Pak-EPA DG Farzana Altaf Shah
Pak-EPA DG Farzana Altaf Shah

What role can the judiciary play in addressing environmental issues?

I can not recall when the Supreme Court last played its role in safeguarding the city’s environment, particularly through public interest litigation. However, recent developments have underscored the judiciary’s commitment to uphold environmental standards in the capital.

Islamabad High Court granted a stay order — on a citizen’s petition — against the construction of Alexander Road in Margalla Hills. Such judicial interventions serve as a powerful mechanism to preserve Islamabad’s green spaces.

With all eyes on the UAE, where world leaders have gathered for the COP28 summit, Dawn is speaking to experts to answer pressing, everyday questions that are on people’s minds about climate change-related issues.

Which areas in Islamabad are poor air quality hotspots?

Recent data on air quality in Islamabad, released by Pak-EPA, has pointed out several hotspots where ambient air quality is significantly poor, with high levels of suspended particulate matter.

Many of these hotspots are in areas where heavy construction activities are taking place. For instance, sectors D-12 and E-11 have witnessed substantial construction work, leading to increased emissions and poor air quality.

The construction of a flyover in E-11 has raised concerns about massive air pollution. Locals have expressed frustration and criticised the Capital Development Authority for its perceived lack of environmental safeguards during such projects. Sabzi Mandi is another such hotspot where the movement of heavy trucks has been a source of emissions.

Similarly, Srinagar Highway and Islamabad Expressway experience significant air quality challenges, particularly during school hours and office commutes when traffic from Rawalpindi enters Islamabad.

Today, Farzana Altaf Shah of the Pak-Environmental Protection Agency explains the role the judiciary can play in enforcing regulations, and her department’s efforts to improve the capital’s air quality.

What is Pak-EPA doing to reduce emissions in Islamabad?

We are writing to various authorities, including the Islamabad deputy commissioner, inspector general and Traffic Police, as well as universities and government institutions. We are calling for a temporary ban on smoke-emitting vehicles plying the capital’s roads for two months.

Additionally, we are urging Traffic Police to issue tickets to violators of environmental regulations actively.

One of the main objectives of these initiatives is to keep Islamabad’s air quality index within the two-digit range rather than the alarming three-digit figures recorded in the past. The efforts are geared towards achieving a substantial improvement in the city’s air quality.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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