Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a press conference in Lahore on Saturday, announced the government’s plan to curb and reduce the impact of air pollution.
He was in the Punjab capital on a day-long trip to meet party members, bureaucracy and police, two days after a bureaucratic reshuffle in the province.
The premier said smog (fog or haze intensified by smoke or other atmospheric pollutants) had increased in Lahore owing to a 70 per cent reduction in tree cover, as well burning of paddy stubble in neighbouring India.
Smog, he added, was badly impacting the citizens’ lives and could have devastating consequences in the future. “We have decided to take action against it,” he said, adding that vehicles contributed the most in air pollution.
“We have decided to import a more clean [environmental friendly] fuel, [which will meet] the Euro 4 standard,” PM Imran said. By the end of 2020, he added, Pakistan will shift to the Euro 5 emission standard, which will have a 90 per cent impact on air quality.
“People will have to decide whether they are willing to afford a slightly expensive fuel to save the lives of their loved ones,” he said.
The premier announced that oil refineries would be given three years to improve their fuel quality, else they will be forced to shut down.
“Unfortunately, people don’t perceive climate change and air pollution as an imminent threat, which is a silent killer and is affecting the entire country,” he said.
The prime minister said the government had decided to shift the focus of the auto industry towards electric vehicles. “We are holding talks with the car industries, because they have certain reservations,” PM Imran said, adding that an incentive policy will be introduced in 2020.
“The buses that run across our cities will either be hybrid vehicles or electric. Or, we may insist on CNG,” he said.
Turning to politics, the premier said opposition parties had joined hands to escape accountability.
His government, he added, inherited soaring debt, and the opposition was confident that the new set up won’t survive for more than a few months.
He argued that by taking tough measures, he had managed to get the country out of a critical condition.
Speaking on the recent reshuffle in the Punjab bureaucracy, the premier said the move was aimed at improving governance, adding that soon a “change will come in Punjab”.
He said detractors were against the “simple” Punjab chief minister, Usman Buzdar, and others in the province because PTI wasn’t a “mafia” and “wouldn’t dole out millions in advertisements”.
Upon a complaint by a reporter over salary delays and layoffs in the media industry, PM Imran directed Punjab Information Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal to investigate why media employees were not being paid on time.
“There can be no bigger injustice than not paying your worker on time,” he said, adding that the situation was not severe enough to delay staff payments.