The greening of Punjab
Few could disagree with the latest good-news initiative launched by the government on Monday 8th October. Pakistan is to become ‘Clean and Green’ according to Prime Minister Imran Khan who has something of a track record when it comes to planting and tidying-up. A number of cleanliness events were held across Punjab in urban and rural areas. Local notables availed themselves of photo opportunities as they shovelled solid waste and garbage and planted trees.
Awareness — always a trusty standby and very cheap — is to be raised, cleanliness promoted in villages and anti-encroachment drives are to be in evidence everywhere. The public is expected to cooperate and each union council has been allocated the princely sum of Rs100,000 ‘for cleanliness’ as well as the provision of machinery and human resources.
Unfortunately, there are few places in Punjab that are models of civic pride or responsibility with Bahawalpur being a long-standing and notable exception. It had cleaned itself up way before anybody decided that cleaning up generally was a good idea, and it has something of a head start in the race to be cleaner and greener.
There is no reason not to support this initiative but it is up against a population for whom littering and the unsanitary disposal of wastes of all sorts is second nature. Civic cleanliness is as much about the frame of mind of the wider populace as it is about having sweepers on the roads before dawn. People have to want to act responsibly and put their litter in bins and safely dispose of solid wastes. Learning such valuable attributes starts in school and ought to be part of a civics item in the national curriculum. The good habits learned in the classroom can generalise to the home and the community at little or no cost but to considerable positive effect. It is (relatively) inexpensive and moreover it is achievable, not some impossible goal. A greener Pakistan is good for all of us, rich and poor alike. Get to it.