LAHORE - Prime Minister Imran Khan said Saturday that government was taking measures for controlling the menace of pollution.

Addressing a press conference on Saturday, he said unchecked slaughtering of trees had aggravated the situation.

“Lahore has lost 70 per cent of trees during last 10 years. It has far-reaching consequences,” he said, adding, the green cover clean environment and as such it was a big loss for the city.

Referring to the reasons of excessive pollution and the resultant smog, he said crop residue burning in India and Pakistan, emissions from factories and brick kilns and vehicles were the major factors. He said vehicular emission was the biggest contributor in air pollution. The premier said decisions had been taken to check vehicular emission.

“Pakistan currently imports Euro II emission standard fuel. We have decided to import fuel that meets Euro IV standard. By the end of 2020, we will shift to the Euro V emission standard. This will help reducing toxic emissions from vehicles,” the premier said, adding, oil refineries would be given three-year deadline to improve quality of fuel. He made it clear that refineries not following the directions would be closed down after the given deadline. He said the government had decided in principle to shift focus of auto industry towards electric vehicles.

Govt to import Euro-IV fuel to tackle pollution

PM Khan said the government was holding talks with manufacturers for removing their reservations. He said that incentives would be given for increasing manufacturing of electric vehicles. After 2020, he said, buses would be either hybrid or electric. The other option for public transport vehicles would be CNG like in Delhi, the premier said.

APP adds: The prime minister said government was taking drastic steps to quell health hazard impacts of ‘the silent killer’.

He expressed the hope that with such steps, 90 per cent pollutants in the air could be reduced. The government would import machinery worth Rs30 billion to help control the issue, he added. Steel furnaces and brick kilns were also adding to smog, and the government would also make the owners of these kilns to introduce modern zigzag techniques, he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, PM’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and ministers were also present. 

A 60,000 kanal area of land had been identified for urban forestry in Lahore and its suburbs, the prime minister said, adding such steps would have slow and gradual impact and people would feel their positive impact within a short span of time. 

He observed that major cities like Karachi, Peshawar and Rawalpindi were also facing same challenges and the environmental pollution would go worst if corrective measures were not taken.

“The issue existed for so many years, but for the first time a government is taking effective and practical steps to control it,” he added.

The pollution level in different cities of the country had intensified and the cities like Lahore and Gujranwala were among the world’s top areas affected largely by pollution and smog, he said.

To have an effective strategy, there should be monitoring centers to keep a check on the air quality, he said, adding Lahore had two such centers and now their number would be increased to 30 which would help give accurate data.

Now the people will have to decide whether they wanted to pay a bit more for this fuel or put the lives of their kids in danger.

The prime minister said climate change had negative impact on all human beings, which could be countered through international efforts.

The prime minister said with the grace of Almighty, Pakistan was now out of the economic crisis and they would now be focusing on the economic growth, creation of employment opportunities, construction and after every six months, the countrymen would feel the difference.

He further maintained that when the value of rupee drops by 35 per cent against the US dollar, it can give rise to inflation, however, he expressed the confidence that the nation had been through this difficult time and now moving towards economic stability and turn around leading to ‘good times’.

The prime minister also appreciated his economic team and said today, even the World Bank chief had been all praise for Pakistan. Rupee was being strengthened, stock market was showing robust trends, and there was flow of foreign investment and continuous growth.

The prime minister said his government had inherited the biggest ever fiscal deficit and whopping debt and its political opponents were expecting that it would succumb to such challenges within months which did not happen. “The government has been facing such mafia from the day first,” he added.

“That mafia has one concern as to how to save their embezzled wealth and ill gotten assets. They are not interested in Pakistan. They had gathered around Maulana (Fazl) who had arrived in Islamabad to conquer it. But rather, he was coming to distribute diesel permits. All the mafia that surrounded him even did not know what were the reasons of Maulana’s arrival,” he added.

He said, this mafia then rushed to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Supreme Court. They had one objective in their failed efforts; that was to destabilise the government.

They had only one fear that they would no longer be able to eat that ‘halwa’ and feared that if the government succeeded in its economic and development policies, their antics and business would be ended forever, he added.

About reforms in Punjab province, the prime minister maintained that these had never been undertaken in the history and for such achievements, they could not waste Rs50 billion on advertisements like the past rulers.

Defending the chief minister of Punjab and the recent reshuffle in the bureaucracy, he said Buzdar was a gentleman who was not misusing the public money on his personal security.

The prime minister said he along with the chief minister considered these changes after three months consultations with the retired and experienced bureaucrats.

“All these steps are being taken to improve governance in the province,” he added.

About the issue of former convicted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s treatment abroad, he said the concerned medical board had submitted its report citing the critical condition of the patient and upon its basis and on human empathy, he also convinced the whole cabinet.

He told the mediamen to wait for the medical reports of Nawaz Sharif which would clear the situation.

To a question regarding non-payment of salaries and dismissal of media men from their jobs, the prime minister said it was a big injustice when an employer did not pay salaries to his employees and asked his special assistant on information to look into the issue.

To another query regarding a letter sent by Opposition leader in the National Assembly Mian Shahbaz Sharif in which according to media reports he had proposed three names for the next Election Commissioner of Pakistan, the prime minister informed that he did not go through such correspondence yet.

The prime minister said the Supreme Court had not mentioned anything about the government’s legal team in its short order at the conclusion of a case on the grant of extension to the army chief.