The lockdown enforced by the Sindh government in the province amid coronavirus fears is an opportunity for the relevant authorities to evaluate the urban sprawl, mass transportation and industrial needs of Karachi and curb harmful carbon emissions here, stated the National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH).
NFEH president Naeem Qureshi, in a statement released on Saturday, said that the lockdown in the city – one of the biggest industrial hubs of the world – has lowered the level of air pollution.
“With public transportation completely halted, minimal use of private vehicles, and limited industrial activity, Karachi’s air pollution problem has been eased for the time being,” read the statement, adding that the authorities responsible for mitigating the city’s environmental issues should utilise the present situation.
Qureshi pointed out that authorities could carry out real-time monitoring of the environment, which could be used for research purposes that can give a better understanding of the problem and help curb pollution.
“The key is to retain the benefits of the current situation to an extent even after the end of lockdown,” he said. “Such benefits for our environment could only be achieved when we sit together now to do a proper reassessment of our needs to do industrial and transportation activities.”
There is no doubt that the megacity needs a proper industrial and transport infrastructure for its people, however, these should be established keeping in view the importance of the environment, he added.
Qureshi said that the present situation has reminded of a forgotten lesson that the environmental laws, rules, and regulations of the state should be enforced without any indiscrimination to achieve environment stability. Moreover, the authorities have to figure out how to improve industrial and transport practices without damaging the environment.
“No doubt the coronavirus has caused a massive health emergency in our midst but this is like a blessing in disguise for us and we should not let it slip away,” he said.
NFEH advisor Saquib Ejaz Hussain said that air pollution is one of the world’s leading health risks. He highlighted that recent releases from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) suggested that Wuhan, China, where the virus is thought to have originated, was heavily polluted, but in their bid to control the pandemic, the Chinese were able to improve the air quality there.
He added that air pollution causes respiratory viral infections, which is the most common type of disease in urban areas of the countries around the world, including Pakistan. These infections have significant public health implications for people throughout the country.