Air pollution: Emergency action is inevitable | By Samreen Bari Aamir


Air pollution: Emergency action is inevitable

IN 2014, the World Bank published an extensive study on Pakistan’s environ mental degradation issues.

In addition, numerous policy options for addressing the cost of outdoor air pollution were proposed. Pakistan has the greatest rate of urbanization in South Asia.

In 2019, 36.91 percent of Pakistan’s total population lived in urban areas and cities. Air pollution in Pakistan is among the world’s most severe, significantly damaging human health, quality of life, and the economy and environment of Pakistan. Improving Pakistan’s air quality might have significant economic and health implications.

According to estimates from the WHO Global Health Observatory Environmental causes are responsible for roughly 200 deaths per 100,000 people in Pakistan.

According to the World Bank, outdoor air pollution causes 22 000 premature adult deaths and 163 432 DALYS (disability adjusted life years) every year while interior air pollution causes 40 million acute respiratory infections and 28 000 deaths every year.

World Bank report clearly predicted that current trends, such as industrialization and urbanization, would deteriorate the air quality unless focused interventions are implemented in the short, medium, and long-terms, and AQM (Air quality management) organizations’ institutional and technical capability is increased.

Drastic increase in number of vehicles including motorcycles/scooters, is another major contributing factor of air pollution.

A study conducted by Pakistan EPA with the assistance of JICA five cities (Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Islamabad) revealed that the inhalable suspended particulate matter in the ambient air reached to 6-7 time higher than the WHO acceptable limits.

The research also discovered that automotive emissions were responsible for 40% of the influence of suspended particulate matter, while industry and natural resources were responsible for the remaining 60%.

Emissions from large-scale factories including cement, fertilizer, sugar, steel, and power plants—many of which utilize sulfur-rich furnace oil—are a major source of poor air quality.

Chemical companies, thermal power generation facilities, cement plants, and brick kilns in the residential sector are all contributing to Pakistan’s air pollution problem.

Different nonpoint sources contribute to air pollution in Pakistan, including burning of solid wastes and sugarcane fields.

More than 54,000 tons of solid waste are generated daily, most of which is either dumped in low-lying areas or burned.

The burning of solid waste at low temperatures produces carbon monoxide (CO), PM, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including toxic and carcinogenic pollutants Farmers in Pakistan burn cane fields to ease harvesting.

During sugarcane harvesting, high concentrations of particulate matter of less than 10 microns (PM10) are found in rural areas in Punjab and Sindh.

In order to protect the environment in Pakistan, pollution awareness and the deployment of proper waste treatment technology are critical.

It is inevitable to impose the ban on burning solid waste in the city. It is important to improve the fuel quality by reducing the sulfur content in diesel.

Pakistan can follow those countries that have implemented successfully the public policies to reduce the air pollution on a priority basis.
—The writer is contributing columnist.