Vehicles contributing to air quality woes

Emission testing units have not been built in the city for over two decades now

Umer Farroq November 03, 2022


Every winter season along with the cold comes hazardous air and like clockwork it baffles policymakers that nothing has been done to improve air quality over the course of the year.

 During the past week, Peshawar has consistently clocked Air Quality Index (AQI) readings above 150, which is considered as unhealthy - the highest reading on the AQI, in the same timeline, was 315, which is considered as hazardous air.

 Environmental experts believe that the city’s cars are a major cause of the persistent air pollution.

 As per the city’s traffic department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) capital has over 0.7 million cars and roughly 0.1 million enter the city daily.

Officials from the provincial environment department estimate that 58% of the pollution is caused by vehicles whereas the remainder comes from industries and the agricultural sector.

However, experts believe that air pollution from vehicles can be contained if there are emissions testing units, which regularly sideline cars emitting toxic smoke but since 1997, Peshawar only has one such unit.

Head of the Vehicle Emission Testing Service, Pir Zubair, while talking to The Express Tribune, conceded that there should be more testing units.

“We were going to increase the units but our funds got diverted towards relief of flood victims in affected areas,” he explained.

Zubair was of the view that just adding more units would not fix the city’s air pollution woes, as awareness amongst the city’s residents was non-existent.

“Even though we will have more units after 25 years, the first step must be to educate people regarding the units’ functioning and about air pollution,” Zubair remarked.

On the other hand, it is not a given that increasing emission testing would result in residents getting older vehicles off the roads.

 A senior provincial transport department official, whilst talking to The Express Tribune under the condition of anonymity, said, “there is a private school which owns 200 vehicles, most of which are 60-years-old. However, we cannot take action against them.”

The official informed that taking action meant that the city’s private schools would announce a city-wide strike and then the department would have to withdraw the charges.

“The school probably generates a mammoth revenue but they are not ready to replace their worn out vehicles.

We have served them with multiple notices but nothing has changed,” he said.

Missing air quality monitorsApart from the emission testing units, Peshawar also has minimal air quality monitors.

When asked about the scarcity of monitors, Director General (DG) of Environmental Protection Agency K-P, Muhammad Anwar Khan, accepted that it was indeed a problem.

“The air quality monitors that exist in the city right now, were set up with the help of donations from NGOs and our provincial government bank,” he informed.

However, Khan assured that the government planned on setting up new monitors soon.

“We have 8 monitors installed right now and we plan to install 4 more.

But it will not make any difference; we need to resolve the air pollution crisis, not just measure it,” said the DG while talking to The Express Tribune.


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