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ISLAMABAD: While decision makers and lawmakers in Islamabad as well as officials of concerned departments and environment watchdogs seem to be focusing all their attention on the smog in Lahore, they are ignoring the open burning of garbage in the capital, which is one of the causes of smog.

Environmentalists say the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) has failed to stop burning of heaps of garbage in the open along Islamabad Expressway or in front of the offices of the National Accountability Bureau, where garbage is set on fire every day.

“What is being done practically when there is constant concern regarding the deterioration of the quality of air in almost every city, including the federal capital,” asked a senior environmentalist in the Ministry of Climate Change.

In the absence of a proper garbage collection system and dumping sites, residents of the rural areas have taken to throwing waste in vacant spaces and along roads.

Random and scattered dumping of waste in the open also contaminates ground water when leachate percolates into the soil and pollutes the aquifer, the official explained. Sources in the ministry said that despite funding, Pak-EPA’s air monitoring system is mostly out of order.

“Data regarding the quality of air in Islamabad is hardly available on its website when millions of rupees have gone into maintaining and running its air monitoring system. People have to resort to using unreliable applications on the mobile phones to get data on the quality of air in Islamabad,” he said.

Due to less rainfall, Islamabad also experienced smog in December last year and environmentalists are not ruling out the phenomenon repeating this year, especially with rising pollution such as emissions from increasing traffic, construction dust and emissions from industrial units in the I sectors.

“The problem of smog has to be addressed starting from policies and legislation, improving fuel quality and controlling open burning,” an official in the Ministry of Climate Change said.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2018

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