Lahore: The current strategy of shutting down commercial activities and markets to combat smog is deemed ineffective, with the government failing to address the root causes of the issue.
The Chainstore Association of Pakistan (CAP), the official trade body of the retail sector, conveyed these concerns during a ceremony focused on smog mitigation.
Tariq Mehboob, Chairman of CAP, asserted that the government's attempt to control smog by limiting commercial activity is misguided, as the retail sector's contribution to air pollution is minimal. He emphasized that heavy transport, burning of waste and crop residue, and non-compliant factories are the primary contributors to smog. Drawing on international examples, he suggested a shift in focus towards regulating large vehicles with low-quality fuel emissions, curbing waste burning, and addressing factories emitting pollutants by burning materials like wood and tires.
Chairman CAP Tariq Mehboob further highlighted that recent restrictions, including shortened operating hours and full-day closures, have resulted in significant losses for retail businesses, affecting employment and tax generation. He pointed out that the retail sector has faced over 30 instances of prolonged restrictions over the past four years, impacting compliant retailers the most.
Vice Chairman CAP, Asad Shafi, expressed concerns about the closure of commercial activities, stating that it does not address the root causes of smog. He emphasized that repeated shutdowns of one sector alone will not effectively reduce smog or save electricity.
Tariq Mehboob shared the economic impact of recent decisions, stating that the full retail shutdown in six major divisions of Punjab on the last Sunday led to a loss of Rs 10 billion for retail businesses, the domestic supply chain, and tax revenues.
While acknowledging the government's decisions, CAP proposed an alternative approach, suggesting a modification in daily retail operating hours to start in the afternoon, allowing for a daily saving of 4-5 hours in the morning.
This, according to CAP, strikes a balance between mitigating smog impact and sustaining economic activities, employment, and tax revenues. CAP also advocated for collaboration between the government and brands to educate the public on reducing air pollution and its harmful effects.
The association emphasized the importance of involving stakeholders in decision-making processes that directly impact businesses and local investments.
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