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Monday, June 17, 2024

What can be learnt from Murree incident and how we can avoid such incidents?

One of the major flaws pinned in the “Murree crisis” is the mismanagement of the local authorities who, knowing the fact very well that the hill station does not have the capacity to handle such enormous traffic flow, still allowed vehicles to drive to the top. This could have easily been avoided by providing shuttle service from the base to the top once the parking capacity was full.

It’s high time we as a nation should not only criticize our government and administration for their failures to gain political mileage but at the same time people in their capacity should come up with solutions. It’s indeed true that human loss can never be replaced and departed souls cannot be brought back, however, each chaos and turmoil bring opportunities to learn and solve situations to avoid such miseries to happen in the future. This article is an attempt to craft a solution on how automotive smart products can help you enjoy outdoor camping, save money on paying for hotel stays and above all avoid tragic incidents like what happened in Murree at the beginning of the Year 2022.

Most of the solutions do not fit our current Pakistani middle-class lifestyle, however, with the government providing subsidies to automotive OEMs and OESs, a new revolution of such smart products can hit the Pakistani market. With the Prime Minister’s beating of the drums for the “Tourism Revolution,” we need such out-of-the-box solutions for our society. They may look expensive, however in a long run and to avoid such incidents these solutions will be handier and of course, will attract foreign investment.

Read more: Pope Francis offers condolences over Murree tragedy

A Shocking Start of the New Year for the Pakistani Nation

Let’s first discuss the major incident that shook the whole nation, the death of 22 precious lives, some were young; about to kick start their career, and some were just too young to face this tragedy. The initial report presented to the Punjab government suggests it’s the toxic Carbon Monoxide (CO) that accumulated in the car cabin due to tailpipe blockage with snow. In one of the videos circulated on social media by Pakistani users after this incident for public awareness where US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns car owners about snowed-in vehicles.

Due to excessive snow, it is recommended to clear the tailpipe before you turn on your car to get it warm. Once the car engine starts, CO is produced as of chemical reaction in the Internal Combustion (IC) engine. This CO is toxic and must be exhausted through the tailpipe. In cars with clogged tailpipes, the gas enters inside the car cabin and it’s so lethal that within less than 2 mins it can reach a dangerous level and can kill within 10-15 mins. It can happen even on a normal day if your tailpipe is choked or damaged and you turn on your engine with closed windows.

According to some historians, During World War II, Nazi Germany killed millions of Concentration Camp victims in gas chambers pumped full of carbon monoxide. This explains the death of several tourists in Murree while being in the car overnight, windows closed and kept engine and heating on to warm inside. This tragic incident could have been avoided if the drivers were aware of tailpipe choking, would have cleared the exhaust and only turned on the engine when needed while being stuck in the middle of a snowstorm.

Read more: CM Buzdar announces reorganization of Murree

Could EVs avoid this incident? Yes!

What if instead of the conventional IC engine vehicles if it would have been Electric Vehicles (EVs), could such a tragedy have been avoided. Then the answer is yes due to Zero tailpipe emissions even when heating is on to warm the car cabin. An EV runs on a lithium-Ion battery and does not require an IC engine; thus, no toxic gasses are produced. The driver does not need to clean the snow around the car or tailpipe as interestingly an EV does not have an exhaust. Now the question is, is it a good idea to take an EV on a trip to Murree in snow or other such hill stations, it may run out of charging.

Then the automotive OEMs also provide a solution to use an On-Board Charger (OBC) to charge the battery. Also, Electric cars are built differently to petrol and diesel models. In most, the heavy battery is located underneath the car – which gives the car a lower center of gravity. This tends to give electric cars better traction, so they’re better equipped to crawl through snow. It’s indeed a solution that does not comprehend well with our middle-class population as generally EVs whether passenger cars or SUVs are quite expensive as they are imported from abroad.

