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Commuter transport poisoning Lahore
by Noshad Ali, Daily Times

LAHORE: Thousands of two-stroke and diesel engines, installed mainly in commuter transport, are responsible for about 80 percent of Lahore’s total vehicular pollution, and out of 63,000 annual deaths in the city, about 1,250 are caused by air pollution.

Thousands of Lahore’s citizens are suffering from various chronic diseases like Asthma, because of pollution.

According to the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) Environment Department, two-stroke rickshaws and motorcycle-rickshaws are causing 65 percent of the total vehicular pollution and diesel buses and wagons are responsible for another 15 percent. The remaining 20 percent is being caused by other vehicles including trucks, tractors and cars, most of which are privately owned.

The data reports about 1.5 million vehicles on Lahore’s roads at the end of 2005, with a monthly increase of 13,000 vehicles. The Punjab government has allocated Rs 822 million for environment protection in its 2005-06 budget. CDGL sources said that they had no proper record of motorcycle-rickshaws but their number in Lahore was estimated to be 15,000. There are about 40,000 two-stroke rickshaws and 10,000 buses and vans on Lahore’s roads.

They said that most vehicles do not meet international environment protection standards despite presence of motor vehicle examiners. They said there was no vehicle certification system in the city, all commercial vehicles were being passed without checking or certification and wagons and buses up to 20 years old were still running on the city’s roads. They said he pollution could be controlled with an environment friendly transport policy.

Quoting international studies, they said that 25 percent of the fuel and oil that conventional two-stroke engines use, is emitted unburned. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the ratio of unburnt fuel emitted from two-stroke engines is 30 percent.

The EPA estimates that a 70 horsepower two-stroke motor causes the same amount of hydrocarbon pollution in one hour, as a 5,000 mile drive in a modern four stroke automobile. Gas and oil contain more than 100 compounds, many of which are toxic. These include benzene, known to be carcinogenic to humans, and toluene, which can damage developing foetuses. Even the newest direct fuel-injected two-stroke engines emit 10 times as much hydrocarbons as four-stroke engines.

The provincial government announced a ban on two-stroke motorcycle rickshaws and rickshaws from February 1 on The Mall, Jail Road, Ferozpur Road, Multan Road, Allama Iqbal Road and Old GT Road. A proposal of running buses on compressed natural gas (CNG) is also being considered.

The Punjab chief minister allocated Rs 1 billion to his Green Programme, under which people would be facilitated to buy CNG-fitted four-stroke rickshaws manufactured by three local companies.

Bus manufactures, despite numerous requests, have not begun manufacturing environment friendly buses. Lahore also has a flourishing adulterated-fuel business and cheap fuel and lubricants add to the pollution.

Atmospheric pollution, particularly in urban areas like Lahore, has a strong impact on daily life. Motor vehicles are a major source of air pollution. sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and particulate matter (PM) are considered pollution indicators. Lahore’s PM level is several times more than the World Health Organisation’s PM10 standard of 150 mg/m3.

A veteran technician of a vehicle company said that the internationally accepted Euro Emission Standard had not been introduced in Pakistan so far. He said it was surprising that global automobile technology giants were delaying meeting Euro II standard to 2008 in Pakistan, 12 years after Europe. The bus industry, however, is committed to meet Euro II standard in 2006 for both diesel and CNG, he said.

The Supreme Court of India, on April 29, 1999, ordered all cars to meet Euro-I standard by June 1, 1999 and Euro II norms by April 1, 2000 in Delhi. The Indian car industry followed the directions and has said it has the ability to produce Euro IV compliant cars by 2006.

Several countries have begun to implement emission standards recently. India began in 1991, but it could enforce Euro II standards countrywide in 2005. Nepal is constrained because it depends on Indian fuel that decides the fate of its technology trajectory.

Almost all major Asian countries including China, Thailand, India, Indonesia and Philippines will enforce the Euro II standard in 2006. Several countries are trying to hop to Euro III or Euro IV standards as quickly as possible. Technicians think global carmakers dominating Asian markets do have the capacity to produce cleaner cars than required by emissions standards.

District Officer (Environment) Tariq Zaman said that the government was observing the situation keenly, and had taken several measures to control air pollution, especially vehicular pollution. He admitted that the issue needed immediate steps and long term plans could not be relied on.


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