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The Express Tribune Editorial 1 June 2020

Unclean energy

Environment experts have long been warning against energy generation from coal and other fossil fuels, but the authorities in most countries have remained unmoved. This stubbornness on the part of governments is increasing environmental pollution and degradation impacting people’s health and their livelihoods in myriad of ways.
A study, conducted by Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), says emissions from the clusters of coal mines and power plants in Thar might expose the region’s population to serious health hazards. The study was launched by a NGO via a video conference the other day. The lead analyst of CREA said Pakistan already had one of the high levels of air pollution and the extraction of coal and its use for producing electricity would worsen the situation resulting in an increase in the incidence of life-threatening diseases and enhance the vulnerability of the region’s inhabitants even to Covid-19.
The study claims that there are errors and deliberate omissions in the data used in the Environmental Impact Assessment reports for two coal power projects and violations of the Sindh Ambient Air Quality Standards and WHO guidelines. It accuses the government of fudging figures on a massive scale. The study expresses fears that over a 30-year operating period the emissions from the coal mines and power plants might further add to air pollution leading to deaths on a considerable scale. The increasing environmental pollution might expose the region’s population to dangerous ailments ranging from lung diseases to birth of deformed babies. Experts warned that coal-based power plants would increase poverty in the region.
Experts have demanded of the government to go in for clean energy like solar and wind energy. Pakistan and most countries of Asia and Africa are blessed in that they receive bright sunshine for most of the year which can be converted into clean energy. Remember this folk song: What do the forests bear?/Soil, water and pure air/Soil, water and pure air/Sustain the soil and all she bears.


UN’s truce call

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has voiced his disappointment at how his call for a global ceasefire amidst the Covid-19 pandemic has gone unheeded. At a UNSC session on granting protection to civilians in armed conflicts, Guterres said a global ceasefire will help combat the pandemic, facilitate humanitarian aid to vulnerable people and open space for dialogue. In some instances, years of conflict had left many vulnerable to disease, not just Covid-19. He further warned that some warring parties might seek to take advantage of any ceasefire on humanitarian grounds.
Since the UN chief issued the call, in March, conflicts around the world have continue unabated — like the Indo-China face-off, the hostilities in Afghanistan, and the worsening situation in the Middle East and Africa. It seems the presence of a virus, which has infected millions worldwide and claimed the lives of thousands across the world, has not sated the thirst for violence and blood.
The response to Guterres’ call reflects two primary behaviours. The first is that much of the world is not convinced that there is a major medical emergency with a highly contagious biological agent transmitting through entire nations, slowly overwhelming the native medical systems. The other is a growing general apathy and value for human life over profit — whether monetary or in any other form. The first has caused massive problems in many countries already. The US is the biggest example of what ignorance can lead to. The second is even more dangerous. Unfortunately, we have been witnessing it emerge in many different ways and under many different banners.
The virus had allowed us to pause and reflect on our actions. Instead, we chose peril. Well, Guterres too must reflect — on the role and purpose of the global body. While many countries rely on the UN’s support for health and education, it fails to act as a carrot when it comes to naked aggression.


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