Urbanisation, increasing population and migration of people from rural to urban areas do not come without a host of problems for the provincial capital; chief among which is pollution.
Environmental challenges have left citizens exposed to toxic hazards such as clouds of black smoke emitting from the ever-increasing number of vehicles. These would have been declared unfit to be on roads in most countries – not in Pakistan.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa TB Control Programme Project Director Dr Ubaid Hussain says traffic emissions can exacerbate acute and chronic respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, asthma, bronchitis, and cardiovascular ailments.
He says air pollution aggravates existing diseases, adding it complicates the treatment and causes delay in recovery.
Dr Hussain advises locals, who are directly exposed to air pollution, to wear masks as they are the ones most at risk. Those in harm’s way include traffic policemen and roadside vendors.
With the help of Khyber Teaching Hospital, the Peshawar Traffic Police conducted a study in 2012. It revealed traffic police personnel’s lungs are vulnerable to diseases.
It highlights 19 out of 65 traffic police constables deployed in different parts of the city suffered from lung problems after prolonged exposure to vehicle emissions. Such pollution causes pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases that can result in death.
According to the study published in the journal ‘Nature’ in September 2015, Pakistan ranked third with 110,000 deaths annually from air pollution.
Hayatabad Medical Complex ENT ward assistant professor Dr Ghareeb Nawaz says noise pollution is also a menace. It causes hearing issues and even a complete loss of hearing.
He points out traffic police officers, vendors, workers at factories and industries, armed forces personnel and people living in congested areas are more vulnerable to hearing impairment.
He suggests people directly exposed to noise pollution should wear hearing protection devices such as ear plugs or muffs.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognises a majority of hearing loss cases is not due to age, but exposure to noise.
Vehicular traffic, industries and other factors are responsible for air pollution in the provincial metropolis. According to the Urban Unit Policy survey, some 0.75 million vehicles—registered and unregistered—ply the roads of Peshawar.
When contacted, Peshawar Traffic SSP Sadiq Baloch says traffic police and Vehicle Emissions Testing Station (VETS) conducted a joint operation in February and March and checked 1,000 vehicles. He reveals 432 of them were unfit and fines worth Rs172,800 were imposed.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2016.