Fog health hazards

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Pakistan’s second-largest city Lahore suffers from high levels of air pollution, with the city regularly ranking at the top of IQAir AirVisual’s live pollution rankings of major global cities.

Air quality severely declined to unsafe levels in November, with one out of every two days since the beginning of the month having been classified as “hazardous'” by air quality monitors implemented by the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative and the city’s US Consulate.

Smog season in the eastern province typically runs from October to February when poor fuel quality, uncontrolled emissions and crop burning further deteriorate already unhealthy air.

Multiple factors such as smoke from brick kilns, burning of stubs of crops, smoke emitting vehicles, factory emissions, burning of rice stubble and garbage and large-scale losses of trees and buildings are responsible for smog. However, the crop burning in India is also one main contributors to smog in Lahore, as the city is just 20km from India’s border.

Environmental issues in Punjab are not only affecting routine life but also causing respiratory diseases, complain of headaches and burning eyes and throats; hence urgent steps are needed to find out permanent solution to the problem.

In the past, government did nothing to counter the menace due to which it became such a health hazard issue. However, the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government took notice of the severity of the situation and hammered out a decisive plan to deal with the problem.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that they have decided to import a more clean environmental friendly fuel, which will meet the Euro 4 standard. By the end of 2020, he added, Pakistan will shift to the Euro 5 emission standard, which will have a 90 per cent impact on air quality.

Oil refineries would be given three years to improve their fuel quality, else they will be forced to shut down, besides shifting the focus of the auto industry towards electric vehicles.

The government undoubtedly devised a comprehensive plan to cope with fog; however it could have only lasting impact if implemented because in Pakistan policies are formulated but are hardly executed accordingly.

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