Lahore: 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 the 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 public buses running on spurious fuel and spewing hazardous smoke in the major cities were the main 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, the 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 realising 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 centres to keep a check on the air quality, he said, adding Lahore had two such centres 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.