By Umer Tariq
Lahore has been engulfed with the visible and stinky haze in its air i.e. smog for over a week now. This is not the first time that the city has experienced the phenomenon called smog, the city was faced with the same issue last year as well but it has now become obvious that the Punjab government criminally failed to realize the severity of the problem.
The Punjab government’s Environment Protection Department (EPD) is yet to public air quality readings which are critical to gauge the extent of air pollution in Lahore’s air. It is hard to fathom the reasons due to which the department is adamant to conceal the all important data. The only thing the government has so far done is to blame the smog in Lahore (and other parts of the province) on neighboring India. There is no denying the fact that incursion of smoke and particle matter from the burning of crop stubble in the Indian Punjab could be in part responsible for the smog. However, when the government has no reliable data nothing can be said for certain regarding the actual ‘cause’ of smog and this is exactly where the problem lies. In the year 2017, the Punjab government remained unequipped to accurately measure air quality readings due to a serious lack of required equipment. For a country that is among the most vulnerable to the threat of climate change (which Pakistan is), to be so apathetic towards environmental issues is criminal.
The gravity of the smog crisis can be gauged from the fact that readings of air quality monitors obtained from sources indicate that Lahore has crossed all the international benchmarks as PM2.5 level has crossed 500ug/m3. The figure is far above the World Health Organization’s safe limit and is a serious health threat. Particles in the PM2.5 size range are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Scientific studies have linked increases in daily PM2.5 exposure with increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, emergency department visits and deaths.
Unless temporary approaches are dumped in favor of ‘serious’ long and short term strategies to tackle the larger issue of climate change and environment degradation, the years ahead will get only worse for the citizens.
*The writer is Deputy Editor of Daily The Patriot.