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Air pollution

After a long time, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed a press conference on Saturday in Lahore, and instead of taking up sundry issues, he remained focused on a single, and arguably the most pressing issue of the city – smog and air pollution. He announced several concrete measures to stem the tide of smog, in particular, and air pollution, in general, in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the two provinces hard-hit by air pollution. The main actions his government has planned to control air pollution include: only the oil meeting European Union’s Euro four emission levels will be imported, while within a year Euro five emission oil will be the standard oil in the country; local oil refineries will be given three years to upgrade plants to produce Euro four and five oil; electric vehicles will replace the existing auto industry and all buses will either be hybrid, electric or CNG-based; imported machinery will be provided to farmers to deal with rice stubble to discourage burning them; brick kiln owners will be assisted to turn to zigzag technology; steel mills will be helped to buy scrubbers at affordable rates by removing duties on them so air pollution from steel factories can be curbed; and last but not least Lahore will grow urban forests on over 60,000 kanals. This is a long list of measures, all doable and the need of the hour to tackle pollutants plaguing cities and rural localities.
The government has woken up to the intensity of the choking pollution level after Punjab was forced to shut schools on two occasions. Smog is not a Lahore-alone issue. Neighbouring Delhi, Tehran, and Beijing have all been under heavy toxic layers of smog for several years. Tehran, cloaked by smog, has shut down schools and universities after increased air pollution made it difficult for students to go outdoors. The intensity of the pollution threat, however, also requires short-term steps to lower the pollution level, and those could be the implementation of the Punjab Smog Commission recommendations. That deals with the closure of brick kilns and carbon-emitting factories besides enforcing a ban on crop burning in local farms. Several experts argue that smog is a locally made problem. The most comforting point, however, is that the government is taking air pollution very seriously and the prime minister himself unveiled anti-pollution measures. If these plans are implemented in letter and spirit, it will be the best gift by the government to the public. *



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