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.


Pakistan seeks explanation from oil marketing companies amid looming fuel crisis

Updated 03 June 2020

Pakistan seeks explanation from oil marketing companies amid looming fuel crisis

  • Shell Pakistan, Total-Parco, and Attock Petroleum given show cause notices on failing to maintain stocks — OGRA
  • Retailers say about 40 percent fuel supply was disrupted after the government slashed prices of petroleum products

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) on Wednesday sought an explanation from three oil marketing companies for failing to maintain their reserves as consumers continued to suffer due to a shortage of gasoline across the country after the government decided to ease lockdown restrictions.
“We have taken notice of the situation and engaged a third party to probe the situation. We have also issued show cause notices wherever we felt the stocks were not properly available,” OGRA’s senior executive director Imran Ghaznavi told Arab News, adding: “We have issued notices to Shell, Total-Parco, and Attock Petroleum.”
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Finance, the country’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) also discussed the shortage of petrol in some cities on Wednesday and instructed the Ministry of Energy, Competition Commission of Pakistan and OGRA to ensure that the requisite stocks were maintained by oil marketing companies and the supply to the fuel stations across the country remained regular and intact throughout the month.
The ECC chairman, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, took a stern view of the reported petrol shortage, directing all the relevant government institutions to immediately let him know if the situation worsened any further.
Pakistan’s petroleum consumers suffered this week as many petrol station stopped supplying fuel while others faced panic buying and long queues. Retailers say about 40 percent of the supply was disrupted after the prices of fuel were slashed by the government.
“Around 40 percent petrol stations are not supplying fuel to the consumers and this situation is persisting across the country,” Sameer Najmul Hasan, chairman of All Pakistan Petrol Retailers’ Association, told Arab News.
The situation emerged when the country’s oil marketing companies failed to maintain their required stocks for 20 days under a local law.
Retailers say the demand for petrol and diesel surged after the government announced to relax the COVID-19 lockdown and allowed public transportation to resume after almost two months of suspension.
“The oil marketing companies mostly keep stocks of petrol and diesel through imports and keep inventories toward the lower side. As the lockdown was eased and public transportation was resumed, the demand for fuel surged in the country,” Hasan noted.
Goods transporters said they were also facing problem due to the shortage of diesel, warning that the situation could have larger implications for the country’s economy if it was not duly addressed.
“We are trying to manage at present, mostly by relying on stations owned and operated by small companies, but the surge in demand is depleting the stocks and the situation is getting out of hand,” Rana Aslam, president of Karachi Goods Carrier, told Arab News.
Transporters warn that the supply of essential goods across the country will also be suspended if the situation is not properly handled.
“When oil prices are increased, the orders are immediately implemented,” Aslam added. “But when these prices are dropped, people are deprived of the benefits. The situation may also hamper the supply of essential items across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The fuel shortage emerged despite the assurances of the petroleum division that the country had sufficient stocks of gasoline to meet the domestic requirement
OGRA officials said the oil marketing companies were legally bound to respond to the government’s call to maintain sufficient stocks of petroleum products to avoid any emergency situation. The matter is also expected to be taken up in a high level meeting on Thursday.
“A meeting is taking place tomorrow at the petroleum division and the matter will be taken up in that meeting,” Ghaznavi informed, adding: “The companies are legally obliged to overcome this shortage forthwith.”
Pakistan’s average monthly consumption of petrol before the coronavirus pandemic remained between 500,000 metric tons and 600,000 metric tons. However, the level of consumption and demand declined due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The imports of petroleum products also declined by 20 percent to $9.5 billion during July-April 2019-20 mainly due to virus-related lockdown.
Pakistan’s annual consumption of petroleum was around 19.35 million metric tons in FY19. Around 42 percent of the country’s demand was met through imported products while the remaining 58 percent was locally refined, according to the country’s credit rating agency, PACRA.