Once again with the beginning of the winter season Lahore has found itself covered in a thick blanket of the irritating smog. The toxic smog not only reduces visibility, resulting in road accidents but is also causing serious health problems. Among the reasons for the persistent toxic blanket surrounding Lahore and a number of other cities in the province of Punjab are the burning of crop stubbles across the border in India, unregulated increase in number of high pollution factories, the increasing number vehicles on the roads and last but not least ill planned infrastructure development that has seen Lahore becoming virtually a jungle of concrete.
The ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz is quick to take credit of the unprecedented development that Lahore has seen in the last few years; development restricted to roads, underpasses and mass transit projects in the form of Lahore Metro Bus Project and the Orange Line Train Project. These projects have deprived the city of many trees, which is a serious cause of worry when you consider that the city already has a very low forest cover, around five percent. There has also been an unprecedented increase in Lahore’s population over the last two to three decades. All this combined has put the city’s natural resources under immense stress; which has resulted in the form of low forest cover, depleting ground water, contamination of ground water and all importantly and rather worryingly the worsening air quality in the city.
Although, the provincial government has recently prepared a policy to deal with the recurring problem of smog but environmentalist remain skeptical that even the hurriedly formed policy will ever be properly implemented. The skepticism is justified when you consider that up till now the government has no credible air quality monitoring data available. The lack of investment towards environment issues show the serious or rather criminal negligence of the government towards the menacing and impending threat of climate change that can seriously affect Pakistan. Government’s apathy towards the issue is even more concerning when you consider the recent report that said that pollution kills at least nine million people around the globe each year.
There is an urgent need for a comprehensive action plan to address worsening levels of air pollution not only in Lahore but throughout the country; else the country will suffer tremendously in the coming years.