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Environment problem linked to expansion of refugee settlements
by Ashfaq Yusufzai (The Dawn)

PESHAWAR , March 15: Unplanned expansion of Afghan refugee settlements over the past 25 years has brought villagers closer to cities, causing immense pressure on civil amenities and environment. Lack of clean water and pollution-free environment has made the urban population vulnerable to asthma and water-borne and skin diseases.

In such a complex and challenging situation, the civil society with the support of other stakeholders could create awareness about pollution and urged the government to monitor social activities and regulate daily-based businesses to ensure a pollution-free environment for all living beings.

This was stressed at a seminar entitled "Towards Clean Air in Peshawar ," organized by the IUCN in collaboration with the City District Government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held here on Tuesday.

Speaking on pollution in Peshawar and suburbs, Director EPA Dr Mohammad Bashir Khan explained the problems caused by vehicles and unplanned activities of both small- and medium-size industrial units in the area.

He added that old vehicles being operated through adulterated fuel was one of the biggest causes of both air and noise pollution in the city.

Dr Bashir in his presentation particularly mentioned the more than two-decade-long stay of Afghan refugees who were least bothered about hygienic issues. He said that they threw solid waste outside garbage dumps on the main roads and in residential areas as a result of which they were increasing the pollution level of the city.

He said that activities like cooking meat with the help of coal in Nimak Mandi, Bakhshu Pull and other areas was also increasing pollution in Peshawar.

He said that as a result of the ill-planned expansion of cities small towns in the surrounding vicinity had also been integrated into these cities.

The villagers who were sticking to their rural lifestyle had not only disturbed the entire urbanized culture but had also increased noise pollution to a high level.

Dr Bashir said that Peshawar city was surrounded by several brick kilns which were increasing pollution with the emission of smoke.

Dr Zaheerul Islam, Director General, Karachi Transit Cell, said that in developed countries, the masses had started planning strategies for controlling indoor pollution while in the case of under-developed countries like Pakistan the people were least bothered about even outdoor pollution.

He said that out of the 140million population of Pakistan 55 per cent is living in slum belts known as kachi abadis. The people living here were least knowledgeable about hygienic issues, which was why kachi abadis had become the main source of pollution.

He said that in Karachi , 8,000 tons of solid waste was produced and since the city lacked proper resources for its disposal most of it was lying under the open sky causing environmental pollution and spreading diseases with the help of mosquitoes and flies.

Tariq Azeem Khan, an official representative of the District Environment Office, Lahore , said that the casual lifestyle of the 8-million population of Lahore has rocketed both the air- and noise-pollution level as a result of which the agencies concerned were facing a number of shortcomings and finding it extremely difficult to face the challenge.

He said that water contamination and wrong disposal of solid waste from factories and cottage industries were some of the sources seriously threatening life in the city.

He said that in such a pathetic situation environmentalists and social activists could do a lot by educating the masses and at the same time put pressure on the government for coping with the situation.

He talked about legal restraints which made it difficult for them to ensure punishment for those who were endangering lives by setting up unregistered industrial units, which used fossil fuels, and driving old and smoke-emitting vehicles.


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