By Muhammad Luqman
The ongoing foggy weather with pungent air in the atmosphere reminds most of the Lahorites of smog that engulfed the eastern city of Pakistan on November 2 last year. Even after one year of much -trumpeted efforts of Pakistan government to overcome this environmental catastrophe, Lahore has once again been engulfed by a mass of smoggy air for the last one week. Meteorologists believe that only a good rain can end the fog in this part of the world, which is not in sight at the moment. “At least for one week, there is no likelihood of rains, “says Chief Meteorologist, Lahore, Muhammad Riaz.
Lahore city’s central areas especially the busiest traffic junctions like Yateem Khana Chowk and Azadi Chowk are worst hit by the smog phenomenon, with visibility levels going down and long queues of the vehicles for hours in mornings and evenings.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the benchmark for the suspended particulate matter at less than 150 micrograms per cubic meter. In these areas, but these generally exceed the level of 270 in winter days, according to environmentalists.
Smog, an environmental phenomenon that has been witnessed even in the industrial cities of Europe in the 20th century, is now very common in South Asia, Middle East and even East Asian region like China. In South Asia, Lahore and New Delhi have been the major victims. Smog- a combination of smoke and fog occurs when air pollution, emissions and fumes combine with fog and sunlight, forming a thick layer of smoke-like film in the atmosphere.
According to experts, smoke emitted from the chimneys of factories and exhausts from cars result in high levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide, the three main gases that contribute to dangerous levels of air pollution.
This is usually coincided by burning of stubble of harvested paddy crop in Pakistan’s Punjab i and Haryana and East Punjab of India in end-October and November that also contributes a lot of air pollution, needed for the formation of thick smog.
Punjab government has imposed section 144 law to stop the farmers from burning the stubble of the paddy crop and open burning of the municipal waste. These efforts, according to the images recently released by US upper space research organization, NASA, the number of burning sites in Pakistan have decreased in Pakistan. But these efforts have not yielded results needed for control of foggy weather, resulting in myriad of problems in this part of the world. Pakistan’s Environmental protection Department has carried out monitoring of the situation in various urban centers but the air testing is not enough without any remedial measures.
Flow of traffic is the first casualty of the foggy and smoggy weather that lowers the visibility level in the morning and evening to zero at highways and less than 200 meters at Allama Iqbal Airport, bring both road and air traffic to a halt. This situation also results in fatal road accidents in Central Pakistan province of Punjab.
This pungent air is also taking toll on the health of people of Lahore and other urban centers of Punjab province of Pakistan.
“Smog may cause eye diseases and respiratory disorders,” warns Dr. Ehsan Elahi, a physician.
People have been advised to wear glasses and masks to avert exposure to the hazardous air. Both government and people have to work jointly to overcome the environmental degradation. Pakistan and India can benefit from the experience of European countries.