IN a shocking development, Peshawar was ranked the most hazardous air quality city in the world with a distinction of 590 Air Quality Index (AQI) on 27 November at 9pm.
One day later (28 Nov) at 10pm, a US website ranked Peshawar with a hazardous distinction at 444 AQI.
The city’s air quality is 500 times more dangerous than the guidelines issued by the WHO. This speaks volumes about our commitment to address the environmental issues and reflects poorly on the ability of the Government to do so.
While the Government can legitimately take refuge behind the globally linked climate change issue that caused havoc in different parts of the country this year, neither federal nor provincial governments can run away from their responsibility to provide a safe and cleaner environment to their citizens.
Experts say the population of Peshawar is at greater risk of lung damage by smog, which can activate dormant tuberculosis.
High levels of smog during the winter trigger asthma attacks, leading to wheezing attacks and shortness of breath which increase chances of premature death from respiratory ailments and cancers.
The issue is not specific to Peshawar as about half of Punjab including its capital Lahore remains badly affected by smog throughout the winter.
The dangerous fall in the air quality has much to do with non-enforcement of relevant laws and regulations and even civic bodies, which should otherwise be playing a major role in addressing the challenge, are part of the problem.
There is no action against free for all burning of crop waste, non-conforming brick-kilns, smoke emitting vehicles and factories and cement and other industries polluting the environment.
This is just one aspect of the problem as heaps of garbage are seen throughout the major cities including Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, suburban Islamabad and Peshawar besides other cities and towns in the face of stop-gap arrangements made for solid waste disposal.
Similarly, development agencies dig roads and streets but never rehabilitate them as per contractual obligations causing enormous health problems.
We can save billions that are being spent on health if all institutions concerned just start discharging their responsibilities honestly and vigilantly.