With a change in the weather, smog has once again engulfed Lahore. The US Air Quality Index (AQI) is showing the provincial capital’s air as the most polluted in the world with AQI rating of 195.
The latest air pollution ranking shows Lahore’s air quality is the worst in the world, followed by Delhi, India and Wuhan, China. Other polluted cities included Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Karachi, Pakistan; Kolkata, India; Beijing, China; Zagreb, Croatia; and Shenyang, China.
Data highlights that the highest level of pollution is being observed in the industrial of Kot Lakhpat with a hazardous AQI level of 338 as a large number of industrial units are burning coal to fulfil this energy needs. It also highlights fire burning incidents in Indian Punjab as another reason for high levels of smog in the city.
Meanwhile, Punjab Minister for Disaster Management Mian Khalid Mahmood underscored that smog is a natural phenomenon created by the combination of smoke and fog in the atmosphere. Smog in Pakistan is usually caused by a mixture of smoke in the fog caused by a change in the humidity ratio in the air at the beginning of winter.
The complete elimination of smog as a natural phenomenon cannot be claimed, but the intensity of smog can be reduced by controlling human activities that increase the amount of smoke in the atmosphere.
He highlighted that as part of the government’s strategy, the Punjab Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has already banned all activities that could increase the intensity of smog due to climate change. Top of the list is smoke from vehicles and industries, solid waste disposal, especially the burning of old crop residues for the cultivation of new crops.
In addition to smoke, dust, dirt and other construction materials including sand, gravel, cement, etc. cause air pollution, he said and added that the authority has been continuously monitoring all such activities. For this purpose, a regular cell has been set up in PDMA which is operational 24 hours a day. It is also taking legal action against those elements. About 100% of the kilns in Punjab have been converted to zigzag technology, he disclosed. He also highlighted Pakistan was not informed in advance about the pollution caused by the burning of crop residues in India and there was no such agreement between the two countries. He also directed DG Provincial Disaster Management Authority to set up a task force to look into the complaints of fire incidents in different districts and also perform supervisory duties.
Punjab Environment Department has also been activated to rein in causes of smog. The department has imposed a fine of over Rs2.5 million during the inspection of over 1,400 brick kilns across the province. It has also registered over 360 FIRs and sent around a dozen people behind bars for violating environmental laws.
Punjab’s capital is struggling with another season of hazardous air quality. Despite measures by the provincial administration, parts of Lahore remain engulfed in a thick blanket of smog. According to IQAir, a portal that provides a real-time pollution map, the average daily air quality in parts of Punjab’s capital hovered between unhealthy and very unhealthy over the past week.
The quality of air in the city usually worsens between October to February, which is also known as the smog season. Environmentalists believe the pollution in Lahore can easily be linked to a number of sources.
A combination of vehicle and industrial emissions, smoke from brick kilns and dust have resulted in creating what residents of Lahore experience as smog.
“Government’s efforts are inadequate,” said Aleem Butt, a Lahore-based environmentalist. According to Butt, more than 60% of the city’s pollution is generated by vehicles.
With additional reporting from Muhammad Ilyas.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2021.