Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TRANS-BOUNDARY EFFECTS MULTIPLYING POLLUTION

“I was in Norway, and while hitting a nail in a wall, the neighbor knocked the door and retorted “you are making noise pollution – please, stop it and resume it as soon as I leave my home,” and in our country even the bumper of a vehicle has inscribed ‘Push the horn- and take your way’: Asif Shuja Khan, Director General (DG) Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA)

MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

It is believed that birds, river water, and air needs no barrier to cross boundary line of one country to another, however, in modern days all three objects causing environmental nuisance at a massive scale, hence, knowing this core environmental issues the environment experts with their heads down are engaged in coping these issues named ‘trans-boundary’ problems.

Director General (DG) of Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Asif Shuja Khan in his exclusive talk with Pakistan Today said after the devolution of environment ministry last year, environmental issues in the country are getting harder to resolve. “Trans-boundary issues are vital to resolve with immediate effect but now it’s tough to know how it could be resolved and implemented as the powers of ministry are given to provinces,” Khan said.

“Trans- boundary effects are aggravating the air pollution situation in Pakistan posing threats to human health and environment. The trans-boundary air pollution from neighbouring countries further aggravates air quality in our cities,” Pak-EPA chief said expressing concern on high pollution levels, mainly due to emission from vehicles, industrial activities and fine natural dust and aerosols.

The DG said no country in the world could launch any project before its trans-boundary environmental impact assessment is thoroughly reviewed and other neighboring countries are taken on board.


After the environment ministry devolution, Pak-EPA is now an attached department of the Ministry of National Disaster Management and responsible to implement the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 in the country.


Talking about its purpose, Asif Shuja Khan said an Act to provide for the protection, conservation, rehabilitation and improvement of environment, for the prevention and control of pollution, and promotion of sustainable development, Pak-EPA also provides all kind of technical assistance to the Ministry of National Disaster Management.

The training programme by JICA experts will enable Pak-EPA to maintain high reliability of data and take regulatory measures to offset the environmental problems, he added. Asif Shuja Khjan highly appreciated assistance by the Government of Japan to impart training through highly qualified and experienced Japanese experts.

The DG said Pak-EPA Pakistan is strategically located at the junction of Middle East and South Asia with a population of around 180 million people and over 80% urban pollution is caused by vehicles’ emissions because of poor road safety and congestion is the rapid growth in vehicles and poor fuel quality in Pakistan. “The vehicle emission is a serious public health and environmental problem in Pakistan, particularly in urban areas,” he said adding the agency has taken measures to minimize lead ratio in fuel.

“Unfortunately, people are least aware of environmental hazards and more unfortunate is it affects the health of every individual. In Pakistan, the maximum allowable limit of sulpher in High Speed Diesel (HSD) is 1.0%, which is the highest in the region. The combination of HSD with obsolete vehicle technology leads to unsafe levels of emission of smoke, soot, and Particulate Matter (PM). PM from vehicles is mostly fine and ultra-fine in size, and can be inhaled deep into the lungs resulting in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, increased risk of lung cancer and premature death. But, now we have considerably come down the percentage of sulpher to 0.05, the DG maintained.

He said the government has notified the adoption of Euro standards introduction of Euro II compliant petrol vehicles, and Euro II compliant diesel vehicles, for this, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources will ensure availability of Euro II compliant diesel with low sulpher i.e. 500 ppm by July 2012.

Talking about the project entitled “Greening the Steel Industry” carried out by Pak-EPA, DG said this project has made some progress as one of the eight steel mills in the capital installed equipment to control emissions of pollutants.

“The bag-house filter is a proven technology worldwide to control 99 per cent emissions of dangerous pollutants from chimneys,” said Director General Pak-Epa Asif Shuja who had given four months to the owners of steel mills in the capital industrial sectors to install the environment-friendly equipment.

After a lot of pushing by the government, Pak-EPA and the owners of the steel mills signed a resolution supporting the agency to make Islamabad pollution-free in general and the industrial area in particular. “Now the industrialists of I-9 and I-10 believe, I am very strict about the policies and few of them have shifted their industry to Hattar from Islamabad,” Khan said adding there is no compromise whatsoever.

“The equipments are to be installed in all the industries in Islamabad and later our focus will be on provinces. Those who do not want these equipments to be installed, better shut off their industry,” Asif Shuja Khan categorically said adding our officials and sometime I myself go to visit and monitor the interior of industries in this locality.

He said we are taking measures to stop the dust of marble as well tat turned into wet cutting now to stop the dust pollution. “Now a proper sledge is made first and then it is properly disposed off, though there is a problem in disposal of waste,” DG said.

Talking about the noise pollution, Pak-EPA chief said the agency has established continuous air quality monitoring system in five major cities, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta with the grant assistance of Government of Japan. “This system is now generating air quality data through fixed and mobile stations and it shows presence of high suspended particulate matter in the air. Pak-EPA, with a view to strengthen technical expertise of Environmental Protection Agencies to independently operate recently established Air Quality Monitoring System and laboratories and the training programme would build capacity of Provincial EPAs and other concerned department,” he added.

The training programmes are target oriented whereby each EPAs will carry out monitoring of industrial units, municipal installations and ambient air in a specific time frame. The JICA expert will evaluate performance of EPAs and individual participant and its experts will propose uniform methodology for analysis of national standards parameters.

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