ISLAMABAD, Mar 10 : Pakistan has made a significant step forward towards becoming a pollution-free country with the approval of the first ‘Clean Air Policy’ (NCAP) by the Federal Cabinet.
Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman, who spearheaded the efforts for the formulation of the NCAP, said: “The policy aims to provide a comprehensive framework for improving air quality in Pakistan, with a particular focus on implementing national-scale actions that will lead to measurable improvements.
“It is a policy guideline for the implementing agencies and environmental protection agencies (EPAs) in all the provinces and federating units,” she said in a statement on Friday.
Sherry Rehman said if implemented as per the recommended timeframe the policy would set the foundation for a cleaner and healthier future for Pakistan and its people.
Speaking on the urgent need for such action, the minister said, “Air pollution is a critical environmental and health issue in Pakistan, causing 235,000 premature deaths in 2019 alone and reducing the average life expectancy of our citizens by up to 2.7 years. Our country consistently ranks among the world’s most polluted, with cities like Lahore and Karachi particularly affected. The economic toll is staggering, with the World Bank estimating that air pollution has cost Pakistan a staggering US$ 47.8 billion.”
She emphasized the policy’s crucial role in tackling the challenges of air pollution and recurring smog issues in major Pakistani cities.
The NCAP, which was formulated with the input of all stakeholders at the federal and provincial levels, introduced a comprehensive framework for improving air quality in Pakistan through the implementation of various policy, technological, and management actions, including monitoring air quality targets, she added.
The policy’s objectives, she said, included reducing annual deaths and transboundary pollution, improving the health of Pakistani citizens, and having a positive impact on the country’s economic activity.
“While the NCAP provides a roadmap for Pakistan to achieve cleaner air, its successful implementation ultimately depends on the provinces,” the minister said. “Provinces have been extensively consulted for their inputs as they are the actual implementers, with non-binding recommendations and they have a crucial role to play in implementing measures that will improve air quality within their areas of responsibility.”
With the NCAP in place, she said, the government and its partners were poised to make significant progress in the fight against air pollution in Pakistan.
The minister said the NCAP had identified one priority intervention in each of the five major air-polluting sectors, including transport, industry, agriculture, waste, and residential.
The successful implementation of the five priority interventions, she added, was expected to make a substantial contribution to improving air quality, reducing emissions by 81% in 2040 compared to the baseline scenario and by 70% compared to 2020 levels.
“It is the beginning of a path Pakistan needs to urgently be on. “
The minister highlighted that at the heart of the policy was a robust governance mechanism, which would be led by a National Action Committee, established at the federal level and facilitated by a technical committee.
The National Action Committee would regularly review and update the NCAP every five years, while the technical committee would oversee recommended milestones of the policy and relevant plans, she added.
“The NCAP provides a non-binding roadmap for the provinces to follow, and we are happy to assist them in developing their implementation plans. The provincial governments, AJK, GB, and local governments have also promised to devise their strategies, plans, and programs for implementing the policy.
“It is only through the collective and collaborative efforts that we can deliver on this policy and improve Pakistan’s air quality, reducing air pollution that harms millions of Pakistanis every year.”
With a clear policy structure in place, if implemented at all nodes and as per commitments made by the provinces, she said, the NCAP was poised to drive lasting change across the country and make significant strides in improving the air quality.