close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
 
October 17, 2020

The right to breathe

Editorial

 
October 17, 2020

The right to life must surely include the right to breathe or take clean air into one's lungs, especially at a time when a dystopian future seems more and more likely for humanity. It is a right that has been challenged in parts of the country, notably Lahore, due to the air pollution that comes in every winter. Noting the gradual deterioration in air quality even before winter has fully hit the province, the Punjab government has announced measures to deal with the problem. Two of the most important steps are to stop the burning of any kind of crop residue and to ban vehicles emitting pollutants from the roads. In addition, there is another long list of measures which include a ban on brick kilns which are not built in a zigzag fashion. All brick kilns have to be brought under this new design intended to avoid emissions, by the end of the year. Factory smoke and traffic jams during which large amounts of pollutant smoke builds up have also been banned.

While these measures are to be applauded, the question however, is whether they will be implemented and how effectively. It is not easy to control the activities of people in a city the size of Lahore. It is not easy to deal with air pollution either. New Delhi succeeded partially for a short period by putting all public transport vehicles on liquid natural gas. But even this did not prove to be a permanent solution with too many other vehicles crowded onto the roads. In the first place, we need to be more transparent about our air quality by putting up metres at public places. This is all the more important in the time of Covid when there is serious respiratory infection around in the first place. If people can see the numbers, it may help increase awareness and therefore encourage activities that limit pollution including using vehicles that are not driven on diesel, or emit fumes or burning materials, which let off noxious gases. This is the only way to deal with pollution.

Last year's 'State of Global Air’ report put Pakistan second in the list of countries with the highest mortality rate due to air pollution. India and China tied for first place in a list that no one should be proud to be on. A total of 1.2 million die each year of air pollution in China and India. The numbers of India suggest that more people die of air pollution than smoking. India and Pakistan both rank higher than China in terms of household air pollution, which means the air is not safe in over half of the households in our countries. Pakistan also suffers because polluted breeze swings in from neighbouring countries, carrying with it the particles that hang in the air of winter, and cause illness, respiratory infection and an increase in asthma, notably among children and old people that has been commented upon in medical journals. This is a serious issue. And the fact is that those in power know this. We need action now to save us and our future generations.