Pakistan’s pollution crisis

The Beeb is reporting on how air pollution in Pakistan’s major cities is among the highest in the world. I’ll write on the water crisis mentioned in the article some other time, but the sudden and spectacular growth of the last few years has pushed a lot of things to dangerous levels.

Virtually everyone I know in Islamabad now owns their own vehicle whereas just a couple of years ago, some of us rode bikes while others didn’t even have those. Though the quality of cars is much better here when compared to other cities, just the density and lack of proper quality control must translate into a lot of pollution. Also, the trend among the wealthy to have gas-guzzlers refuses to subside.

“The government has been encouraging the use of vehicles powered by the less polluting compressed natural gas (CNG).”

Though most of us have hybrid, CNG cars, the quality of the gas at Islamabad’s few CNG stations is quite abysmall. On top of that, there just aren’t enough stations to serve everybody so we try to fill up at odd hours to avoid the long queues, or do this in neighbouring Pindi where the gas is better. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know that my car is part of the third largest fleet of CNG cars in the world (after Argentina and Brazil).

I’ll say this again: building more roads to deal with the traffic is just a short-term solution to one problem. What needs to be done is to improve the public transport system so that instead of driving to work, I can get a more comfortable ride on a faster subway or instead of worrying if my car will make it to Lahore without breaking down, I can catch a maglev.

Since so much else is changing, it would be a perfect time to start planning and implementing a long-term solution.

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