Strict curbs likely as Punjab wakes up to growing vehicular pollution

  • Environment Minister Zakia Shahnawaz chairs crucial meeting at EPD Secretariat today

The Punjab government has decided to enforce strict rules and laws to protect citizens from hazardous effects of vehicular pollution, Pakistan Today has learnt.

In this respect, a high-level meeting – being called today (Wednesday) at the Secretariat of Punjab’s Environmental Protection Department (EPD) under the chair of Punjab Environment Minister Zakia Shahnawaz – will review implementation of judicial orders on steps for controlling vehicular pollution in the province.

The Supreme Court and Lahore High Court had, in their separate orders, issued directives for action against two-stroke rickshaws and other vehicles emitting smoke and generating noise pollution.

It may be mentioned here that Pakistan Today had on May 15 published a report captioned, “Punjab’s vehicular pollution a matter of life and death – EPD silent”, highlighting department’s lethargic response to the issue of ever-growing public health concern in Lahore and other major urban centres of the province.

Per documents available with this scribe regarding agenda of today’s meeting, the Punjab environment minister will get a briefing from EPD officials on steps taken to bring pollution levels down by instituting curbs against smoke-emitting vehicles and two-stroke rickshaws.

According to EPD communique, the monitoring exercise conducted by the EPD indicates that ambient air quality especially in urban centres of the province was not fit as noise, smoke and other parametres were exceeding the limits prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Pakistan Environmental Quality Standards (PEQS).

The document reads that two-stroke rickshaws and old-diesel-engine vehicles were the major causes behind increasing vehicular pollution.

“The EPD has done a lot of work for the creation of awareness amongst the federal and provincial departments and to aware the users about the ill effects of two stroke engine rickshaws and old diesel engine vehicles since its creation in 1996,” the documents details.

It further says that special joint campaigns had also been launched with the assistance of environmental squads comprising representatives of traffic police, Transport and Environment Department. “Thousands of smoky and noisy vehicles have been challaned under the Motor Vehicle Ordinance, 1965 / Motor Vehicle Rules, 1969 but ultimately it was concluded that environment can only be saved and improved by replacing two-stroke engine rickshaws with four stroke engine rickshaws / vehicles and by replacing old diesel engine buses with CNG-dedicated engine buses or Euro-I, II, III engine buses,” it adds.

It is pertinent to mention here that a meeting on April 15, 2010 had vowed to chalk out a plan for the phasing out of two-stroke rickshaws from the city but so far no plan of action has been submitted. This meeting had been attended by the secretary transport and secretary environment as well.

Today’s meeting is likely to approve a complete ban on two-stroke rickshaws or to convert them with four stroke and the aforementioned conversion will be carried out through companies and firms involved in manufacturing of four-stroke engines and which are already approved by the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and Engineering Development Board.

During the first phase, implementation of this ban will be ensured in five big cities Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala.