LET us look at the many forms of pollutants affecting the urban air and the possible free of cost solutions.

Smoke emitted by commercial vehicles like rickshaws, taxis, loader vans, buses, trucks, etc., is a major pollutant. The solution is that all commercial vehicles should be vigorously tested for emission standards every year and fined and their papers should be retained till the vehicles are made to conform to standard.

The second is smoke and polluted water that are discharged from industrial zones located in and close to urban residential areas as is witnessed in Karachi. These are SITE, Landhi-Korangi industrial area, etc., all located within city limits.

They should all be moved at least 100km outside the city limits, say, in Noriabad, where they should be given maximum special economic zone incentives to assist industries to relocate themselves.

The same policy should be for top 20 cities of Pakistan to help reduce pollution in cities. A train service should also run frequently to such special economic zones to assist all employees to commute cheaply subsequently.

The third and most damaging is the practice of garbage burning in every town/locality, where town administrations mostly try to save on truck fuel by not lifting rubbish and burning it wherever they find it.

This rubbish often includes lots of plastic bags, diapers, batteries, medicines, aerosol cans and medical waste whereas all of them are extremely hazardous to human beings.

As a solution to this hazard, the waste should be sold to power producer companies with a setup on the outskirts of the city, where the waste can be separated and burned to generate electric power, while other used plastic and metals can be recycled.

For example, the Fauji Foundation is doing this on the outskirts of Islamabad. This should be done in the top 20 cities of the country to make a positive impact.

The fourth is the methane gas released from open sewage drains spread in all parts of urban areas. This very harmful gas, released in its concentrated form, causes serious health issues for human beings.

The solution to this is issue is to sell raw sewage to a power generation company which will first extract methane from sewage and use it to generate power and then release treated sewage. This technology has the potential to produce a lot of electric power in urban areas where it is needed most.

The fifth is import of leaded bad quality fuel by most oil importers. This practice should be banned as it is a cause of major health issues for all citizens. The solution is that only unleaded good quality fuel should be allowed to be imported.

These are some of the major issues faced by the environment today, and it seems that this very important department does not have a provincial minister or an adviser to head it at present. However, I would urge the federal government, in the meantime, to take urgent steps to improve the environment.

Z.H. EFFENDI Karachi