For years, the people living in Punjab, especially in Lahore, often referred to as the 'heart of Pakistan,' have been enduring the harsh reality of acid rain. This environmental issue becomes more visible, dense, and troublesome during the cooler months of November and December. But who should be held accountable for the persistent smog, and what actions has the 'development-oriented' government of the PML-N taken to alleviate or eradicate it? To answer these questions, we must address three common misperceptions.
Firstly, let's debunk the notion that smog or acid rain is a natural phenomenon, as claimed by some federal cabinet members. In reality, it is a man-made problem, a consequence of poor policy choices regarding industrialization, transportation, urbanization, and power generation. Secondly, smog has plagued the region for decades, making it far from a new challenge for the Punjab or the federal government. And lastly, there are feasible scientific and policy interventions available to tackle this issue effectively. Furthermore, the impact of acid rain is not limited to humans; it equally affects plants, animals, and micro-biological life.
Any attempt to address environmental issues solely from a human perspective while neglecting the well-being of plants and animal life is a display of ignorance regarding the interconnectedness of our ecosystem. Our environment, the very foundation of our existence, operates as an intricate eco-system. The adverse effects on animals and plants, caused by factors like property development encroaching on green spaces or emissions from vehicles, industries, and power plants, inevitably harm human beings as well. By safeguarding all living creatures, from bees, birds, and fishes to mammals and vegetation, from wild grasses to trees, we inherently protect our own health and quality of life. The environment is a shared responsibility, encompassing all living things.
Now, the question arises: who is to be blamed for this predicament of acid rain? While some tend to attribute environmental deterioration in Pakistan to collective responsibility, it is crucial to recognize that the primary blame lies with the government. Those in power, both in the present and the past, along with the bureaucratic establishment, are accountable for weak regulations, ineffective policies, and misplaced development priorities.
It's true that littering and improper waste disposal are visible issues across the country. From trash thrown on streets and green spaces to the burning of garbage, including cancer-causing polythene bags, environmental degradation is a concern. Even stubble burning, which causes air pollution, is rampant along motorways. However, the responsibility to address and rectify these behaviors and practices falls squarely on the government's shoulders. Affordable and sustainable alternatives to stubble burning, such as using agricultural waste for organic fertilizer or power generation, should be researched and promoted by the relevant authorities.
Pakistan's governance situation appears somewhat anarchic, leading to widespread pessimism among the public towards the political class and its style of governance. The prevailing belief for decades has been that "nothing will change" in the country, fostering an attitude of indifference. However, it is the role of the media and public intellectuals to challenge this pessimistic outlook and instill hope for change. Transformations are indeed possible, but they require active public participation and mounting pressure on the government to act responsibly.
Industrialized states have successfully managed pollution levels, providing cleaner air for their citizens, owing to true democratic practices. Pakistan, too, can achieve this feat if its people elect capable leaders who prioritize effective governance over corrupt and inept political establishments. By making informed choices, the citizens can pave the way for a greener and healthier future for their beloved nation.
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