Govt should subsidies EVs business and provide infrastructure

This urges the need for government subsidies and provides ease of business for global car OEMs to bring their products to Pakistan. It’s a market of over 200 million people and is next to the emerging markets of South East Asia offering a very attractive geological position. Many new car OEMs like Chinese NIO and Vietnamese Vinfast are offering vehicles that are also affordable for the middle-class.

Our government needs to invite these OEMs for business in Pakistan and provide tax exemption to encourage EVs production in Pakistan plus building charging stations and providing the necessary infrastructure. This needs to be implemented on an emergency basis to also protect the environment of such beautiful sights in the country as Murree, Galiyat, Naran and Gilgit Baltistan. A true nation always learns from its mistakes and investigates new opportunities to avoid such tragedies.

Building New Parking Lots and Shuttle Service for Tourist Spots

As the PTI-led government in the country voted for bringing a change and it promised to present a new Pakistan in front of the world, a better and more organized response is expected under such circumstances. People voted for this party to end an era of status quo and dynastic politics in the country. People have high hopes, and those die-hard PTI supporters have still not lost faith in the leadership of Imran Khan. However, on many occasions, the government has proven to fail miserably to act proactively and avoid incidents that could have been prevented.

Read more: The unpleasant Murree incident

One of the major flaws pinned in the “Murree crisis” is the mismanagement of the local authorities who, knowing the fact very well that the hill station does not have the capacity to handle such enormous traffic flow, still allowed vehicles to drive to the top. This could have easily been avoided by providing shuttle service from the base to the top once the parking capacity was full. No further vehicles should have been allowed and people could have been asked to either wait in the parking at the entry or go back to their homes provided such a heavy snowstorm forecast was predicted.

This requires building extra parking lots at the base of each hill station offering sightseeing and hiking. If people don’t find enough parking space, they should return to their homes or stay at the nearby hotels. And this needs to be properly coordinated through local and national media.

Fully Equipped Caravan Trucks and RV Tents on Top of Your Car a Solution to Hotel rents

Most of the tourists stuck in the Murree snowstorm complained about hotels charging very hefty night rents and thus ripping off the public. This is unfortunate as people are obliged to help others in the midst of a snowstorm. This is generally not seen in other parts of the world in such a chaotic situation. On the other hand, there are no checks on hotel and rest house owners at what price they are renting out. As the public, we need to help ourselves rather than relying on the government or asking for favors when we go out on such trips.

In most European countries, outdoor winter games like skiing or hiking in summer is very common activity. Most of such enthusiasts carry Caravan vehicles with them which are equipped with beds, a kitchen, a stove, and a bathroom as well. This is again a living standard that does not comply with our middle-class, but the government should encourage foreign investors and offer them an opportunity to start local manufacturing. There are other solutions as well where certain European companies like Thule, Vango, Outwell, Jamet Trailer, etc. provide tents that are portable and can be easily used on top of the car. These tents are a very cozy solution for two to three persons rather than paying hefty hotel rents for night stays.

Importance of Driver’s License, Zero Tolerance for No or Invalid License

There is also a great urge to educate the public on how important it is to have a valid driving license where drivers are well-aware to handle cars under such slippery and icy road conditions. In Europe and especially Nordic countries, drivers are asked to drive on snowy and slippery roads during the examination. There are also exams that question a driver’s knowledge of road infrastructure, signboards, use of winter tires and chains, tire’s legal tread depth for different seasons, what should be the tire pressure, etc.

Read more: Murree profiteers responsible: Netizens call for boycott

Due to such extreme measures of the transport agency in Nordic countries, they are aiming to have zero fatal accidents in a year. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that almost 99% of the drivers in Pakistan do not hold a valid driver’s license or have no prior driving lessons before they get behind the wheel. This is one of the main causes of thousands of fatalities each year during road accidents. The government needs to show zero tolerance for drivers holding no or invalid driver’s licenses.

The writer is currently working as a Work Package Manager in ALTEN group the US which is a consultant company for engineering services in the automotive, aerospace, energy and pharma industry.  The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy