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  Smog & development - Editorial



Courtesy: Dawn News
Editorial

If smog keeps returning with renewed vengeance, we might soon have to evacuate one of our major cities...

OVER the last three years, we have repeatedly been told by the government that infrastructure is the key to development.

Infrastructure will drive growth, it has been argued, and growth will address all the objectives that development is supposed to pursue - from reducing poverty, unemployment, hunger and malnutrition, to putting children back in schools and raising women's awareness about prenatal health.

Infrastructure has been presented to us as the silver bullet with which to solve all our problems.

Along with this argument, we have seen massive government investments in projects ranging from power plants and airports to highways and ports. Few have wanted to argue against infrastructure getting better and better; if somebody has called this a case of misplaced priorities, and said that more was required to be done, a barrage of epithets, instead of a reasoned debate, has followed.

Today, the consequences of the misplaced emphasis on this development model are evident to all.

Lahore airport was shut down due to smog despite the installation of an instrument landing system last year. Load-shedding is back as the power system is subjected to repeated episodes of tripping due to smog, despite a generation surplus available as of this month.

Hospitals are seeing more cases of people with respiratory ailments, and nebuliser sales are rising. The highways wear a deserted look as driving is almost impossible.

In fact, the debilitating smog that has enveloped our cities has rendered much of the infrastructure investment of the past three years ineffective.

Each year the smog returns with renewed vengeance, and if the trend is not checked soon, we may not be too far off from a time when one of our major cities would have to be evacuated. Already across the border in Delhi they have declared an emergency, although the next step is not very clear.

Last year, the authorities in Lahore had to forcibly shut down steel smelters in the city's outskirts to reduce emissions.

And smog is not the only problem now.

The finances required to pay for the operation of this infrastructure as well as the necessary reforms to operate it efficiently are far from robust. The development model advanced by this government is now in serious contention here. The smog will lift at some point, but the wrath of nature and the countervailing pressures of the market will exact a heavy toll from this model in the days to come.



 
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