The space on the roads of the federal capital is being squeezed with each passing day due to the ill planning of the transport authorities who are registering new vehicles without keeping their effects on the environment into account.
Acting Excise and Taxation Officer Sharif Gull said the authority was registering almost 45,000 new vehicles each year.
According to the Federal Excise and Taxation Office, 50 to 70 motorbikes, 90 to 100 private cars, four to five commercial vehicles and 10 to 15 government vehicles were being added to the city’s traffic each day.
According to Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency’s (PEPA) Daily Air Quality Index for Islamabad recorded two days ago, the level of Particulate Matter (PM) in the air was 42.9 micro gm, against a safe limit of 35 micro gm.
Tiny airborne particles that are less than 100 micrometers are collectively referred to as total suspended particulate matter (TSP). These particles constantly enter the atmosphere from various sources such as vehicle emission, industrial processes, power generation, pollen and salt particles as a result of evaporation.
“The authorities are not paying attention to making the public transport system efficient and instead show satisfaction over the rising number of vehicles, claiming that the people are getting richer and the country is on the path towards development,” a PEPA official told Pakistan Today on condition of anonymity.
He criticised PEPA for not taking proper measures to decrease pollution, which was on the rise due to the increasing number of vehicles plying the roads. He said the government, instead of protecting the environment, was supporting automobile manufacturers. The official said the country’s environmental managers had no plan to control the worsening environment of the federal capital, adding that PEPA must check the quality of fuel available in the market, as unrefined fuel was one of the major sources of hazardous emissions that spoiled the environment.
“It must be ensured that all companies supply refined fuel,” the official said, adding that the standard of engine, driving habits and the traffic control system also contributed towards increasing or controlling pollution.
Wishing not to be named, a research officer at PEPA said the agency had a ‘Vehicular Emission Testing System’ to control pollution, but it was not taking requisite steps for across-the-board implementation of the system. He said PEPA or the Environment Ministry had not done anything to control the increasing number of vehicles, however, they could take steps to control pollution.
The research officer said the emission testing system alone could do wonders if implemented properly. The system, he said, tested the vehicles for smoke opacity, CO, CO2 and HC respectively, after which the measured values of the parameters were compared with the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) for vehicle clearance.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is another harmful contributor to the pollution. It is a greenhouse gas mainly responsible for climate change.
Mohammad Adnan, a resident of Sector I/8 who commutes to Blue Area in his car daily, said new cars “were not as dangerous for human health or the environment, rather it was the smoke emitted by older vehicles which was the real threat. The government should take measures to ban such vehicles and the violators should be accordingly fined.” Nasir, a resident of Rawal Town who was stuck in a traffic jam near Islamabad Club, said, “Vehicles that come from Rawalpindi are responsible for the messing up of Islamabad’ traffic system. Those drivers also do not pay attention to smoke emission and traffic rules.”
Traffic Constable Irfan Ahmed said, “The smoke emission from vehicles, especially from older cars, buses and motorbikes cause major problems. It is our duty to control them, but it becomes very difficult to do that owing to the growing number of such vehicles.”
He said traffic authorities did conduct fitness inspection of vehicles and provided stickers to those they deemed fit for plying the roads, but since thousands of cars and other vehicles came on to the roads each year, it was a daunting task to keep track of all of them.
Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Spokesman Dr Waseem Khwaja said carbon monoxide (CO) was associated mainly with vehicles running on petrol and caused more problems for those suffering from heart ailments
He said CO also led to drowsiness, affected hearing, caused eye and skin allergies and asthma.
“Vehicles emitting hazardous smoke need to be put off the roads, however, we cannot do anything. It is out of our domain. Otherwise we know how dangerous these cars and buses are for human health,” he said.