Category Archives: Environment

Martin Lings Memorial Lecture & Environment Symposium

Alam-al-Khayal and WWF-Pakistan invite you to

Quranic Clarifications on the Environment Crisis

18-20 December 2008, Ali Auditorium, Ferozepur Road

“It is the nature of God to wish to communicate itself”- Alam-al-Khayal aspires to participate in this self-revelation of the Sovereign Good, doing so with a particular emphasis on reviving traditional knowledge and disciplines through lectures, symposie, film documentaries and workshops on sacred scholarship.

You are invited to attend

  • The Martin Lings Memorial Lecture, “Art and the Real” by Kamil Khan Mumtaz Sahib at 7pm on 18 December at the Ali Auditorium;
  • “A Quranic Response to “An Inconvenient Truth” by Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi at 7pm on 19 December at the Ali Auditorium; and
  • “Sacred Signs & Environmental Solutions” – An Environment Symposium (in Urdu) at 10.30am on 20 December at the Ali Auditorium.

Speakers at the Symposium will include

  • Mr. Iqbal Ahmed Qarshi, Qarshi Foundation
  • Mr. Ali H. Habib, WWF-Pakistan
  • Ms. Nudrat B. Majeed, Alam-al-Khayal
  • Mr. Masood Arshad & Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb
  • Mr. Suheyl Umar
  • Mr. Ahmad Rafay Alam, Advocate (and Lahore Nama contributer!)

A Tale of Two Cities (part II)

by Ahmad Rafay Alam

To paint another picture, there are nine Food Inspectors in Lahore. These are the people that ensure the food Lahoris eat is hygienic. For this important task, there should be 70 food inspectors. Because of the lack of enforcement of food regulations, our hospitals are full of patients with typhoid, cholera and diarrhoea (Pakistan is the second-highest in South Asia for number of child diarrhoea cases). And guess what? When these patients come to government-run hospitals, they find underperforming doctors. The quality of hospitals, basic and rural health in Punjab, which are supposedly decentralised to the local level, is deplorable. Another reason people are streaming into hospital ill-equipped to deal with them is the incredible amount of pollution in our cities, including Lahore. The air quality in Lahore is the worst in history and the World Bank estimates there are some 45 million estimated cases of respiratory diseases in Pakistan each year. To add to this is a rundown water and sanitation system. Because of sub-standard water quality, because sewage pipes regularly leak into water mains, because the sanitation department of Lahore employs only 1,700 men (there should be more than 7,000), the number of such cases can only increase.

What do sanitation, health and air pollution have to do with the Canal Road? Let me explain. In order to even be considered as having safe habitation for its residents, a city must also provide sanitation and health facilities. They are like two sides of the same coin. Without good sanitation and health facilities you cannot be said to have safe habitats. At the moment, Lahore is very lucky. Although the P&D Department of the Government of Punjab issued a report in which it admitted that half of urban Punjabis live in slums and katchi abadis, Lahore is a relatively well-designed city with a relatively lower percentage of its residents living in squalor. But this is set to change. In the next two decades, if our sanitation, health and air quality do not improve, this city will become unliveable. It will stretch from Shahdara to the north-east to the Indian border on the west and halfway to Kasur to the south-west. But, as things stand, most of this area has already been taken over, plotted up and sold by private real-estate developers. By the time the next twenty million people pour into Lahore, these areas – automobile-dependant and without a single environment impact assessment or mitigation measure between them – will be choking under the weight of the urban necropolis they have become part of. Continue reading

Climate Change lecture at LUMS

LAHORE UNIVERSITY OF MANAGEMENT SCIENCES (LUMS)
LAW AND POLICY DEPARTMENT

INVITATION

The Department of Law & Policy has the pleasure of hosting Mr. Toufiq A. Siddiqi’s lecture on Asia’s changing role in global climate change at the PICIC Auditorium at the Lahore University of Management Sciences at 11am on 20 November 2008. Continue reading

A tale of two cities (Part I)

By by Ahmad Rafay Alam

The chief minister of Punjab has requested NESPAK to come up with a way to widen Lahore’s canal road without cutting down any of the trees that line the only avenue of its kind in the world. Ostensibly, this is to cater to the increased congestion and automobile traffic that uses the now signal-free corridor through most of the city. The request made to NESPAK comes months after members of civil society were privately assured that the canal road widening plan would not be pursued by the Sharif government. Of course, NESPAK has no choice but to comply with the executive order it has received. For them, it is less of a study of whether the road can be widened and more of an exercise of how to get it done. One sympathises with the rock-and-hard-place NESPAK finds itself in, but the issue of the canal road widening needs to be understood within the context of the future of the city.

