KARACHI: Spokesperson of the Government of Sindh and Advisor to CM Sindh on Law, Environment, Climate Change, and Coastal Development Barrister Murtaza Wahab has said that controlling air pollution requires two-way efforts. On the regulatory side, it should be controlled with legal tools while on the participatory side people should volunteer to minimize their carbon footprint by following a green way of living.
Speaking at the seminar on Air Quality Management of Karachi organized by Sindh Environmental Protection Agency and Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development Department Government of Sindh he said that the Honorable Water Commission took commendable steps to control the environment more particularly our water environment. All departments of the Sindh Government put all their efforts to comply with its directives. But eventually, after their unflinching efforts of four years, we are facing the same scenario of the environment of Sindh. Was there something wrong with doing all this? Not, we all followed a reactive approach to control the environmental degradation. We should own an issue ourselves instead of looking at others’ orders to resolve it.
He recalled that every department tried to look at other departments while complying with the directives of the Water Commission. As a result, we are standing at the point from where we started our journey of improving our environment. Is this issue irresolvable? No, not at all. Actually, we react to correct things though we need to act whenever any issue arises.
He further said that environmental degradation is our collective problem and we need to sacrifice our personal gains if any conflict of interest arises with it. The air quality situation in Karachi is not as grave as it is in Lahore. But people of Lahore have accepted it as their problem and started owning it. That is why we hear the voices of concerns over there. The environmental problems of Karachi also need the same level of community participation to resolve them with the collective efforts of all the stakeholders.
Sharing his observations while ministering the environment sector of Sindh he said whenever strict action is taken against violators its subjects feel unease and request us for a lenient view while enforcing the environmental laws of the province. They do so because they don’t have a vision that if they gain their personal interest at the cost of collective interest one day, they will not be able to even serve the former. We have quit our collective thinking while society can never flourish with individual thinking.
Environment Advisor said that factory owners express their inability to install a wastewater treatment plant within their premises because their entire space is already occupied. They offer this lame excuse because of their lack of will to treat their wastewater at any cost. They can go for the option of a combined effluent treatment plant and for this purpose Government has already allocated sizable funds under ADP. He made it cleared that no funds by the Federal Government were provided for in this regard and all its finances shall be met with our own resources.
He deplored that Prime Minister boastfully terms our construction sector as a game changer but not yet went ahead of this lip service which is already known to all. Yes, the construction sector can become a game-changer if Federal Government takes viable steps to boost it across the country without any discrimination.
Murtaza Wahab said that certain mafias try to create hurdles in the enforcement of green laws in the province because it hurts their business interest. So how can a government improve and protect the environment with its legal tools if vested interests try to foil its efforts in this regard? It means people should also come forward to support their government for the improvement of their surrounding environment. No movement of reform can achieve desired results if it is carried out by the government in isolation.
He further said that Sindh Government developed a food street for Karachiites and pedestrianized it for the convenience of its visitors. But a citizen went to the court and halted our initiative. If such an eco-friendly initiative would be thwarted by someone, who will come up with such more ideas in future.
Recalling the recent crackdown of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency against the illegal batter kilns he said that some powerful elements stepped in for their rescue. Even a few of them went to the extent of implicating the SEPA officials of demanding certain favors in return for mild action. Likewise, SEPA recently took action against mismanagement of hospital waste in the city and took strict actions against violators. But our society remained a silent spectator and neither supported nor appreciated our action. So, violators took the benefit of our action in isolation and resumed their violation after some time.
He regretted that in the same way, the ban on the use, sale, purchase, and manufacture of plastic bags in Sindh could not have brought desired results. We promoted the slogan of “Say no to plastic bags” but people did not respond to it enthusiastically. As result, harmful plastic bags are still being used everywhere because people know that government does not have such an extensive enforcement mechanism to apprehend the violators.
Wahab further said that Lyari Expressway could have contributed a lot for mitigating the traffic load in the mid-city if heavy vehicles are plied on it during peak hours. But we can’t bind it to do so because it is under Federal Government. So as an alternative we are working to build the Malir Expressway to divert the heavy traffic to it for smooth movement of the city traffic.
Replying to a query from a participant he said that tendering process to develop the garbage transfer stations for the city is being started shortly. In a short period, we will have such stations to manage the solid waste without any mess. He hinted that those who once trumpeted a Clean Karachi Campaign dumped the garbage in a piece of coastal land. When we, after cleaning that mess, started planting saplings on that piece of land they came again to foil our green drive. They don’t want us to do it for the betterment of society and the improvement of our environment.
Earlier Secretary Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development Department Government of Sindh Muhammad Aslam Ghauri welcomed the participants in the seminar and said that such get together work impactfully to explore innovative ways and means for the improvement of our air environment.
In the technical session of the Seminar, Director-General SEPA Naeem Ahmed Mughal, environmental consultants Saquib Hussain and Shahid Lutfi, Dr. Zafar Fatmi of AKU, Dr. Nabeel Zubairi of the Sociology Department of the University of Karachi gave their presentations on regulatory, health, managerial and social aspects of the air quality decline in the city.
A large number of people from various walks of life including environmental consultancy services, environmental management, environmental academia, industries, government, non-governmental organization, and media participated in the seminar and shared their valuable input in its interactive session.