- By: Usman Chaudhry
We all wish to live on a blue planet with clean air. Unfortunately, nine out of ten of us are unable to inhale clean air which is a universal characteristic of our lives, just because of the air quality which is turning hazardous around the world.
The phenomenon of air pollution becomes worse with the arrival of winter.
Winter is coming to Pakistan, the world’s 5th most populous country.
The onset of the weather is not just signified here by the chill in the air but also difficulties in breathing, poor visibility, and forcing schools and markets shut in cities, like Lahore the second most polluted city in the world after Calcutta India.
Although the situation hasn’t remained good here for the past decade, matters get worse around this time of the year when pollution begins climbing the poisonous extremes.
It blankets Lahore in an opaque haze, the air quality howers between very poor and severe, and in some parts it’s hazardous.
According to the Swiss monitoring platform, AQI Lahore has a ranking of over 436, over the hazardous level of 300. Citizens choking on acidic smog urging authorities to take strict action as their and their families’ health takes a toll.
Where the 11 million residents of Lahore are breathing smog, most of the famous sites are also hidden in thick smog blankets.
The government is forcing people bound to their homes and announced schools shut from Thursday to Sunday. But it seems without major changes the millions of people who live there will have little choice except to adopt it as a new normal.
Although a smog hazard is hanging over Lahore, many people are unable to differentiate between fog and smog. So it’s pertinent to mention that fog is an accumulation of tiny droplets in the air whereas smog is a form of air pollution resulting from chemical toxics dispersed into the atmosphere and formed as a photochemical reaction of pollutants.
Coming to the bigger question of what causes this air pollution. So Arie Haggan-Smith identified two culprits behind smog: volatile organic compounds and VOCs and the other is nitrogen oxide. VOCs are compounds that easily become vapor and may contain elements such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine, and sulfur. Some are naturally produced by animals and plants but others are by manmade sources like petroleum, glues, and paints.
Similarly, incomplete combustion of motor vehicles releases nitrogen oxide. VOCs and nitrogen oxide react with sunlight and produce ground-level ozone or PANS which causes eye irritation and damages lung tissues.
In Lahore during every winter, cold and heavy air gets trapped in the city due to more population because more population means more cars, more industries and more agriculture but on the top of the list climate change is the most contributing factor in smog, especially in the whole of the indo-gigantic plain where Dehli, and other cities are as bad as Lahore is, and struggling with it.
Experts say that this is a mix of natural and human factors. Human factors contributing to air pollution include stubble burning, emissions from motor vehicles and factories, and open-air fires. At the same time, natural weather patterns like slow airspeed, no dispersion, and potentially fog are making the situation worse. What occurs to us as we’re breathing 20,000 times a day in this toxic atmosphere?
So according to doctors, in the heart and pulmonary arteries, polluted air may cause arteries to harden and blood to thicken, causing clots and blockages. Dirty air might also increase stroke risk and could potentially cause dementia, Parkinson and Alzheimers.
When it comes to the lungs coughing, irritation, shortness of breath, sore throat and viral fever are common in the short run but they increase the risk of bronchitis and asthma in the long term.
Every year about 7 million people die of air pollution. Pakistan contributes more than one million of these deaths. This is killing more Pakistanis than any other risk factor, so it’s alarming because as autumn comes Lahore turns into a gas chamber welcoming a long list of health problems and this is the story of every year.
So what government has done so far to mitigate this killer? It declared a health emergency, conducted cycling in March, and shut the schools and markets nothing more than that, have they provided us with clean air, did they include air pollution in their party manifestos or put it on their agendas? No, Absolutely not, so, these steps won’t be enough to tackle this toxic phenomenon.
So the government must be serious before Lahore turns to hell, people should be provided with air purifiers and masks to wear immediately. Later on, it must start planning with a special focus on putting a ban on diesel buses and halting construction activities, it must take the untreated smoke from industries on its agenda and find solutions to it.
Similarly, brick factories should be banned and Farmers should be given better crop disposal equipment. water spray guns should be placed in the city.
Above all, the government needs to take green energy initiatives to mitigate toxic gas chambers. It’s high time to do something for cleaner air, otherwise, we’ll be taking a breath to death and thereby considering death as our fate. And in the end there may not be pollution but apathy that will kill us.