‘South Asia’s winter smog, latest threat to ozone layer'

Despite limited resources, Pakistan was trying its best to match the international standards to improve air quality


Anadolu Agency September 16, 2021
Motorcyclists drive through a thick blanket of smog in Lahore. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/EXPRESS

LAHORE:

Although the global phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have helped protect the ozone layer, South Asia’s extreme smog, which is worsening each winter, is appearing to be the latest challenge to the ozone shield.

Coinciding the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, being observed on Thursday, Pakistani environmental researcher Farieha Hussain called on India and Pakistan to cooperate to reduce the toxic blanket of smog – coming from vehicle exhaust, coal-burning power plants, trash incineration, brick kilns and farmers’ burning of post-harvest rice stubble.

“Instead of blaming each other all the countries in our region should contribute towards saving the ozone and adapting more eco-friendly approaches in agriculture and industrial departments as we cannot put barriers on pollutant particles which travel through the air,” she said.

To detect and prevent usage of harmful chemicals by industrial units that affect the ozone layer, Pakistan has procured and set up air quality monitors in the city of Lahore, the country’s second-largest city.

"We got mobile air quality monitor from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). And now we are in talks with the World Bank to get 30 more air quality monitors from which 25 will be fixed and five will be mobile,” said Zahid Hussain, secretary at the Environment Department of Punjab province.

Officials said that those monitors will help authorities detect and locate the exact spot where harmful chemicals are being used to allow them to take strict action against violators.

The ozone layer, found in the stratosphere around 15-30 kilometers (9-18 miles) above the Earth’s surface, covers the entire planet and protects life by absorbing harmful ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation from the sun.

In 1994, the UN General Assembly designated Sept. 16 as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, to commemorate the 1987 Montreal protocol – a global agreement inked by 46 countries, to prevent the substances that deplete the ozone layer.

Some chemicals still in use

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Naseemur Rehman, a director at the Environment Department, said the country has abided by the Montreal Protocol provisions and has made the electronics sector free from CFCs.

"We have completed the task of Montreal protocol, which was getting all our electronics free of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the next target is to get rid of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) completely by 2030- 2040,” he said.

He said that some chemical substances like carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, hydrobromic fluorocarbons, methyl bromide, and bromochloromethane are still being used in different industries.

"Some of these depleting substances are being used in foaming, cosmetics, and refrigerating industry. The mobile monitor helps us to locate the exact spot from where these substances are generated to take strict action against those companies,” said Rehman.

He said his department is also backing research to find sustainable replacements for these substances.

Hussain said that despite limited resources, Pakistan was trying its best to match the international standards to improve air quality.

“Under the Punjab green development program, the World Bank has granted us $273 million for development schemes, which will be used fully in the coming years,” he said.

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