Air pollution is one of the biggest problems for the world today, and it bears significance in all parts of the globe. This article reflects on the insights of two cases based on air pollution and the steps taken by the authorities, legal fraternity and the government to handle it.
To control pollutant emissions from vehicles, a lawsuit had been filed in Pakistan in lieu to ban 2 stroke engine vehicles in the country which are a great cause of pollution. The imposition has been implemented by the government and backed up by legal bindings. Furthermore, another lawsuit had been filed in USA against a big corporation which dealt in the manufacturing and processing of iron and was causing great amount of pollution through air and water contamination.
The case of Air Pollution in Pakistan
In 2008, the Punjab Transport Department had banned the registration of two-stroke engine motorcycle rickshaws as public transport in Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Multan. The Punjab Environment Minister had announced that two-stroke engine rickshaws would be banned from May 2008 and only four-stroke engine rickshaws, which worked on compressed natural gas, would be authorized to run in the city. The two-stroke engine rickshaws would be sent to smaller cities so the owners can still make a living out of them.
The Environment Protection Department had already presented a five-year action plan to the government to reduce vehicular pollution in four major cities of the Punjab. The department suggested a ban on the import, manufacture and grant of route permits to two-stroke engine public service vehicles, especially auto rickshaws. The plan further proposed the gradual replacement of rickshaws with taxis running on CNG. Under the plan, old CNG-fitted taxis could be issued route permits if they were in good condition. Subsequently, Taxis have replaced rickshaws in Rawalpindi and could easily replace rickshaws in the bigger cities of Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad. The plan also seeks the phasing out of buses running on diesel starting from July 2008 and replacing them with CNG buses. Two-stroke engine vehicles had already been banned in many countries and even developing nations such as India, had switched to CNG buses. The Diesel/2-stroke engines cause eight to 10 times more pollution than vehicles using petrol, and even more when mobile oil is mixed in with the diesel, a common practice prevalent among many motorists in the country. Apart from being more environment friendly, CNG rickshaws operate only on third of the operating cost, making them a better choice over the predecessor.
Meanwhile, the city district government of Lahore had also signed an agreement with Clear Air International for Asian Cities, which works under the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to control pollution in the city.
The government had taken two years to formulate the policy to ban the rickshaws which were a major source of noise and air pollution. The Supreme Court of Pakistan directed all the provinces on May 23, 2008, to deal with air and noise pollution in major cities of the country.
Prior to the formulation of these laws, the government had no alternative to two-stroke engine rickshaws as public transport. This changed with the introduction of CNG four-stroke engine rickshaws as an alternative, and the ban could be imposed. Consequently, the Punjab government banned registration of two-stroke motor-cab rickshaws (scooter rickshaws) in major cities from May 2008. Now, the government’s transport policy is that all motorcycle and scooter rickshaws should be eliminated in major cities by the end of year 2008. The air and noise pollution will be reduced greatly with the introduction of CNG four-stroke engine scooter rickshaws.
Pollution would also be reduced through the motor vehicle fitness law. The law bans vehicles emitting smoke from the city roads and the majority of the current public transport falls into that category.
The case of Air Pollution in USA
Another case emerged in the USA that depicts the impact of pollution and the steps taken by the government in collaboration with the judicial system to overcome it.
In 2008, the Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corporation was ordered to pay $4.45 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by residents of Ecorse and River Rouge over air pollution caused by an Ecorse plant.
The Judge of the U.S. District Court in Detroit approved the settlement and agreed that roughly 7,000 residents were affected by smoke and metallic particle emissions from the U.S. Steel Great Lakes Works plant. The lawsuit disclosed that tests by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had found excessive levels of manganese emissions from the plant.
Under the terms of the settlement, the affected residents would receive $300 each, for a cumulative $2.1 million in lawsuit damages payable by the steel company and all funds that go unclaimed will be distributed to the public school district of Ecorse and River Rouge.
Human health and industrial actions harmful to the environment are of prime importance to every nation, and legal measures must be implemented to protect the delicate balance of our environment. Similar measures must prevail in the developing countries where industries are booming and the environment is at great risk. The cases discussed the Pakistani and US judicial system, which pursued the issue and enforced legal bindings to help protect the environment from air pollution and safeguard human health.
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