Nearly three weeks after the Murree tragedy, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Climate Change finally met on Wednesday to express its “concern over loss of precious lives” in the tourist region and asked the Climate Change Ministry to take up this issue with Punjab government in order to “stop the mushroomed growth of commercial and residential plazas adjacent to Murree Expressway to avoid further environmental pollution.”
The committee met under the chair of Munaza Hassan from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Discussing the Murree incident, the committee asked the Climate Change Ministry to develop “proper liaison with the authorities concerned in order to avoid such incidents in future.”
It merits a mention here that heavy snowstorm in Murree, Galiyat and the adjoining belt, on January 7, resulted in thousands of tourists, who were on their way to the hilly resorts, stranded in their vehicles near Murree.
Some 23 tourists were believed to have died in their sleep due to suffocation caused by carbon monoxide after they turned on heaters in the vehicles to avoid freezing weather. Since this tragedy, PTI-led governments in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and centre are under massive criticism from public and political circles for their failure in managing the influx of tourists to the small towns of Murree and Galiyat.
The Punjab government announced a probe into Murree debacle that held 15 officials responsible for the tragedy. Although, these officials have been removed from their positions, the political and public circles have rejected this inquiry, demanding resignations of top government officials concerned.
Apart from that, the NA committee reviewed The Pakistan Environmental Protection (Amendment) Bill 2021 moved by Ali Gohar Khan from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), and asked the Climate Change Ministry officials to hold a meeting with the mover of the bill to discuss relevant aspects of the bill. The panel also asked the Law and Justice Ministry to address lacunas in the proposed legislation, if any, and present report to the committee in the next meeting.
The bill aims to “ensure a pollution-free environment— and protect and improve the country’s forests and wildlife.” It was moved in the NA on November 9 last year and referred to the NA panel.
Prime Minister’s Climate Change Special Assistant Malik Amin Aslam and Climate Change State Minister Zartaj Gul briefed the committee on the steps taken by the government to ensure environment protection in the country and problems being faced in this regard.
This report was first published in Business Recorder on Jan 27, 2022.