Daily Times Editorial 2 November 2019
Time to pull together
The country, no doubt, is facing grave circumstances requiring everybody to play their role and pull it together. Army Chief Gen Qammar Javed Bajwa has expressed this reality in so many words at so many occasions. And he has matched his words with actions. Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR) chief General Ghafoor tweeted recently that Gen Bajwa called Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss the situation arising out of the rising crowd of protestors, led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, knocking at the doors of Islamabad. These are not normal times. Fearing riots, the government insists that the Maulana enters the city through a less frequented passage but the Maulana insists back on going through well populated areas. The army chief called the prime minister to say that care should be taken to make sure that violence does not erupt on either side. This piece of advice must be heeded.
Recently, there were reports that government secretaries met a VIP with prior permission by the prime minister. The VIP meeting the secretaries is also believed to be none other than the army chief. Civil bureaucrats complained to him about their treatment by an accountability watchdog, saying that its officers are not subject experts in many cases. Before them, business and trade leaders also met him to request that ease of business be ensured for them. Their meeting too was held with permission by the prime minister. After the meeting, a body has been formed to go through complaints against any member of business community.
If all organs of the state work together on all fronts, then things will surely improve. Most of problems the country is now facing are a result of lack of coordination between state institutions. There are ways to enhance coordination and heads of all institutions need to have the right spirit. *
Watch out for the smog again
For the last three years, Punjab areas have been deprived of charming dusk hours in November and December as every day layers of smog descend upon cities and plains, preventing sunshine from reaching the earth. Smog, dubbed as the fifth season, is the consequence of uncontrolled and unplanned industrialisation and lack of environment-friendly measures. Earlier, in every December, thick layers of fog would blanket the horizon making the visibility rate too poor to drive on motorway and land at airports. But smog, a major health hazard, is a choking layer, a mixture of polluted air and water vapour in the atmosphere. Unlike fog, which descends upon plains and cities by the evening, the greyish smog falls in the daytime.
With smog have come health advisories: people need to remain indoors, avoiding unnecessary exposure to the air; people need to cover their eyes, nose, and ears or they can suffer irritation; they need to increase liquid intakes to avid respiratory ailments. Children, senior citizens and those suffering from lung and heart ailments need extra preventive measures. In short, smog can harm human health to a great degree.
Prevention is better than cure; besides preventive measures, the public at large should press the government to wake up to the situation and make the environment a major priority. Preventive measures could have averted the rise of smog. Still, it is better late than never.
The government needs to look into factors contributing towards the smog phenomenon. It stems from traffic emission and industrial fumes that cause smog when they interact with sunlight and water vapours. The government has blamed the wisps of smoke rising from burning stubbles in Punjab’s farms for smog. This is a great miscalculation. For decades, farmers have been burning stubble at the end of every crop season, and the smoke billowing from farms has just aggravated smog levels. Several cities, far from agriculture farms, such as Los Angeles, Beijing, Mexico City and Tehran have also been invaded by smog.
Once the core issue is detected, the government should come up with preventive measures. One such effective measure can be banning cars on certain days in cities to lower the level of smoke emission. The government can introduce laws to discourage the use of old cars. Industrial units emitting excess carbon and smoke should be fined or seized. The use of machinery and vehicles using diesel should be heavily taxed because they also release emissions which pollute the environment.
The Punjab government should follow its smog policy in letter and spirit as smog is everyone’s issue. *