Friday June 21, 2024

Bad air

By Editorial Board
May 06, 2022

There is more than ample evidence to suggest that the quality of air we breathe affects our quality of health. A study published last month suggests that air pollution in Peshawar reduces life expectancy in the provincial capital by 2.3 years. There appears to be a correlation between a higher particulate matter in air and deteriorating health conditions which result in a reduction in life expectancy. The report – ‘Status of air pollution in Peshawar’ – launched by the Peshawar Clean Air Alliance says that life expectancy has a direct relation with the level of particulate matter (PM) in the air. The guidelines that the WHO circulates sends a clear message that if PM 2.5 meets the WHO level, it will make a huge difference to health conditions, especially to respiratory ailments that are one of the most common causes of various other diseases.

There are at least two major causes of this pollution in major cities of Pakistan. First is the smoke that emanates from commercial and industrial centers and from the burning of waste in streets and residential areas. Due to inefficient garbage disposal mechanisms, the waste piles up and people end up burning it to reduce stench and putrefaction. Then there is also carbon emission from vehicles that hardly have an up-to-date fitness certificate. There are also unregulated brick kilns that spew toxic fumes in the air; not only do labourers working there have no protective gears, inhabitants in the surrounding areas also end up inhaling the smoke filled air. As urbanization is increasing in Pakistan, climate change is impacting both rural and urban populations. Modern air monitoring systems that most other countries are already using are not in vogue in Pakistan. Federal and provincial governments keep taking it lightly and despite tall claims, the air quality keeps deteriorating. Since we now have Sherry Rehman as the new minister for climate change, we hope the government procures state-of-the-art air monitoring systems that can provide real-time data about air quality at least in all the major cities of Pakistan.

The country needs long-term planning to tackle this issue and proper database management will play a crucial role in air quality management. If relevant departments do not maintain past data, future planning is likely to fail. The report also highlights the fact that Peshawar has an unenviable distinction of being the third most polluted city in Pakistan and the ninth across the globe. Particulate matter in Peshawar ranges from 60 to 80 units, exceeding the standard by four to five times. This is a serious issue, calling for a serious response from the government.