PM launches 'Clean Green Pakistan Index' to address air pollution

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the launch of "Clean Green Pakistan Index" in Islamabad on Nov. 25, 2019. (PID)
Updated 25 November 2019

PM launches 'Clean Green Pakistan Index' to address air pollution

  • The index has been initially launched in 19 cities
  • Environmental experts say the step is merely a ‘cosmetic’ one

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday launched the Clean Green Pakistan Index (CGPI), the country’s first barometer to measure cleanliness indicators in different cities and promote competition between them.
Major cities in Pakistan, including Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi, have been ranked among the most polluted cities in the world year after year. During Pakistan’s so-called ‘fifth’ smog season – from October to January – the air quality in these cities reaches hazardous levels, with Amnesty International issuing an ‘urgent action warning’ for Lahore last week.
“Every segment of society should become part of this campaign to curb the adverse effects of climate change and protect the future of the country,” Prime Minister Khan said while speaking at the launch ceremony of the index at Jinnah Convention Center.
The prime minister said that air pollution was a silent killer and his government was identifying specific areas in different cities for tree plantation, and added the government would also allocate sufficient funds for the campaign.
“Elected representatives at the village level will be made part of regional level competitions on environmental indicators,” he said, referring to competitions slated to be held among different cities to gauge their performance and allocate funds.
The CGPI has been initially launched for 19 cities including Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Okara and Bahawalpur, and will later be expanded to other cities as well. These cities will be assessed on addressing issues such as safe drinking water, solid waste management, liquid waste management, city beautification, cleanliness of streets, parks, tree plantation, sanitation and community participation.
The initiative is part of the government’s campaign of clean and green Pakistan that includes the plantation of ten billion trees across the country in five years to increase forest cover and curb environmental degradation. According to The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical journals, air pollution in Pakistan leads to the deaths of 135,000 people, mostly children, every year.
Prolonged exposure to the toxic air can result in severe health issues including asthma, lung damage, bronchial infections and heart problems and shortens life expectancy – putting at risk people’s rights to life and to health, as well as the right to a healthy environment, according to Amnesty International.
Khan said that in Lahore alone, around 70 percent of the city’s tree cover had been lost in the name of development. He said rising air pollution and toxic smog was now taking a heavy toll on human lives as no measures had been initiated to curb the menace.
“This was bound to have an impact [on human life],” Khan said, and promised to reverse the tide through public participation.
But environmental experts remain skeptical about the efficacy of the government’s environmental index and said the initiative did not address the root causes of the problem.
“This is a cosmetic step and will hardly help curb increasing pollution in the cities,” Ahmad Rafay Alam, a Lahore-based environmental lawyer and activist, told Arab News.
Alam urged the government to cut consumption of fossil fuels [diesel and coal] being used in electricity generation, transportation and industry to improve the air quality and deal with adverse impacts of climate change. 
“We need to switch to renewables like wind and solar to fulfil our energy demands, and improve air quality,” he said.


Beat stress with self-discipline, meditation during lockdown — Experts

Updated 04 April 2020

Beat stress with self-discipline, meditation during lockdown — Experts

  • Self-isolation and social distancing may lead to tremendous mental pressure among many
  • Experts say building physical and mental immunity can relieve anxiety and stress

RAWALPINDI: While experts warn that self-isolation and social distancing during long virus lockdowns could trigger symptoms of anxiety and depression among people, they list a number of practices to beat stress out of life. 
Building “mental immunity,” at a time when physical immunity has taken center stage is critical to one’s well-being, said Islamabad-based psychotherapist, Nida Maqbool.
“What most people do not realize is that our mental immunity and physical immunity are interlinked,” Maqbool told Arab News over the phone. “If we are not mentally fit, we also feel physical repercussions.”
Another Islamabad-based counselor, Farah Rehman, who operates out of Therapy Works in the nation’s capital said, “Building physical and mental immunity can give quite a relief to anxiety whether it’s working on your fitness or writing down what you are grateful for. Another great tool is meditation.”
A few weeks ago, Pakistanis began following the World Health Organization’s guidelines of social distancing and self-isolation in order to help combat the spread of coronavirus, a hard adjustment to normal practice.
Provinces in Pakistan announced lockdowns, shops other than pharmacies and grocery stores were shuttered and, while all of this was done to keep Pakistanis safe, the situation triggered anxiety, stress and depression among many in the absence of usual social interactions.
“Humans are not meant to be completely isolated,” Omar Bazza, a clinical therapist practicing in Toronto, told Arab News over the phone. “Distancing and social isolation can indeed trigger a lot of anxiety and depression symptoms.”
In addition to forgoing social interactions, even those as simple as bumping into friends somewhere, there is the added stress of lost jobs, bills piling up, uncertainty of the future and the desire to keep the family safe.
“These concerns can easily trigger or even create anxiety. We are starting to see depression and anxiety in people who previously never experienced issues with their mental health,” said Bazza to Arab News.
“I have seen some of my depression make a comeback,” said Roshaan Amber, an Islamabad-based telecom worker, about being stuck at home. “Previously, I went for therapy to deal with anxiety and my depression was under control. But being at home all the time has once again stimulated it.”
Anousheh Azra works with the banking sector, one of the few areas of economy that have been deemed essential and therefore keeping people like her out of home. Yet, she is required to practice social distancing which, she believes, is making her life immensely difficult.
“I feel constantly exhausted, no matter how well rested I am,” she told Arab News. “I feel anxious.”
Maqbool suggests that “We all need to realize that we are going through trauma at a global level.” “We need to give ourselves the space to feel this.”
She recommends setting strict boundaries to exercise self-discipline like the one she has for herself where only a small portion of the day is dedicated to reading the news and where friends and family have been told that if they want to have a chat they need to discuss something other than the coronavirus. “If I am not in a good mental space myself, I cannot help my clients who are looking to me as a source of peace and safety.”
Maqbool has joined many people across the globe by using the Internet and digital platforms to reach her clients. She brings 80 percent of her clients to work with her online and sees 20 percent of them in person at her home, though “we keep a distance of five feet and meet in my lawn.”
Rehman said that “helping the underprivileged while staying within one’s capacity” can also tend to ease anxiety and depression. Another healthy indulgence is helping family members or friends passing through a tough time in isolation by “staying in touch virtually whether it’s a phone call or video chat and of course through social media,” said added.
Online resources for stress inoculation are available as well, though one should be cautioned to make sure the source of the website is legitimate and attached to medical or mental health professionals.