Lahore: (Ch Mudassar Iqbal) Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday announced the government’s major plans to tackle the growing threat of smog and pollution in all mega cities of the country especially in Lahore by declaring that for the first time in the country’s history, a government was taking drastic steps to quell health hazard impacts of ‘the silent killer’.

Addressing a press conference here, the prime minister named pollution caused by transport as one of the major reasons for environmental pollution, saying that the government had decided that till end of year 2020, Euro 5 fuel would be imported, while the recent fuel would be converted into Euro4.

He expressed the hope that with such steps, 90 per cent pollutants in the air could be reduced.

The prime minister further apprised that the local oil refineries would be given three year time period to improve and convert their fuel technology on modern lines.

Furthermore, negotiations were underway with the vehicles manufacturing companies for the introduction of electric vehicles, he said, hinting that in January 2020, the government would also lay down an incentive policy in this regard.

He said the public buses running on dirty fuels and spewing hazardous smoke in the major cities were the major reason for pollution and smog, so they would be gradually replaced with hybrid or electric-run vehicles.
Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, PM’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and ministers were also present.

The prime minister observed that stubble burning during the winter season also add to the environmental woes.

The government would import machinery worth Rs30 billion to help control the issue, he added.

Moreover, steel furnaces and brick kilns were also adding to smog, and the government would also make the owners of these kilns to introduce modern zigzag techniques, he said.

The prime minister said stubble burning in the neighbouring areas of India was also a reason of intensified smog in Lahore.

A 60,000 kanal area of land had been identified for urban forestry in Lahore and its suburbs, he prime minister said, adding such steps would have slow and gradual impact and people would feel their positive impact within a short span of time.

He observed that major cities like Karachi, Peshawar and Rawalpindi were also facing same challenges and the environmental pollution would go worst if corrective measures were not taken.

“The issue existed for so many years, but for the first time a government is taking effective and practical steps to control it,” he added.

The pollution level in different cities of the country had intensified and the cities like Lahore and Gujranwala were among the world’s top areas affected largely by pollution and smog, he said.

He regretted that about 70 per cent trees were felled in Lahore.

The prime minister said the pollution and smog had been affecting people in Lahore for quite some time and no one was realizing how serious threat it could pose to the health of grown up and children by giving rise to different respiratory diseases.

To have an effective strategy, there should be monitoring centers to keep a check on the air quality, he said, adding Lahore had two such centers and now their number would be increased to 30 which would help give accurate data.

To a question, he said fuel like Euro4 was considered as clean fuel. Now the people would have to decide whether they wanted to pay a bit more for this fuel or put the lives of their kids in danger.

The prime minister said climate change had negative impact on all human beings, which could be countered through international efforts.

.:Responding to a query, the prime minister said with the grace of Almighty, Pakistan was now out of the economic crisis and they would now be focusing on the economic growth, creation of employment opportunities, construction and after every six months, the countrymen would feel the difference.

He further maintained that when the value of rupee drops by 35 per cent against the US dollar, it can give rise to inflation, however, he expressed the confidence that the nation had been through this difficult time and now moving towards economic stability and turn around leading to ‘good times’.

The prime minister also appreciated his economic team and said today, even the World Bank chief had been all praise for Pakistan. Rupee was being strengthened, stock market was showing robust trends, and there was flow of foreign investment and continuous growth.

The prime minister said his government had inherited the biggest ever fiscal deficit and whopping debt and its political opponents were expecting that it would succumb to such challenges within months which did not happen.

“The government has been facing such mafia from the day first,” he added.

“That mafia has one concern as to how to save their embezzled wealth and ill gotten assets. They are not interested in Pakistan. They had gathered around Maulana (Fazl) who had arrived Islamabad to conquer it. But rather, he was coming to distribute diesel permits. All the mafia that surrounded him even did not know what were the reasons of Maulana’s arrival,” he added.

He said, this mafia then rushed to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Supreme Court. They had one objective in their failed efforts; that was to destabilize the government.

They had only one fear that they would no longer be able to eat that ‘halwa’ and feared that if the government succeeded in its economic and development policies, their antics and business would be ended forever, he added.

About reforms in Punjab province, the prime minister maintained that these had never been undertaken in the history and for such achievements, they could not waste Rs50 billion on advertisements like the past rulers.

Defending the chief minister of Punjab and the recent reshuffle in the bureaucracy, he said Buzdar was a gentle man who was not misusing the public money on his personal security.
The prime minister said he along with the chief minister considered these

changes after three months consultations with the retired and experienced bureaucrats.

“All these steps are being taken to improve governance in the province,” he added.

About the issue of former convicted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s treatment abroad, he said the concerned medical board had submitted its report citing the critical condition of the patient and upon its basis and on human empathy, he also convinced the whole cabinet.

He told the mediamen to wait for the medical reports of Nawaz Sharif which would clear the situation.

About Kashmir issue, the prime minister said it had been never highlighted in the past the way his government was taking it up.

To a question regarding non-payment of salaries and dismissal of media men from their jobs, the prime minister said it was a big injustice when an employer did not pay for his employees and asked his special assistant on information to look into the issue.

To another query regarding a letter sent by Opposition leader in the National Assembly Mian Shahbaz Sharif in which according to media reports he had proposed three names for the next Election Commissioner of Pakistan, the prime minister informed that he did not go through such correspondence yet.

The prime minister to another question said the Supreme Court had not mentioned anything about the government’s legal team in its short order at the conclusion of a case on the grant of extension to the army chief.