–Need for regional cooperation to maintain air quality in future by sharing data stressed during online dialougue
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Advisor on Climate Change Malik Aslam has said the world has observed an improvement in air quality because it is affected by with industrial and transport emissions, which means that people’s willingness to adopt a better lifestyle can change air quality.
Addressing an online policy dialogue titled “COVID-19 and Air Quality” organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Tuesday, Malik Aslam said that air pollution is a regional issue, therefore regional collaboration is needed to overcome the issue.
Discussing the damage done to the environment due to increasing pollution, he said one positive aspect of COVID-19 is that nature is healing due to the closure of factories and transport.
“We all know that climate change is no longer a natural phenomenon, but it is occurring due to human activities, which must be run under certain SOPs for which national policies need to be devised,” he maintained.
I reply to a question, Malik Aslam told that the Ministry of Climate Change is considering engaging daily wagers with proper protective measures in tree plantations drives to make the environment and people better simultaneously while also creating a source for daily wagers to earn something during the lockdown.
“We have started shifting to high quality fuel and now our focus is more on areas troubled with air pollution,” he said, adding that the government is working on installing 10 new modern stations for monitoring air quality in big cities.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said if we can close down our activities due to fear of pandemic, then we can also reduce our activities voluntarily post COVID-19 to make our air clean and breathable.
Indiana University Center for Urban Health Director Professor Gabriel Filippelli said the pandemic has caused some substantial changes in human behaviour, like staying at home with minimal transport and shutting down of factories.
In Indiana, he said, a 90 per cent reduction in vehicle traffic has been observed, which improved the air quality.
“Similarly, in China particularly Wuhan, the shutdown of transport and factories improved the air quality,” he maintained.
He said the electric vehicles policy is in the offing and soon the country will move on from manufacturing two-wheelers to making to 3 and 4 wheelers.
Citing comparisons from recent studies done in Indianapolis, he said the problem with air quality as a metric is that it varies over time because of human emissions, atmospheric conditions, etc., so studies show 38 per cent reduction in these emissions.
“We have a direct link to our own environment, so our action can improve local health,” he added.
Chintan Founder Director Bharati Chaturvedi said that people having long-term exposure to bad air quality are more vulnerable to COVID-19, adding that recent figures from Europe show that they too have unclean air.
“April is the season of minor crop burning, but we are not presently looking at the issue due to lockdown and unavailability of labour. Immediate measures are needed in this regard,” he said.
Maryam Shabbir from SDPI said the air quality index in Lahore and Karachi on Tuesday was 75, and 67 respectively, which is considered moderate.
She said it depicts that air quality is getting better in such difficult situation as factories are closed and transport is minimal causing less pollution.
Experts agreed that air quality has improved across the world due to lockdowns amid COVID-19 outbreak and stressed the need for regional cooperation to maintain air quality in the future by sharing data.