PUF 2011(3rd Day): Sustainable Development for “Green Cities”

Lahore (March 4, 2011): Urban transport ties should be made more environment friendly to achieve sustainable development, Asif Kabani, an environmentalist, said on Thursday. He was speaking at a session on Smart Growth, Green Cities with Climate Change and Adaptation at the third day of the Pakistan Urban Forum.
Kabani urged that the green cities concept should be introduced with buildings, transport facilities and other infrastructure abiding by environmental standards.
He said the government needed to educate the public about environment-protection issues. Most people, he said, were not aware of the challenges of global warming and climate change so that it was the cities administrations’ job to launch awareness campaigns in this regard.
He said there were three core strategies for building a public transport system: one based on light rail, cars or subway lines; second on expansion of intra city bus system and third on promoting walking and cycling.
He said big cities in Pakistan lacked a functioning public transport system. He added that most low population cities too lacked proper transport facilities.
He said the shortage of public transport was forcing more and more people to use private vehicles. “Cars and trucks alone account for between 20 and 50 per cent of the total green house gases emitted in urban areas across the world,” he said. He said mostly only the poor were using public transport in Pakistan, while a significantly large number of people had switched to private vehicles, making traffic jams a regular feature of city life and raising the level of pollution.
In the short-term, he proposed, diesel run buses should be replaced with CNG-powered buses.
He highlighted that public transport system should be designed keeping in view the needs of the population. He said at present public transport was not catering to the needs of the women.
He said cities needed to reduce vehicular traffic in order to improve the health of its residents and save their money.
This, he said, should be done by adopting sound development policies and not by penalizing people for driving cars or motorcycles. He said research showed that government could decrease road traffic from 20 per cent to 40 per cent by adopting sound policies.
He said construction of environmentally-friendly buildings should also be a priority.
Asif Qayum, an adviser with the Planning Commission, said the government had formed several task forces to work on reducing the damage to environment in urban areas.
He said around Rs500 million had been sanctioned to purchase CNG buses for big cities.

(Published in “Daily Express Tribune” on March 4, 2011)