Pakistan planning to curb urban air pollution after top court ruling

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s environmental protection agency is installing air quality monitors and warning factories to add pollution filters after a panel of the country’s top judges ordered the government to detail its efforts to control worsening air pollution.

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The court ruling earlier this month followed a lawsuit by a Karachi man challenging the government’s failure to control air pollution in that port city.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, head of a three-member supreme court bench, ruled that the government must provide details of what it is doing to curb air pollution across the country.

He said he was shocked at how dirty the air had become, particularly in Pakistan’s cities.

The ruling has spurred government authorities to action to try to reduce pollution levels, fearing they could face court orders or sanctions.

Venu G Advani, the Karachi lawyer who filed the court petition, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation he was seeking to have air quality regulations in the country enforced.

He said he hoped the court would ensure “provision of the constitutional right to a clean environment, for which clean air is key”.

“There is no hope without the Supreme Court’s intervention to awaken government officials from their deep slumber” on air quality, he said in a telephone interview from Karachi.

Air pollution deaths
According to a 2015 report published by the medical journal Lancet, nearly 22 per cent of annual deaths in Pakistan — or more than 310,000 each year — are caused by pollution, the majority of them due to air pollution.

A 2014 World Bank study on Pakistan’s air quality recommended the country set aside funding to “install and operate a reliable air quality monitoring network”, and set other standards and frameworks to cut pollution.

Since the court ruling, officials at the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency have said they are moving rapidly to comply.

“We are now installing air quality monitoring instruments with the help of federal government funding and punishing the polluters,” said Ziauddin Khattak, director of the agency.

Reuters

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