ISLAMABAD: With residents of the federal capital facing record concentrations of pollen earlier this year, the civic agency has devised a plan to get rid of trees which are majorly responsible for the spread of pollen allergy in the capital.
This was disclosed in a plan submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) with details of all the trees in the capital which are infested with termites or which cause pollen allergy.
According to the CDA, there are 12,776 male wild mulberry trees in the city which are responsible for serving as carriers of pollen and will be chopped down in three phases over three years.
In the first phase, trees in the vicinity of critical public institutions such as schools, colleges and public parks would be cut.
Pollen allergies soar amid rising temperatures, low rainfall
In the second phase, trees along nullahs and green belts would be axed. In the third and last phase, trees in the Margalla Hills would be targeted.
CDA also plans to plant new trees even as the mulberry trees are cut down, the report states, adding that the deforestation drive for unfriendly trees would be made after getting a formal approval from the environmental agency.
Apart from cutting down the mulberry trees, the CDA has chalked up a strategy to chemically treat the trees which have been affected by termites.
The report states that the CDA is currently carrying out a survey to ascertain the cost for chemically treating 4,487 trees infested with termites, with the trees to be treated by next autumn.
The CDA report says that the procedure was first performed in 2011-2012 at a cost of Rs1.3 million.
In March this year, the capital recorded the highest pollen concentrations for at least the past eight years with concentrations of 43,330 pollen per cubic metre of air. The chief contributor was paper mulberry, which recorded its highest concentration in Sector H-8. The second highest concentration of pollen was recorded in Sector E-8 where concentrations of 17,809 were recorded. Sector G-6 recorded a slightly milder concentration of 14,175 and Sector F-10 of 6,914.
The highest ever recorded concentration of pollen in the capital was 48,080 per m3 on March 26, 2008. The second highest concentration recorded was 44,828 per m3 on March 14, 2008. The fourth highest ever recorded reading was of 43,780 on March 17, 2009.
During the pollen season this year, hospital officials said that they had received over 25,000 patients with complaints of pollen related allergies.
Provinces for climate policy
Meanwhile, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam on Wednesday said the federal government will keep all the provinces on board to ensure that their national climate change policy is effectively implemented.
He said this while chairing the sixth meeting of the National Climate Change Policy Implementation Committee (NCCPIC) at the ministry on Wednesday.
The meeting was convened to discuss and oversee the progress on the implementation of national climate change policy by the provinces and federal departments.
The Punjab representative briefed about the smog emergency and measures adopted by the provincial government in this regard.
Amin said that he had had two meetings with Punjab chief minister and other stakeholders on smog, adding that the provincial government has established 11 monitoring units to evaluate the intensity of smog around the clock. Moreover, special health counters have been established in main hospitals to treat smog affectees.
"We will also monitor the level of smog coming from our neighbouring country and we are also negotiating with them through the foreign affairs ministry to keep them from burning crop residues in bordering regions."
The advisor said that the implementation of the smog commission's recommendations is in progress and that the Punjab government is aligned on the issue.
The bricks kiln association has also been asked to stop their units from October 20 to December 31.
Pollen is in the air: Over 5,000 check in to PIMS with allergies
Amin was told that climate change sections have been established in the planning and development departments of Punjab, Sindh and Azad Jammu and Kashmir while other provinces were also following suit.
Amin said that the prime minister has constituted a national committee on climate change to ensure adequate implementation of the climate change objectives. Owing to mismanagement and lack of planning, over 90 per cent of water has been wasted and we never paid any heed towards storage of water but now we have devised a comprehensive plan to store water under the "Recharge Pakistan" initiative.
We will store flood water in our wetlands and will use that water for agriculture and other purposes.
The adviser further said renewable energy is an opportunity and we must maximise this opportunity to fulfil our growing energy needs with lower environmental cost. He asked all provinces to prepare alternative energy projects and send it to the ministry at the earliest while promising them all possible support to remove bottlenecks in the implementation of their climate change projects.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2018.