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Karachi’s air quality is worst today: Here is why

Expert links bad air quality to tropical activity in the Arabian Sea

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 23, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
Posted: Oct 23, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago

Photo: AFP

Normally, this time of the year brings ecstasy for people of Karachi. They get to take a jibe at their fellow countrymen from Lahore and for a good reason. 

This is the beginning of winter season in the country. In Lahore, winter means smog, when the air is too hazardous to breath. 

It is a similar story this year too. Since the start of October, Lahore’s air quality has been “unhealthy” for 17 out of 23 days, according to the air quality data by AirVisual. 

For the remaining six days, it was “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

Karachi rarely faces such as situation thanks to its proximity to sea.

But the joy for people of Karachi was killed as they stepped out of their homes Saturday morning. The city’s air was filled with dust particles, and visibility was low. 

Unhealthy levels of pollution were recorded in the city, plunging the air quality to 194 US AQI, according to IQAir.  

This was the second worst air quality recorded today in the whole country. Only Bahawalpur’s air quality is worse than Karachi with 180 US AQI.  

IQAir recorded Lahore’s air quality at 102 US AQI on Saturday. 

According to Pakistan Meteorological Department, the reason for bad air quality is the change in wind direction. 

“There is a high wind pressure from Afghanistan and Central Asia and the wind is blowing from North-West,” said Met Office Director General Sardar Sarfaraz. 

According to Sarfaraz, the pressure will subside in two days and the air will clear. 

Climate policy expert Dawar Butt links the bad air quality to the tropical activity in the Arabian Sea. 

“In October and November, tropical storms activate in the Arabian Sea. Due to this tropical activity, sea breeze blowing towards land stops,” he said. 

“Since no fresh air comes to Karachi, the dry breeze entering the city from Sindh accumulates and causes pollution.” 

According to Butt, the air will clear by Monday when the sea breeze resumes. 

Difference in the air quality data

However, there is a small discrepancy in Karachi’s air quality data. 

The city’s air quality, according to the Air Quality Monitor Feed of the US Consulate Karachi was at 214 AQI  by 5pm. 

However, Pakistan Meteorological Department, the institution tasked with providing weather forecasts and public warnings concerning weather, doesn’t collect the air quality data.

Dawar says that the data from US Consulate monitor should be considered more authentic. 

“AirVisual’s monitors are low-cost sensors compared to US Consulate’s monitor which is Evaluation Reference Standard Monitor,” he said. 

Reference Standard monitor means its data is much more accurate. 

However, Butt warns that this monitor can only cover a certain locality. The location of the US Consulate in Karachi is near the city centre. So, industrial areas might have a higher AQI value. 

In the coming days, people of Lahore might be gasping for breath, but at least today they are the one breathing in fresh air. 

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Karachi, Karachi air quality, Why Karachi air quality is bad today, air in Karachi, Karachi pollution

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