LAHORE - It seems that the debate whether the two-stroke rickshaws should be allowed or not, has ruffled the fathers of the City District Government, as indications are available that it is going one step forward and two steps back.
The CDG has made action plan for phasing out the pollution-spreading three wheelers from Lahore with all the fanfare, only to find itself at its wits’ end with respect to implementing the decision which was welcomed by the environmentalists and general public.
Now seems that both the District Nazim and the DCO are working at cross-purpose while the political will to implement the decision is also lacking. As such, there is a little forward movement toward the elimination of air and noise polluting rickshaws.
In the light of the Lahore High Court direction, the DCO finalised the schedule for phasing out two-stroke rickshaws from the city till December 2007.
District Nazim, reportedly not satisfied with the quality of alternative CNG rickshaws, is stated to be least interested in implementing the schedule and wants to give more time to the owners of three wheelers to convert their machines environment-friendly rickshaws.
According to a survey conducted by The Nation, environmentalists and general public unanimously wanted these rickshaws to be removed from the city roads for being a big health hazard.
Most people called for practical measures to remove these rickshaws and introduce environment-friendly CNG rickshaws. They even asked the government to see what is happening in India on this front where almost the entire public transport has gone on CNG. They said that Pakistan was the country where two-stroke technology is still used even after it is banned in neighbouring developing countries.
Referring to Delhi, Naseer Baloch, a resident of Gulberg, said that the Indian Government pressed ahead with its decision of banning two stroke rickshaws and diesel buses despite stiff resistance and long strike from the transporters.
He said the CDG should get courage from the Indian Government and implement the decision of phasing out two stroke rickshaws and conversion of all public transport to CNG till December 2007.
Nauman Bashir, a resident of Defense, said that the government should go ahead with its plan of getting rid off polluting vehicles. He said effective measures should be taken to promote CNG rickshaws. He said the government should give compensation to the owners of two stroke rickshaws and give attractive packages to those who desired shifting to environment-friendly three wheelers.
According to the official figures, there are more than 50,000 auto rickshaws plying on the city roads. Out of these rickshaws, 20,000 three wheelers are operating illegally as no route permit has been renewed following the imposition of ban on the manufacturing, sale and registration of two stroke rickshaws by the Punjab Government on December 31, 2004.
Besides contributing 60-70 percent of the air pollution in Lahore, two stroke rickshaws are the main source of noise pollution. The three wheelers powered with two-stroke engine, exhaust excessive smoke, emit un-burnt hydrocarbons and generate noise to the uncomfortable level.
Usage of substandard lubricant and its direct mixing with gasoline has made the two stroke rickshaws the worst enemy of the environment.
The manufacturers recommend usage of lubricant up to two per cent but the rickshaw drivers enhance the quantity up to 12 percent for smooth driving. The drivers remove mufflers to accommodate emission of un-burnt lubricants that ultimately enhance noise pollution. Moreover, overloading this means of transport is a routine that enhances air and noise pollution.
The two stroke rickshaw owners, however, are not ready to give in to that easily, especially on the issue that involves their bread and butter.
They are putting extra-pressure on the government to withdraw its decision of banning the rickshaws on major roads.
Following the enforcement of ban on the entry of two stroke rickshaws on The Mall, the rickshaw union went on strike against the CDG decision.
During that strike, a showdown between police and unionists further diverted the attention of political masters. The rickshaw unions’ determination to continue their strike further weakened the political will to implement a decision it took in the best interests of public.
The union also filed a petition before the Lahore High Court against the CDG decision. It also held meetings with the CDG high-ups to convince them to withdraw ban on The Mall and found the District Nazim quite sympathetic, assuring union that the CDG would not press its case against two-strokes any more.
Besides assuring the union that the government will not make case out of the petition filed by union, he made it clear that the CDG would not file any appeal if the LHC gave verdict in the favour of rickshaw union.
District Nazim also assured the rickshaw union that the CDG would not add on more roads where the two-stroke rickshaws would be banned.
The sources revealed that the District Nazim had gone to this extent, as he was not satisfied with the quality of newly introduced CNG rickshaws.
The other day, rickshaw owners met chief minister Punjab and presented their case but getting no response in favour of two stroke technology, discarded throughout the world about ten years back.
District Coordination Officer Mian Muhammad Ijaz, while talking to this scribe, said that the CDG would go ahead with its plan of phasing out two stroke rickshaws till December 2007.
As per the schedule, the CDG banned the entry of two stroke rickshaws on The Mall from April 17, 2006.
Jail Road will be added in the list of banned roads for two stroke rickshaws from July 17, 2006.
Similarly, the entry of polluting three wheelers will be banned on Main Boulevard Gulberg from October 16, Canal Bank Road from January 17, 2007, Allama lqbal Road from April 16, 2007, Ferozepur Road from July 16, 2007, Multan Road from September 17, 2007, Old GT Road from October 16, 2007, Ravi Road and Circular Road from November 19, 2007 while the entire city would be banned for two stroke rickshaws from December 20, 2007.
Previously, the CDG had banned the entry of auto and motorcycle rickshaws on six major city roads from February 1, 2006 but the decision could not be implemented due to lack of coordination among different departments.
Later, the auto rickshaws were excluded from the banned list and entry of motorcycle rickshaws only was prohibited on seven major city roads.
The steps on the part of CDG high ups show their aim to get rid of polluting three wheelers and making the environment free of noise and air pollution.