Rising Forest Fires to GST Removal on Solar Panel; Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim

22 May 2022

Rising Forest Fire Incidents in Pakistan

The forest fire incidents have been on the rise across the country, First in Baluchistan, fire engulfed thousands of pine nut trees in Balochistan`s Sherani district this week, in which three people died and many injured. “The huge fire has spread to an area within a radius of seven km from the point of origin”, says the deputy commissioner of the area. The administration also pressed in helicopters to douse the fire, but to no avail. “Rain is our only hope now,” says one official expressing fears that the fire could envelop more areas and could stretch as far as the southern swathes of KPK.

Every year, forest fires destroy plantation and wildlife in the Margalla Hill National Park during the summer season. But this week in two different incidents of forest fires, one involving a model off the Hazara Motorway and the second incident involving a man setting fire to the forest with lighters took place in near Abbottabad in KPK, serious concerns have been raised.  That has led Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman to establish a 24/7control room at the Wildlife Centre to monitor forest fires in the national park. `Forest fires are a visible cost of global warming and triggered by extremely dry weather conditions. They strike with repeated regularity around the heated up planet”, fears the Climate Change Minister.

Removal of 17% GST on Solar Panels

In a move to encourage power generation through alternative energy sources, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced this week removal of 17% general sales tax on solar panels imposed by the previous PTI government, claiming that it is the only way forward to reduce the country`s oil import bill that stood at $20 billion. The announcement came during A meeting with Karachi industrialists and businessmen at CM House, Sindh.

Significance of Solar Energy in Pakistan

Announcing the immediate abolition of 17% duty on solar panels, the prime minister stressed the need for a compulsory solar geyser policy for every household. PM Sharif states “Currently, Pakistan`s oil import bill stood at $20bn, which could only be reduced by promoting green energy.” The country has huge potential of alternative energy resources in Sindh and Balochistan areas as well as Bahawalpur.

Key Climate Change Indicators set new records in 2021

According to a report “State of the Global Climate” released by World Meteorological Organization, four key climate change indicators greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification set new records in 2021.

The report confirmed that the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. The average global temperature in 2021 was about 1.11 centigrade above the pre-industrial level. Greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new global high in 2020, when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) globally, or 149% of the preindustrial level. Ocean heat was record high.  Much of the ocean experienced at least one `strong` marine heat wave at some point in 2021. The upper 2,000m depth of the ocean continued to warm in 2021 and it is expected that it will continue to warm in the future a change which is irreversible.

This is yet another clear sign that human activities are causing planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean, and in the atmosphere, with harmful and long-lasting ramifications for sustainable development and ecosystems.

China to make Electronic Vehicles in Pakistan

 A Chinese automobile company Gauss Auto Group has announced plans to establish a plant in the special economic zone to produce electric vehicles with the intention of exporting them to other countries. The firm will enter into a joint venture with AKD Group Holdings Limited and set up the plant on 1,000 acres of land near Port Qasim.

Electric Vehicles in Pakistan

The Chinese automaker is dedicated to building a “global new energy vehicle industry ecosystem” centered on global users and establishing itself as a global leader in new energy smart vehicles. A delegation of the Chinese automaker, held a meeting with Minister for Investment Chaudhry Salik Hussain, also attended by AKD Group’ representative.

Indus River’ Water Level drops

An advisory released by the Indus River System Authority this week paints a gloomy outlook for Sindh. In the overall availability of water at three barrages, the latest figures for downstream flows at the Tarbela dam and the Chashma barrage have set alarm bells. The biggest worry for the authorities concerned was that two link canals in Punjab Chashma-Jhelum (CJ) and Taunsa-Panjnad (TP) were still in operation amidst severe shortage in Sindh. The canals have been drawing increased inflows from the Indus River.

The province, therefore advised by the high-ups `to utilize available surface water in the river system efficiently and cautiously by placing carefully estimated rationalized indents without any wastage till such time as the situation improves`.

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