Pakistani higher education institutions are playing their role in resolving environmental issues through collaborations with leading American and British universities to undertake joint research projects throughout the country.
Pollution in Pakistan is a major environmental and economic concern, the level of which is only increasing with the rising population, mainly due to poor pollution management, public awareness and weak enforcement of environmental policies.
The major pollution types are air, water and solid waste.
As a result of the incineration of solid waste, use of low-quality fuels, and the continuing use of fuel-inefficient automobiles in large cities such as Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Faisalabad, air pollution has exceeded levels deemed safe by the World Health Organisation.
Population growth and poor water infrastructure have reduced per capita water availability from 53,000 cubic meters to 1,200 cubic meters, and heavy reliance on firewood has contributed to the world’s second-highest rate of deforestation. As a developing country with a limited budget, the effects of these pollutants are an additional burden on the national health system and the economy.
Under the Pakistan-United States Science and Technology Cooperation Programme, a number of research projects have been initiated, including the Bioremediation of Chromium and Arsenic from Industrial Wastewater project by the University of Punjab, Lahore and University of Oklahoma.
The purpose is to clean contaminants with microbes and it was found that by identifying new natural resources for extracting heavy metals from industrial waste.
Meanwhile, the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Using Integrated Secure Wireless Sensor and Vehicular Networks project has been initiated between University of Engineering and Technology and University of Michigan, Dearborn with the aim of assessing the severity of environmental pollution.
A project between UET Lahore and University of Wisconsin-Madison titled “Determination of Heavy Metals and PAHs in airborne particulars in Lahore, Pakistan, and Madison, USA”, is focusing on calculating the amount of pollution in the Lahore.
Another project, “Association of Particulate Matter with Daily Morbidity in Urban Populations” between Aga Khan University Karachi and Environmental Health Sciences University at Albany, USA has been undertaken with the motto ‘clean air for better lives’. This study has profound impacts on various fields of education.
Similarly, a number of projects have been undertaken with British universities under the International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education (Inspire). “Developing strategies to monitor pollution levels in the Indus River” between Government College University, Faisalabad and Newcastle University aims at monitoring the levels of pollution in the Indus using fish as an indicator.
Commenting on these programs, HEC Chairperson Javaid Laghari said the goal of the HEC is to develop local expertise and indigenous technology through strong collaborations with research groups in leading foreign universities.
“These projects help encourage foreign and Pakistan relationships based on the exchange of knowledge and technology. Through these collaborative projects, we can enhance environmental conditions for better lives,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.