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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday expressed fear that a second wave of the Covid-19 might hit the country, especially the cities, where level of air pollution was very high. Speaking at Clean Green Index Award ceremony here, he said that several cities, where air pollution levels were high, experience smog during October and November, when temperatures start to drop.

"I fear that in October and November, cities such as Faisalabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Gujranwala, where there is more pollution, [there] might be a second spike in coronavirus cases," he warned. He said that the coronavirus cases were rising gradually and "we hope that they don't increase quickly and we are monitoring it".

The prime minister said that during winter season, pollution becomes stagnant in the atmosphere, leading to the spread of diseases. He called upon the masses to strictly follow preventive measures against the novel coronavirus, adding the entire world acknowledged Pakistan's strategy against the contagion, and "we need to maintain it".

He said that Pakistan not only saved its people, but also saved the economy by putting in place stringent measures to contain the deadly virus. "This was the reason, the WHO [World Health Organization] said that Pakistan not only defeated the virus but also saved its economy while curbing the spread of coronavirus," he remarked.

He blamed the loss of green cover and lack of plantation drive over the years for the rising level of pollution in the country. The prime minister lamented how country's various cities such as Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi used to be clean but were now badly affected due to air pollution.

"The people used to drink Peshawar's water as if it was mineral water," he said. Talking about the port city of Karachi, PM Khan said that trash and garbage could be found scattered on the metropolis' streets.

"The sewerage is being disposed of in the sea, causing hurdles for fishermen," he added. In Lahore, nearly 70 percent of the green cover has been finished, he said, adding as a result, the pollution in Punjab's capital had increased.

The prime minister said that the time had come that both the government and the people should join hands to save the future of the country which could be possible only through plantation. "We have destroyed our forests, and our next generation will have to pay the price for it," he said.

Talking about the government's measures for reforestation, he said, "Our first step - which is ambitious - is to plant 10 billion trees. The second is to clean our cities and generate electricity through solid waste."

He said that the first step would be to change the mindset of the people and make them realise that the country's climate was worsening due to pollution. "The second step will be to give incentives to the deputy commissioners for their hard work, and punish those who fail to fulfill their jobs," he said.

Khan had launched the Clean Green Pakistan Index to start a healthy cleanliness competition among 19 cities across the country on November 15 last year. The focus of the initiative is to inculcate a spirit of competition on cleanliness initiatives in the cities and facilitate the behavioural change, building positive attitudes, institutional strengthening for better water, sanitation and hygiene services, and other facilities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020