When the previous government attempted to widen the Canal Road, it was met with unexpected and unprecedented opposition from Lahoris keen to preserve one of the last jewels of its built heritage. The Lahore Canal was originally nothing but an irrigation channel diverted from the Ravi to feed the pleasure garden of Shalimar and bring life to Lahore’s first suburb: the Mughal-era’s Baghbanpura. The canal was later straightened and led to Head Bulloki by the English colonialist as part of their great effort to irrigate the Doab areas of Punjab. The canal system introduced by the Colonialists and its augmentation during Ayub Khan’s time must be given due credit. It was only by unleashing the potential of the fertile soil of Punjab did the Colonialist feed the belly of its Indian Empire; and the Green Revolution of the 1960s is the reason behind Ayub Khan’s “Golden Decade of Progress,” whatever that means. Make no mistake, the canal irrigation system of the Punjab is the most significant event ever to have taken place in South Asia. Continue reading

Slimy Ravi

A letter to the editor published in the Friday TImes, Lahore.

The Punjab government would do well to rein in one of its offshoots, the environment protection agency (EPA). The agency has issued notices to almost all industrial units located in the Multan Road industrial area for not observing environmental rules and regulations. For instance, having a soakage well for collection of sewage water in factory premises is against EPA rules. EPA reckons it pollutes the subsoil water rendering it unfit for drinking. Even if we agree that EPA has a point, what arrangements has the Government made to provide a sewage system in one of the oldest industrial areas of the city? The city Government has not even provided drains along the road for collecting rainwater, meaning factories in the low lying areas are inundated during the rainy season.

Sitting in cushy offices and issuing notices to industries for breach of law is one thing, assessing the situation on the ground to understand the miseries of the sufferers is another. EPA could justify proceeding against the industrial units only if the Government had provided an alternate arrangement to manage sewage water. Lastly, how does the Government manage city sewage? Does it have a purification plant? Wasa discharges the sewage waste into Ravi; no wonder the water is nothing but slime.

Mirza Tuftan Baig,

Lahore.

Five deer stolen from Jallo Wildlife Park, Lahore

* Accused claim deer feeder killed a fawn while cutting into cage

Staff Report

LAHORE: Batapur Police registered a case against five officials of the Jallo Wildlife Park on Sunday for killing one deer and stealing five others.

Batapur Police registered the First Information Report (FIR) on the complaint of Jallo Wildlife Park Security In-charge Muhammad Anwar Maan, who alleged that five deer were found missing from their cage, adding that watchmen Qadeer Shah, Muhammad Ashraf and Hammayun Akhtar told him about the missing deer. He said that he went to look at the cage himself following their report. He alleged that the said persons had shown negligence in their duties and should be held responsible for the missing deer, adding that the police officials should recover the deer from their possession. Continue reading

LCD Billboards – Why I don’t like them!

1.  They’re ugly and quite often trees are cut to accommodate them;

2.  They are incredibly dangerous unsafe traffic hazards;

3.  They are the source of light pollution;

3.  They are on public land yet the public gets nothing of the million of Rupees that change hands between advertiser, billboard owner and the public authority which collects advertising fees;

4.  They’re meant to be in high-pedestrian areas, but our government has allowed them to be set up in high-automobile traffic areas;

5.  The generators that run them are noisy and are a source of noise pollution;

6.  The generators that run them spew diesel fumes onto the road and are a source of air pollution;

7.  They come with their own security guards (How humiliating a job must that be);

8.  The massive advertising budgets required for billboard advertsing keeps the costs of those commodities high – and the billboards are on public land!!!

9.  They are evidence that city fathers are more interesting in making money than the health and safety of residents.

Note traffic light just below bottom left corner of the screen.

Note traffic light just below bottom left corner of the screen.

Pollution damaging beauty of Fort wall

Pollution damaging beauty of Fort wall – Daily Times 9 September

* Mughal Emperor Jahangir initiated the wall construction and it was completed during reign of Shah Jahan in 1631-32 AD
* Wall painting embellished with panels of tile mosaics and fresco paintings
* Mosaic depicts variety of fashions worn by people of Mughal era

By Abdul Manan

LAHORE: Recent permission for parking outside the Punjab Archaeology Department (PAD), adjacent to the Lahore Fort gate near the Samadhi Maharanjit Singh, has damaged one of the Fort’s painted walls due to the emission of smoke from the parked vehicles, sources told Daily Times on Monday.

