Lahore ranked first among the most polluted cities of the World

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Lahore is number one in the list of the most polluted cities in the world while Karachi is on number ten.

According to the Air Quality Index, at 8 o’clock in the morning, Lahore topped the list of the most polluted cities in the world on Saturday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said couple of years back, “Unfortunately people don’t perceive climate change and air pollution an imminent threat, which is a silent killer and is affecting the entire country.”

But, unfortunately, Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems a big hurdle between the premier’s dreams of a country without air pollution as it remains to fail in measuring air quality in the province.

Pakistan’s air quality has exceeded the permissible limits set by World Health Organization and its own National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS).

Smog which was first appeared in 2016, now has become the fifth season in different parts of the country.

According to experts, the presence of extreme levels of different air pollutants in ambient air has created a dense mixture of fog and smoke – creating ‘smog’.

Various national and international agencies expressed their concerns while alarming for the deteriorating air quality in Lahore and other parts of Punjab, but nobody in the country knows what the concentration of pollutants this smog has.

According to Environmental Lawyer Ahmad Rafay Alam, “Every citizen has a right to know about the quality of air which is being inhaled.

EPA is responsible to arrange all scientific arrangements to provide true, accurate, and scientific data about inhaled air across the entire expanse of the province.”

Section 6(i) of Punjab Environment Protection Act-1997 bound the EPA Punjab to establish monitoring of the Environment.

The reliable monitoring of Air is only possible if Air Monitoring Stations are erected according to the principle of Population Statistics.

Interestingly, despite the concerns of different quarters, Punjab EPA remained to fail in measuring the air quality. Sources said that EPA didn’t have accurate data on air quality since 2011.

To measure the ambient air quality, Punjab EPA in 2007, received three air quality monitoring stations from Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as donations under its project “Establishment of Environmental Monitoring System”.

These stations were made of the world’s prestigious company Horriba and out of these two were installed in Township and Townhall while the third one was installed in a van, called mobile station.

These three stations produced up to mark data till 2011 and later these started producing incorrect data due to lack of maintenance or proper look after.

In 2014 about eight million were spent on repairing this equipment while in 2015 an amount of 3.5 million was spent but the system could not be made functional.

An official on condition of anonymity, said, “it was a deliberate intention to put JICA’s equipment declared as misfit to pave the way for the procurement of new stations”.

In pursuance of the plan, EPA procured six air quality monitoring stations worth over Rs 100 million, named ‘Airpointers’ in 2016.

Showing the height of irresponsibility EPA could not install these Airpointers for months and only after criticism and pressure of civil society, EPA installed those Airpointers in different areas.

Initially, out of these five stations, two were installed in Lahore; one at Met Office and the other near Wagha Border while one each in Gujranwala, Faisalabad, and Multan.

In 2018, after the court pressure, EPA managed to install all the six air pointers and three of JICA’s AQMS in Lahore other cities.

However, the accurate data could be measured by only three AQMS regarding PM2.5 while equipment with Grimm analyzers remained to fail in measuring the accurate state of air quality.

It has become a common practice of EPA officials to inform everyone that they were setting up to install 30 AQMS in the province since 2018 contrary to the fact that during the last three years not a single AQMS has been procured so far.

“AQMS installed in Faislabad, Multan, and Gujranwala are lying dysfunctional since last year while others install in Lahore are also not giving accurate data,” he added.

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