As the countries around the globe are struggling to fight air pollution, Pakistan weighs launching a zero-emission bio-power transportation fleet of 200 buses in the southern port city of Karachi, which has a population of more than 14 million people.
Advisor to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam has told local media that the Bus Rapid Transit network will help the city avoid pumping over 2.7 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air over the next 30 years.
Terming the bus network as Pakistan's first ever zero-emission public transport system, Aslam said that the buses will be powered by cow manure after processing in biogas plants for conversion into fuel.
The bus network will consist of a 30-km fully segregated corridor with 25 bus stations, bicycle lanes, bike-sharing facilities and improved pedestrian facilities, the advisor said, adding that the fleet of buses will directly benefit 1.5 million residents of the metropolis and over 320,000 passengers will be served each day.
The project will cost an estimated 583.5 million U.S. dollars, with the United Nations Green Climate Fund, the Asian Development Bank and Pakistan's southern Sindh province, where Karachi is located, as major donors.
Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, Managing Director of Leadership for Environment and Development, a policy think tank based in Islamabad, told Xinhua, "Pakistan is a large country and has a large economy with an estimated current economic growth rate of 5 percent. The country has a potential to become one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, if its economic growth rate touches 7 percent to 8 percent in future. "
"With the launch of an effective and efficient integrated urban mass transit system for Karachi, Pakistan can prove how economies can grow without being very carbon dependent. The project offers an opportunity to move in this direction," said the expert.
Sheikh said if the project is successfully operated in the coming years, it will serve as a benchmark for at least 50 other medium-sized cities.
He said the government should encourage the use of public transport and discourage the use of private vehicles by introducing clean and comfortable public buses with subsidized fares to control air pollution effectively.
Farzana Yasmin, a senior environmentalist at Sustainable Development Policy Institute Pakistan, said it is reassuring to see the government of Pakistan taking such an initiative by introducing carbon-neutral and climate smart public transport system.
"The environment friendly initiative will not only be much-needed addition to the scarce, fragile and outdated public transport system of Karachi but it will also help mitigate the hazardous emissions, improving air quality and public health," said the expert.