Breathing Clean

Smog has become a tough seasonal occurrence, similar to heatwaves. Winters in Lahore and Punjab are marked by respiratory illnesses and slow deaths caused by poor air quality. We were warned long ago that cities and their industrial and vehicular emissions would exacerbate air pollution; now, these predictions have become our lived experience. The Punjab government’s smog-free plan is commendable in its management and minimization of emissions to reduce smog. An existential problem needed a planned and strategized multi-layered solution.

As a first step, Punjab’s government outlined priorities in March to save what remains of the natural and healthy environment. The next phase involves issuing fit-for-environment licenses to vehicles, imposing fines on unfit vehicles, and using safe city cameras to facilitate the crackdown. This is a massive step and will be implemented gradually but is expected to significantly reduce smog and make the air cleaner. The journey will not be free of challenges as the Environment Protection Agency gears up to digitalize the certification mechanism.

Taking ownership of our air and environment can substantially reduce the execution challenges of the smog-free Punjab plan. The provincial government should also consider alternatives to fuel-driven vehicles. Around the world, major urban centers have faced the smog problem, and the most reliable solution has been replacing traditional vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). Los Angeles adopted this plan for public transit, and Beijing is also implementing it.

Punjab’s government should learn from these success stories of combating smog and providing clean air to breathe. Initially, public transport and government-run mass transit vehicles should be replaced with EVs. Gradually, the government can encourage private car owners to switch to EVs. Punjab must become smog-free, with each successive winter better than the last. Innovative solutions like electric vehicles are promising, and in the face of a time-ticking climate change reality, innovation should be welcomed.

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