PESHAWAR: Environmental and health experts are apprehensive about rising pollution levels as the City of Flowers turns it into the city of smog. They say the polluted environ is causing various ailments—cardiovascular, respiratory and other non-communicable diseases (NCD)—while adding to the risk of cancer.
Dr Bushra, an associate professor of environmental sciences at University of Peshawar (UoP), said, “Industrial and vehicular emission, and low quality of automobile fuel are some of the factors adversely affecting the environment.” Pollution is also reducing visibility in the city, she added.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Climate Cell’s Deputy Director Afsar Khan agreed. He said the rise in heat was because of air pollution caused by traffic density, urbanisation and industrialisation.
“Air pollution is increasing at an alarming rate in the country in general and in Peshawar in particular,” said Bushra. She said the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2011 report also ranked Peshawar sixth among the most polluted cities in the world.
She suggested the provincial government should impose air quality tax on people in so as to control pollution. Air should not be considered a free commodity, she added. “If you are polluting air, you should pay for it,” she said
According to the World Bank report titled Cleaning Pakistan’s Air, Pakistan’s urban air pollution problems is among the most severe ones in the world, and has rendered significant damage to health and economy.
The report revealed the harm caused by air pollution in Pakistan’s urban areas is the highest in South Asia. The problem is so grave that even researchers, particularly at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, are looking at how Asian pollution is changing weather and climate around the globe.
DSP Traffic Headquarters Asghar Marwat told The Express Tribune, “According to the Urban Unit Policy survey, some 0.75 million vehicles are on the roads in the city and the pressure on Peshawar’s roads has increased to a great extent.”
He said of the 54,000 rickshaws in the city, only 14,000 have been issued a permit. The rest are illegally using the roads. Traffic police issued a fine of Rs7.1 million to the rickshaw drivers in May, he said.
Dr Arshad Javed, the head of the pulmonology ward in Lady Reading Hospital, said smoke emitted from vehicles, brick kilns and others factor not only pollute the city but interfere with health. He said air pollution causes asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD), respiratory diseases, cancer, throat and eye infection, pharyngitis and other diseases.
According to a report issued by Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, pollution is the leading cause of death in low-and-middle-income countries. WHO also said air pollution causes seven million premature deaths annually.
Who is at risk
Arshad said, “Traffic police officials, vendors, laborers, pregnant women who live in polluted areas and those who have direct exposure to air pollution are at high risk.” Also, traffic wardens can easily catch pharyngitis as they are constantly breathing in smoke emitted from vehicles and industries.
This smoke or smog affects fetal development, said Arshad.
According to WebMD’s website, women who live in areas with high traffic pollution are more likely to give birth to preterm babies and have babies with low birth-weight. Their infants are also at higher risk of mortality from respiratory death and congenital heart defects.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2015.