PM Imran Khan unveils strategy to curb smog, improve air quality in Pakistan

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By Muhammad Luqman

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has unveiled a
six-pronged  strategy to combat the
challenge of air pollution especially smog that has been hitting the South
Asian country for the last several years.

“ The recent rise in air pollution in Lahore city is decline
in the number trees by 70 percent during the last decade,” Prime Minister told
a press conference in the eastern city 
of Lahore on Saturday evening.

Lahore has been experiencing the smog problem during the
months of October and November since the year 2016

“A 70 per cent drop in vegetative cover has  far-reaching consequences of  Lahorites,” Premier Imran Khan told
newsmen.

He said that with a dense tree cover, pollution particles
are absorbed by the leaves. And with them being cut, the city had faced a great
loss.

Salient features of the anti-air pollution strategy are:

  1.  Oil that meets EU’s Euro-4 emission standard
    will now be imported. By the end of 2020, a shift will be made to oil that
    meets the Euro-5 emission standard.

  2)  Oil refineries will be given a three-year
warning period to improve the quality of oil produced. If they fail, they will
be shut down.

3)The auto industry will be asked to shift towards electric
vehicles. All buses will either be hybrid, electric or CNG-based.

4)    Imported
machinery will assist farmers to make use of the post-harvest rice crop, rather
than burn it.

5) Brick kilns will be given financial aid to use zigzag
technology which is environmentally friendly.

    Import duties on
scrubbers will be removed so air pollution from steel factories can be curbed.

6)   An urban forestry
initiative in Lahore will see tree plantation over 60,000 kanals of land.

The premier noted that while crop burning in India and Pakistan as well as smoke from factories and brick kilns are all contributing factors to air pollution, the biggest contributor is vehicular smoke.

“What adds the most to air pollution is transport. [To
combat] this, we have made certain decisions,” he said.

Imran Khan  said that
Pakistan relies on 50-60 per cent of imports for oil and currently imports oil
that meets the European Union’s Euro 2 emission standard. “We have decided
we will import a more clean (environmental friendly) oil, [which will meet] the
Euro 4 standard.”

“[This Euro 4 compliant oil] has fewer chemicals which
pollute the air. By the end of 2020, we will shift to the Euro 5 emission
standard. We feel this will have a 90 per cent impact on the quality of
air.”

He said that the decisions had been made after a detailed
meeting with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on petroleum
division, Nadeem Babar.

Announcing other measures, the prime minister said that oil
refineries will be given a period of three years to improve the quality of oil
produced. “The quality they are producing has a lot of pollutants.”

“If they do not move towards producing cleaner oil in
this time, we will shut them down,” warned the premier.

He also announced that the government had decided to shift
the focus of the auto industry towards electric vehicles. “We are holding
talks with the car industries, because they have certain reservations.”

The prime minister said that an incentive policy will be
introduced in 2020. He said the new government policy will lay special emphasis
on buses.

“The buses that run across our cities will either be
hybrid vehicles or electric. Or, we may insist on CNG, like in Delhi, where
they run buses only on CNG.”

Speaking of the practice whereby farmers burn rice crop
after its harvest, the premier said that imported machinery will be brought in
which will facilitate the farmers to make use of the post-harvest crop, making
it possible for it to be sold. This will ensure that there is no need to burn
the crop, drastically reducing the air pollution caused otherwise.

He then spoke of steel factories and brick kilns,
“which are the main sources of the hazardous, fine air particles known as
PM2.5”.

The prime minister said that import duties on scrubbers will
be removed, so that the steel factories can purchase them. Scrubbers are
systems that use liquid (typically water) to remove particulates from
industrial exhaust streams.

He said that similarly, brick kilns, will be financially
aided by the government to use zigzag technology which will reduce air
pollution.

Turning to Lahore, he said that an urban forestry initiative
will be undertaken in the city. “We have identified 60,000 kanals of land
where we will grow trees so they can clean the city’s air.”

“The impact will be slow. These are steps which should
have been taken 20 years ago but no one bothered,” said the prime
minister, adding: “We feel that every year people should see an
improvement (in air quality). And in three years a significant difference will
be seen.”

The prime minister recognised that Lahore is not the only
city suffering from high levels of pollution. “It is an issue in Karachi,
in Peshawar, in Pindi. This issue (of pollution) will greatly affect our future
generations if we do not take steps to combat it today.”

“Pollution is a silent killer, unlike when you witness
an accident or a murder. And it is very dangerous,” he said, regretting
that Pakistan has now reached the top in the list of most polluted cities.

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