According to government statistics, the parking stand, adjacent to the Shershah Wali plot, was once a beautiful garden under the Parking and Housing Authority.

The wall’s construction was initiated by Mughal Emperor Jahangir and completed during the reign of Shah Jahan in 1631-32 AD. It represents a series of tiled montage panels, which historically are amongst the world’s most spectacular sites. It is a remarkable amalgamation of unique designs. It is embellished with panels of tile mosaics and fresco paintings and is 450 metres in length and 17 metres high

The decorations are between two cornices, which are divided into a double row of differently-sized arched recesses. The fresco paintings are carried out in the arched recesses, while the spandrels are tastefully decorated with tile mosaics, displaying men, fairies, elephants, lions, dragons, scenes of animal fights, men playing polo, and numerous other games. The human figures on the wall give evidence of the fashion custom of that time, from the clothing worn by royalty to those of servants and gladiators.

Sources said that even though the parking stand was constructed for visitors and employees of the Fort, the coaches of the Badami Bagh bus stand are also utilising the space. They said that the smoke emitted from the vehicle engines were directly damaging the wall and ruining its beauty.

PAD Director Muhammad Shahbaz, when questioned about the environmental pollution, defended the parking stand by saying it was a necessary requirement for the visitors of the Lahore Fort.

He urged the removal of the GT Road to save historical monuments, adding that even though the GT Road and the parking stand are at a considerable distance, the stand should not be abolished.

NGO Eco Watch Trust President Imran Haider, who five years ago filed a case in the Environmental Tribunal (ET) about environmental hazards to monuments, said that the ET had passed a judgment regarding the parking stands near monuments to be prohibited.

He said that his appeal was to preserve the monuments in general, claiming the parking stand to be the worst form of threat to the wall, adding that it should be restored back to being a mini-garden.

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesman told Daily Times that the EPA would ask the Environment Department of the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) to submit a report about the parking stand. He said that he would ask the CDGL to take action against the PAD for not saving the monuments from the hazardous effect of the vehicles.

He said that the EPA, seven years ago, had suggested the provincial government to remove the Badami Bagh Bus stand in order to protect the Lahore Fort from the smoke and dust of the buses. He said removal of the bus stand would help protect the Fort.

Lawrence Gardens, Lahore

Posted by Raza Rumi –
I visited the Lawrence Gardens in August and managed to take a few pictures.
The cricket Pavillion
Lawrence Garden Memories, Lahore
The relaxing policmen

Lawrence Garden Memories, Lahore

Continue reading

At last, someone’s put two and two together

We’re all familiar with the effects commercialization has had on the city.  Traffic congestion has worsened, increasing noise and air pollution.  At last, the Environment Protection Agency Punjab has realized that commercialization has serious affects on the environment.  Already we consume the most polluted air in the history of the city.

I pray that someone notices this bit of news and acts on it.  So far, the Chief Minister has promised “mega” development projects.  And we know what that means: more roads and more space to commercialize.

To read more about the effects of haphazard commercialization (other than the standard traffic congestion stuff), have a look at UET faculty Obaidullah Nadeem and Dr. Razwan Hameed’s haphazard-commercialization-in-lahore-obaidullah-nadeem1 on the subect.

Volunteers to educate Lahoris to keep city clean

By Afnan Khan

LAHORE: The government has appointed a number of volunteers at various public places in the city, under a programme to create awareness among citizens to keep the environment clean, in accordance with international standards.

The move can be made a law to maintain cleanliness in the city and the people caught throwing garbage could be fined, as practiced in developed countries.

A number of volunteers carrying dustbins and literature highlighting the hazards of throwing garbage in public places have been deployed at different places especially on The Mall. The volunteers have been trained to convince citizens not to throw all kinds of garbage such as polythene bags on roads. The volunteers have been trained to offer dustbins to people so that they may dispose of garbage. The volunteers wear grey and yellow uniforms and are paid Rs 6,000 every month and remain on duty at their assigned spots till night.

DCO: District Co-ordination Officer (DCO) Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta told Daily Times that the campaign aimed at educating people about the hazards of throwing waste on roads and public places, which affected people’s health and the environment. He said the volunteers were initially going to be deployed on The Mall on a trial basis and if they were found making a difference, similar teams would be deployed at other public places across the city, such as the Racecourse Park, Model Town Park, National Park and Kalma Chowk. Continue reading

Noise levels driving Lahoris crazy

* Environmentalist says noise pollution one of primary causes of hearing loss and cardiac disorders

By Abdul Manan (Daily Times)

LAHORE: Noise pollution in the city is on the rise with most residents complaining that the noise is becoming a public nuisance.

