Breathing toxins

Combine the inter-marriages with rising pollution, and we have an imminent human health disaster

Editorial November 06, 2016
Smog hangs in the air around Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/EXPRESS

Genes belonging to the South Asian and Pakistani races have been faced with unkind conditions for ages. Combine the inter-marriages with rising pollution, and we have an imminent human health disaster. We speak specifically about the smog that envelopes the city of Lahore every December giving rise to poor visibility and subsequently, risky driving conditions. It is, however, the vehicles on the road, in addition to industrial pollution, that are causing this man-made fog and creating treacherous conditions for human and other life forms. Lahore is one of the top 10 cities in the world for heavy smog, according to Deutsche Welle and Karachi has previously made it into the top 10 cities with a high concentration of 2.5 micron particulate matter, which is a direct measure of atmospheric air quality. This situation demands a revision of Pakistan’s environmental policies, for which all provinces need to provide support.

The effects of our inhospitable environment are present around us. For measure, one might visit the neonatal ward of a government hospital or drive through a congested part of Karachi and observe the beggars that pound on car windows when stopped at a traffic light. Birth defects can be observed. Lenient policies have permitted inefficient vehicles to be imported to Pakistan. Mechanics continue using all means to repair cars that should have been retired decades ago. While smart consumers of the world look to purchasing Tesla models and hybrid vehicles, we continue to ignore the emissions from our vehicles that will impact our own future generations and the agriculture we consume. Although Punjab blames some of its smog on India’s industrial set-up sending pollution its way, it must first control the factors it can. A regional coalition against air pollution will be required, however, as both India and Pakistan have large industrial sectors. Otherwise, in addition to masks, Pakistani cities may soon, too, be needing canisters of air as currently sold in Beijing.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2016.

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