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Tuesday 12 November 2019

The smog in Pakistan is a warning of larger crisis

Bismah Khan. 

Earlier this month, a dense layer of smog in Pakistan forced the government to announce a shutdown of all private and government schools in the eastern city of Lahore. The smog forced people to gasp for air and resulted in numerous respiratory cases at hospitals.

Before the smog took over the city, there were complaints on social media over a pungent smell in the city with a reduced visibility. #LahoreSmog continued to trend in Pakistani Twitterspace. The change in air was caused by burning of rubbish and crops in the fields of the outskirts, smoke from vehicles, industrial releases, construction sites and brick kilns.

Specialists believe that the unexpected rise in the Air Quality Index (AQI) was due to a change in wind direction which brought in further smoke and toxins from neighboring India, whose capital New Delhi is said to be facing the same extraordinary of smog. Other than that, huge traffic jams in Lahore were also blamed for the situation.

AQI is used to measure how polluted the air is or how much it will be polluted in the near future. According to media reports, an AQI of 640 was recorded late Wednesday evening, which crossed the line of the ‘hazardous’ stage of air quality.

Recently, a list of world’s 20 most polluted cities with their AQI status was released. Lahore stood at 19th position. But less than 24 hours later, it ranked the 2nd most polluted city on 29th October. A few days ago, adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister for climate change admitted that smog was a serious matter. He stated that Pakistan had taken steps to halt the burning of crops which was one of the largest factors of this situation. The situation, however, continues to remain dismal.

Due to the smog and a windstorm, driving is considered next to impossible as well as dangerous. As much as it was a tough task for the drivers to look across the windscreens of their cars, wipers were seen running but to no avail. Even with these AQI levels, citizens of Lahore continued with their daily lives.

With the air pollution, millions of premature deaths are recorded in Pakistan and this year it had a major effect here in Pakistan. According to Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, an AQI of 300 and further, i.e. level 6, means that the quality of air is extremely polluted. Public health is exposed to risks and even healthy people suffer loss of stamina, often lead to severe symptoms.

The government has taken some measures like prohibiting burning of crops, tyres and waste to mitigate the effects of smog in Pakistan. It has also ordered to use zig zag technology in brick kilns. Meanwhile, there is a dire need of educating the masses for the disastrous effects of generating hazardous smoke on climate in the long term. Despite contributing fractionally to rising global temperatures, Pakistan cannot absolve itself from its environmental responsibilities.

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