Dr Khursheed Ahmad, Department of Environmental Engineering head at the National College of Business Administration and Economics said: “Noise pollution is one of the main causes of hearing loss, cardiac disorders, epileptic seizures, emotional problems and restlessness.”

He said cars and other vehicles were a main cause of the noise. He said the total number of registered vehicles in the city had increased from 45,000 (1976) to 1.5 million in 2008. “Main residential areas such as the Defence Housing Authority, Johar Town, Township, Gulberg, Askari Flats, Faisal Town, and WAPDA Town have noise levels that exceed the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQSs),” he said.

On August 29, 1993, he said, the Environment and Urban Affairs Division, through a notification, had enforced NEQSs at 85 decibels (dB). He said a recent survey had revealed that residential areas have NEQS levels higher than the permissible levels. He said, “People exposed to 85 decibels for 50 years or more can suffer a permanent hearing loss.” Continue reading

50% poplar trees on Lahore’s canal need to be replaced

By Abdul Manan

LAHORE: More than 50 percent poplar trees (Euramericana guinier) on the banks of canal have completed their average age (10 years) and need be replaced, because they can be hazardous to the environment and health, botanists and environmentalists told Daily Times.

They said, however, removal of the trees from the banks of canal would result in soil erosion and affect the city’s beauty.

More than 70 percent trees on the banks of canal are poplar while other species include jaman (Eugenia jambolana), shishum (Dalbergia sissoo), mango, amaltas (Cassia fistula) and Alphitonia excelsa.

They said, “The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has adopted a better policy for tree plantation keeping in view the long-term environmental effects. Trees planted by the DHA have an average age of 50 years.” Continue reading

Heat-stricken Lahorites throng Ravi

Kamaran’s Baradari offers added attraction for boating

Khalid Malik

LAHORE: Marred by unending power load-shedding and extremely sultry weather, people here on Wednesday thronged the river Ravi for relief and picnicking as water level is rising there due to recent rains and melting of snow on mountains.

Rush of visitors was observed near Shahdara and Saggian bridges where families enjoyed boating, mangoes, meals, ice cream and got involved in lots of other fun. The green belts and a thick line of trees, thanks to local government efforts, provided an ideal spot along the river to merry-makers. Continue reading

My Amaltas tree

Raza Rumi

I grew up watching an Amaltas (Cassia fistula) grow in our side-garden in Lahore. Each spring would bring flowers on the creepers and shortly thereafter the Amaltas would start blooming with yellow flowers setting fire to the little garden adjacent to my room. Lahore’s roads would also glow in the summer adding much zest to a loveable, hot summer. Heat would make one yearn for the rains. So the cycle of seasons would continue with Amaltas at the centre of transitions and unforgettable for the colour and unfathomable beauty…

In Dhaka, Delhi and so many South Asian cities I have watched Amaltas trees in full bloom. The picture above (taken in Islamabad by a newspaper correspondent) today brought back all those muddled memories. Luckily, where I live now, Amalatas exists with a different local name.

Comforting, like an old acquaintance, it is still there in my life. It has not abandoned me.

More on the Amaltas tree, its properties…

Famous for its laxative properties, amaltas (botanical name — Cassia fistula, Sanskrit name — aragvadha or chaturangula) is a medium-sized tree, which is also the favourite roadside tree of the planners. In full bloom in the summer, amaltas is conspicuous by its bright yellow flowers and long cylindrical fruits. Continue reading

Lahore goes green – Roshni’s German-style bread is growing popular

Rina Saeed Khan writing for the Friday Times, Lahore

Roshni’s German-style bread is growing in popularity in Lahore

As the demand for pesticide-free fruits and vegetables has spiked in Pakistan over the last few years, organic farmers have seen a boom in interest. In organic farming, vegetables and fruit (and wheat, rice etc.) are grown without the use of synthetic chemicals. Organic farmers rely instead on crop rotation, integrated pest management, crop residues and animal manure to maintain soil productivity and to control pests and weeds. The stated aim of organic farming is to “sustain and enhance the health of ecosystems and organisms from the smallest in the soil to human beings.”

Organic farming relies on the earth’s natural resources to grow and process food. It is not a new concept – before the use of agro-chemicals became popular, this is how our forefathers grew their own food!

