Dec 17 - 30, 2007

The World Bank has estimated that a large number of people die prematurely each year in Pakistan from exposure to air pollution. That figure ceases to be a statistic, when one of that large numbers of people could be your son or daughter, mother or father.

Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) has initiated research studies on the issue and playing key role in the advancement and application of Science and Technology to societal needs in Pakistan.

SUPARCO, the national agency is currently involved in space and atmospheric research activities. This year, it has initiated a comprehensive and detailed investigative study on the issue of wide spread dense winter fog in Punjab and adjacent NWFP areas.

Actually the dense fog poses serious health hazards along with effectively restricts traffic movement besides damaging farms products particularly the cash crop of Kinno and disrupting other socio-economic sectors.

One aspect of study being carried out by SUPARCO is creating public awareness and participation of other stakeholders from both public & private sector. To meet this objective, SUPARCO organized a one day national seminar on "Aerosols and Environmental Impacts" which was addressed by prominent Scientists, Air Quality Managers, and Environmental Engineers both from public and private sectors participated in this seminar. The seminar was co-chaired by Director General SUPARCO, Mr. Arshad H. Siraj and assisted by Dr. Badar Ghauri of SUPARCO.

The subject of seminar was purposely selected to highlight particulate pollution (Smog/Haze) in Pakistan Punjab. Dr. Ghauri and Ms. Arifa of SUPARCO, Dr. Saleemi of UET Lahore, Dr. Ilyas Faridi of Institute of Public Health Lahore discussed in detail the prevailing level of aerosols in the city and their environmental impacts.

Dr. Rafique of Lahore School of Economics deliberated on the issue of banning 2-stroke rickshaws in the urban areas of Punjab especially in Lahore. The participants admired SUPARCO's initiatives and efforts for carrying out scientific work on particulate matter (Aerosols).

Mr. Siraj, DG SUPARCO highlighted that impressive economic development in the region fuelled by growing population, has resulted in higher demands for energy, mobility and communications.

The scope and magnitude of the environmental consequences of these demands are far reaching, especially with respect to air pollution at local and regional levels. The new scenario encompasses complex inter-linkages of several issues including air pollution, haze, smog, ozone and global warming. The most visible impact of air pollution is the haze, a layer of pollutants and particles caused by biomass burning and industrial emissions that pervade all regions in winters from December to January. Haze can affect agriculture productivity, human health, transportation and other economic sectors in a variety of direct and indirect ways. When thick fog blankets Lahore and several other cities of Punjab, it badly affects air, road and rail traffic and due to highly reduced visibility, disrupts schedule of flights and trains. Reduced visibility makes driving extremely difficult and risky.

Pollutants levels have been increased many folds in mega cities of Pakistan especially in Lahore as compared to standards/guidelines given by USEPA/ WHO. For example 24 hours average PM2.5 (Particulates with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 microns) level in Lahore ranges from 50g/m3 to 350g/m3 for winter season which is about 2 to 10 folds greater as compared to USEPA standard value i.e. 35g/m3 . PM2.5 is of utmost importance to be considered as it can penetrate deep into lungs and many trace and toxic material and carcinogenic pollutants absorbed on these particles (PM2.5) may cause serious damage to people health.

P&G endeavours to help save lives of newly born babies. Neonatal mortality rate in Pakistan is amongst the highest in the world. P&G announced recently to launch a new project committed towards helping save lives of newborn babies by providing healthcare equipment to select hospitals all over Pakistan.

Sharing the vision behind the initiative, Country Manager P&G Pakistan, Qaisar Shareef said: "In addition to serving consumers with premium quality brands, we, at P&G believe in working with and within local communities to respond to their social needs."

He briefed on the project saying: "P&G's Khwabon Se Agey project aims to help save the lives of infant babies by providing life saving equipment to hospitals across Pakistan. As our partner, PMA will be sharing their expertise in identifying a number of recipient hospitals across Pakistan and life saving equipment that will be donated to these hospitals along with conducting training of the hospital staff on effective use of the equipment.

"Through this (Khwabon Se Agey) project, we intend to involve consumers and enable them to play a significant role in working with P&G to achieve this aim. Now, consumers' everyday shopping can gain more meaning as by buying any of the participating brands, they can help save lives of newborns. Starting from 15th Dec 2007, till the next three months, P&G will donate a portion of its sales proceeds from participating brands towards this cause. But this is not where our effort stops. In addition to providing lifesaving equipment P&G will dedicate a portion of the donation for training of the recipient hospital personnel on use of the equipment provided.", said P&G Pakistan's Marketing Director, Ruediger Koppelmann.

Commenting on significance of this project, Secretary General PMA, Dr. Habib Soomro said: "According to the Pakistan Millennium Development Report 2005, neonatal mortality rate in Pakistan is among the highest in the world, standing at 54 per 1000 live births. Estimates suggest that every year around 160,000 neonatal deaths can be prevented in Pakistan. With the launch of Khwabon Se Agey, PMA will be working with P&G with the common aim to make a positive difference in saving innocent lives and we will look forward to everyone's support towards this cause. What is unique about this program is that in addition to equipment, training of the hospital staff on effective usage is also a key component."

The event was well attended by representatives of the medical community, several medical associations such as Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Pakistan, Pakistan Medical Association and key media houses from print and electronic backgrounds.

TDAP: The government in order to promote foreign trade has instituted a new organization namely Trade Development Authority of Pakistan which has replaced the Export Promotion Bureau.

Actually, the primary goal of the newly created organization is to find out ways and means to optimize our export potentials which are unfortunately are not being translated in existing volume of exports.

In this respect, the government has allowed 0.5 percent R&D fund to the exporters on their total volume of exports. Unfortunately, in the absence of any scientific guidance available to the exporters the amount is being spent by the exporters according to their whims. According to State Bank of Pakistan a total amount of Rs24 billion was reimbursed to the exporters in 2007 under the head of Research and Development.

So far the TDAP is in early stage and suffering from teething problems as the funds approved by the government for running this organization are not released by the people sitting at the helm of affairs.

Actually, instead of running this organization purely in a bureaucratic fashion it is in the larger interest of the nation that higher educational institutions should be involved to make it result oriented. The authorities in TDAP should go through the research papers and thesis produced by the students of higher classes and after screening such research reports which are capable to cater to the market needs can be implemented to benefit the country and the economy. Keeping these research papers in shelves would serve no purpose.