Death in the Air

November 18, 2017

By Nazia Memon

Pakistan is facing serious environmental problems for example deforestation, air pollution, noise pollution, climate change, pesticide misuse, soil erosion, natural disasters and desertification. They are getting worse as the country’s economy expands and the population grows. Unfortunately, not much is being done to tackle these issues.

The megacities of Pakistan, such as Karachi, Lahore Islamabad and Rawalpindi are severely facing different environmental issues.

Karachi’s urban air pollution is among the most severe in the world and it causes significant damage to human health and the economy  “The inefficient use of energy, an increase in the number of vehicles used daily, an increase in unregulated industrial emissions and the burning of garbage and plastic have contributed the most to air pollution in urban areas. According to a recent study, Karachi’s Environment Protection Department claims that the average level of pollution in big cities is approximately four times higher than the World Health Organization’s limits. These emissions have detrimental effects, including “respiratory diseases, reduced visibility, loss of vegetation and an effect on the growth of plants.”

Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi are severely affected by the Smog.

Smog or “smoky fog” is air pollution that reduces visibility and this kind of visible air pollution is composed of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone, smoke or particulates among others (less visible pollutants include carbon monoxide and radioactive sources). This human-made smog is derived from coal emissions, vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, forest and agricultural fires and photochemical reactions of these emissions.

The “Global State of Air 2017” report on exposure to air pollution and related diseases, states that the amount of fine dust particulate matters in the air, known as PM2.5, has risen sharply, responsible for early deaths in Pakistan. Air pollution in Pakistan has caused at least 135,000 premature deaths in 2015.

Pollution and related diseases most often affect the poor and powerless, and victims are often the vulnerable and the voiceless. As a result, pollution threatens fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, health, wellbeing, safe work, as well as protection of children and the most vulnerable.”

The health hazards of atmospheric pollution have become a major concern now more than ever. 92 per cent of the world’s population is living in an atmosphere with polluted air.

China and India, home to the world’s two fastest growing economies, will likely bear the brunt of those effects. More than half of the deaths caused by air pollution around the world occur in those two countries, according to the research. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brazil and Japan also rank among other countries that have experienced increases in pollution deaths in recent decades.

The number of deaths each year attributable to air pollution makes a compelling case for reducing pollution. Valuing the costs of premature deaths associated with pollution helps to further highlight the severity of the problem. Governments face a wide array of competing development challenges, and monetizing the costs of pollution can help them decide how to allocate scarce resources to better the lives of their citizens. Monetary values can also help them measure the benefits of policies to tackle pollution and, when compared with costs of implementation, to devise cost-effective air quality management plans.

Whereas, Policymakers across the globe have responded to air pollution with a slew of new regulations and policies, the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (PEPA) has failed to formulate an air pollution policy to tackle with extensive smog issue which is taking thousands of lives every year.

These environmental concerns not only harm Pakistani citizens but also pose a serious threat to the country’s economy. The World Bank report stated that the increase of industrialization, urbanization and motorization will inevitably worsen this problem.