 With this humble beginning we want to highlight the idea of organic farming and environment friendly lifestyle and make organic products available to you,” said the notice inside the newly opened Roshni Organic Shop opposite Shapes Gym in Lahore’s Gulberg area. For years now, Lahoris have been feasting on Roshni bread, the delicious and healthy wholegrain bread, made by the Roshni Organic Bakery. The various kinds of Roshni bread (linseed, rye flake, plain, toast) are sold in different outlets throughout Lahore and are made from natural ingredients grown by organic farmers. The small and simply decorated Roshni shop now offers these breads along with other bakery items like quiches, cupcakes and pastries. The shop also offers other organic food items like fresh vegetables, dry fruit, herbal teas, natural oils, sugar, rice and cereals. It is a treat for all those who are concerned about their health and the environment. Continue reading

Cottage industries must be registered

Daily Times Report

LAHORE: The city government has started cracking down on large factories in residential areas, believing them to be a source of nuisance to residents.

District Officer (Environment) Tariq Zaman told Daily Times on Friday that there were almost 5,000 cottage industries in residential areas. He said that the city government would advertise in newspapers on Saturday (today) to tell the owners of these factories to get themselves listed with the government within 15 days. “The objective is not to discourage cottage industry, but to shift the larger ones away from residential areas,” he added. He also said that once listed, the government would check whether the factories came under cottage industry or not.

Mercury rising:Factories in Lahore emitting tonnes of mercury in air daily

By Abdul Manan

LAHORE: Factories in the city are pumping hundreds of kilogrammes of mercury in the city’s air and water while the Environment Protection Department (EPD) has so far done nothing to curb this lethal pollution.

Talking to Daily Times, an EPD official said, “Mercury pollution is a very serious matter and should be dealt with on war footing.” He said that about six months ago, the federal agency for environment launched a project in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to prepare an inventory of mercury pollution. He said the federal agency tasked the EPD to do the work in Lahore, “but the EPD has done nothing and the expensive laboratory equipment [used to measure mercury in the air and water] is kept locked in the EPD store.”

He said the federal government had given the EPD the task to hold awareness seminars and programmes to sensitise factory owners on the increasing mercury levels in the city’s environment. But no such programme had been held, he added. Continue reading

Lahore: The axe falls on secretariat trees

Intikhab Hanif’s report for the Daily DAWN is worrisome:

LAHORE, April 19: A number of Punjab Civil Secretariat’s old trees have been felled as part of Chief Secretary Javed Mehmood’s ‘demolition plan’ and the premises has been denuded of its natural beauty, green shadows and most importantly the historical links.

Among the felled ones is a red berry tree, which was standing near the back gate of the secretariat and was famous for its sweet fruit. It was perhaps one of the very few red berry trees in Lahore and was a link between the Lahore of today and the past.

“I really regret the felling of this tree. It should have been preserved,” said a senior secretariat employee, recalling how he used to pluck berries from the tree in spring after offering prayers in the nearby mosque without caring for his age and rank. Continue reading

Lahore: Return the GOR Park

By Ahmad Rafay Alam

Several formalities need to be completed before Shabaz Sharif can once again assume the administration of this province. But this hasn’t deterred the former chief minister from letting all and sundry know that he’s back in town and that he means business. What this also means is that the previous government’s grip over the administration of the Punjab— a vice like noose that wound its way from halls of the secretariat, through every police station in the province and into the vaulted halls of the Lahore High Court— is slowly but surely loosening.

During the past few years few, if any, have uttered a word about the fate of the small triangular park that stood in the heart of Lahore’s leafy GOR-I residential district. Turning into the GOR at the intersection of the Mall and Davis Road, it stood outside the chief minister’s official residence and office. At some point this once round-a-bout was converted into a triangular “green” island. Then, to ward off the children, loiterers and die-hard cricketers a fountain was added to the middle of the island (It didn’t work: the marbled floor around the triangular fountain not only provided an year-round pitch, it gave local cricket enthusiasts three pitches instead of one.)

Regardless of whether or not any of these measures worked from keeping the great unwashed out of the line of vision of the high and mighty, the point is that this little bit of green in the middle of GOR— in front of the provincial chief executive’s nerve centre no less— was a park open to the public as a utility area. And even when over zealous policemen keeping watch at the CM’s office managed to chase away the children, loiterers and die-hard cricketers, the little island was another little example of the beauty tucked away in GOR. Continue reading