ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body on Tuesday approved an amendment to the Environmental Protection Act that would bind the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) to monitor and fine littering in Islamabad.

The amendment was introduced in the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change by Senator Faisal Javed Khan at a meeting at Parliament House.

Amendment 16-A prohibits littering that pollutes and defaces the environment on land and in the water and empowers the Pak-EPA to fine people between Rs2,000 and Rs5,000 for littering and repeating the offence.

Pak-EPA Director General Farzana Altaf Shah told the committee that this legislation is needed in the capital but the prevention of littering is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI). She said the MCI and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) have human resources to ensure sanitation in the city, but both have failed to do so.

The 2015 Islamabad Local Government Ordinance has many provisions, preventive measures and penalties for littering, she said.

“The MCI should be asked why they haven’t imposed fines for littering or made an effort to curtail it,” she added.

Ms Shah said that the Pak-EPA is not empowered to oversee littering and does not have the resources to implement the amendment.

Senate committee members believed that the amendment was a good start to improving Islamabad’s environment and should be adopted. The committee assured the authority that all the loopholes and matters of capacity, resources and overlapping jurisdiction would be discussed in subsequent meetings by calling all the relevant departments including the CDA and the MCI.

However, the senators said this should not be a reason not to legislate, as operational requirements and resources to implement the law were secondary questions.

The senators were also briefed on the status of climatic changes, such as pollution levels and the migration of birds and animals, in Islamabad following the coronavirus outbreak.

They were told that the 400 industries in Islamabad, the combustion of fossil fuels for energy and transportation, 25,000 to 35,000 vehicles entering Islamabad Capital Territory every day, the burning of municipal waste and brick kilns are the capitals major sources of pollution.

Particulate matter (PM 2.5), a major cause of pollution and health problems, measured 49.65ug/m3 in November 2019; The Pak-EPA said this fell to 22.74ug/m3 in June, but the lowest figure ever was recorded in April at 17.67ug/m3.

Any reading below 35ug/m3 is considered good for the environment, the Pak-EPA said. The committee was told that readings of other pollutions such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide were also under control and fewer pollen allergy cases were reported this year.

The committee was also informed of the fauna in Margalla Hills National Park, which has 38 species of mammals, 218 species of birds, 82 resident species, 32 summer visitor species, 73 winter visitor species, 31 transit migrants, 32 reptiles and nine amphibian species.

The closure of public trails during the lockdown allowed local species to be seen in growing numbers, and some also left the hills and entered the city with 26 complaints so far about monkeys and wild boards heading towards residential areas.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2020