Miracles do happen — in the environmental arena at least. Hidden away amongst a daily deluge of negatives is the news that businessmen in Islamabad are demanding, via the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), that the government establish a recycling industry in the city environs, plus, initiate a countrywide network of scrapyards from which recyclable materials can be garnered. Being businessmen, they naturally have a weather eye on potential profits from the sale of relatively low-cost goods they plan to churn out as long as they are up to standard. If so, then this is a positive step indeed. The Capital Development Authority has long faced problems in dealing with the daily estimated 700-800 tons of collected solid waste, to say nothing of the possibly equal amount indiscriminately dumped by those without a modicum of concern for the environment in which they live. Existing arrangements for open-air solid waste disposal have long been inadequate — toxic fumes from burning garbage added to emissions from 300,000 city vehicles and 90,000 traffic vehicles each day — and are responsible for turning ‘Islamabad the Green’ into ‘Islamabad the Unhealthy’. The Air Quality Index now shows 77.22 micro-gm/m3 suspended particulate matter in the air — way above the recognised safe level of 35 micro-gm/m3. Any move towards creating a cleaner environmentally sustainable atmosphere is to be welcomed with open arms and it is hoped that the CCIs of all other major cities in the country will encourage their members to follow the example of their Islamabad counterparts and, of course, that the government fully backs such eminently sensible projects.
One thing that is sadly missing from the proposal, however, is the establishment of biogas units to be fuelled with un-recyclable waste material such as green matter and even sewage, under stringently hygienic conditions. It is to be hoped that this aspect is, in time, given the attention it deserves and eventually operated on a national basis to reduce reliance on other forms of gas. The establishment of biogas units would also assist in decentralising power production which is a necessary move if loadshedding is to be minimised. Businessmen should also follow the example of the Citizen Community Board (CCB) in Gujranwala, which is in the final stages of setting up the very first biogas plant in Punjab. A commercial venture, jointly partnered by the CCB, the city district government and a number of NGOs; this initial plant is to be followed by 500 more, ranging in size from 6–20 cubic capacity and intended for village use. Whether or not these plants are to be solely fuelled by waste material or by purpose-grown biofuel crops has yet to be revealed, but it is hoped that purely waste material is the preferred option in a country where rampant inflation continually pushes the price of food crops way beyond the reach of the ordinary person in the street.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2011.