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November 13, 2019

‘Air pollution causes 50pc of environmental degradation cost’

National

November 13, 2019

Islamabad: Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam has said that air pollution is a silent killer as the economic cost of environmental degradation over the last decade went up from 6 per cent to 9 per cent in which air pollution contributes 50 per cent of the total cost. Mr Aslam was speaking here at a seminar on ‘Combating air pollution for improved public health, agriculture and economy: Time to act now’ organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Mr Aslam said that the major contributing factor to worsening air quality and causing smog issue in the country, especially in Lahore, is transport sector followed by crop burning and waste burning and emissions from brick kilns and steel furnaces. He said that we also have cross boundary issue with India, especially related to crop burning, which requires regional approach for redressal. He underlined the need for more air quality data monitoring stations around the country Under Punjab Green Development Programme with the help of World Bank. He said that we are in the process of establishing around 30 air quality monitoring stations in Punjab, of which 10 will be establish in Lahore only. He observed that this programme also aimed at building capacity of provincial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These monitoring stations will provide more reliable data to take informed decision and data will also be available to public for awareness and preventive measures, he continued.

Mr Aslam revealed that under the PGDP, we are establishing a fund of 50 million dollars to help subsidise the industries to shift away from the pollutant technologies which in turn will help reduce emissions. Vehicle inspection and certification system, under the same project, was already set up and he hoped to expand it at national level to help cut the emissions in transport sector.

Malik Amin Aslam said that Pakistan Electric Vehicle Policy had already been approved by the Cabinet and the country has unique opportunity of transition towards e-mobility which will help eventually in lowering the emissions in the country.

Asif Shuja Khan, Former Director General, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, said that we should have scientific approach to control air pollution and we can overcome the challenge through dedication and political will. He said that in the last 19 years, the overall population of the country increased exponentially, where only Punjab population jumping to 36 million. Such rapid increase in population triggered greater use of vehicles by 268 per cent in last 15 years where motorbike usage increased by 439%, public transport by 167 percent and private vehicle by 327 percent. Dr Tayyab Razi Rathore from National Institute of Health said that air pollution and smog were declared public health emergency in many part of the world. He said that one of the most dangerous impacts of air pollution on public health is congenital anomalies which highlight urgency of the issue.

Dr Imran Khalid from SDPI highlighted the need for utilising atmospheric modelling techniques to understand the pathways through which air pollutants effect our communities. He urged the need to develop an understanding of regional “air-sheds” which can help devise solutions to counter trans-boundary air pollution. In question answer session, Dr Mahmood A Khwaja from SDPI stressed the need for legally binding agreement to control and reduce cross boundary air pollution. He also recommended subsidising the expensive smog preventive masks for the common citizens to prevent them from air pollution and smog.

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