Overcoming air pollution in Lahore — currently ranking fourth in the world for poor air quality — is an arduous challenge. Being hazardous to health, the yearly smog season is now leading to a rapid sprout in multiple health-related problems such as stroke, heart attack, asthma, lung cancer and skin cancer. According to the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, 128,000 people in Pakistan die annually from air pollution-related illness. Both the federal and provincial government need to now acknowledge this as a silent killer.
Furthermore, in the last 12 to 13 years, the forest cover in Lahore has been reduced by 70% due to which the circulation and filtration of air has greatly reduced. As a result, air quality in the city usually worsens during the winter season when farmers in the wider Punjab province set light to the remnants of crops, producing smoke that mixes with the air to become smog. At the same time, weather changes mean pollutants remain trapped in the air for longer. Smog forming pollutants come from many sources such as vehicle and industrial emissions, smoke from brick kilns, crop burning residue, general waste, and dust from construction sites.
The government should not shy away from its duty and work against time to eliminate the alarming repercussions of smog. Moreover, the environmental protection agencies should implement laws and introduce restrictions on chemicals which are aggravating the smog level in Lahore. The concerned authorities should learn from the US, who have successfully countered their smog dilemma. For the safety of citizens, it is necessary that authorities and organizations work cheek by jowl to get rid of this smog menace once and for all.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2021.