Newsbrief: Smog in Lahore has become a “Fifth Season”

by Kobie Adams
edited by Pat Seavey

Smog covering the second largest city in Pakistan, Lahore has become a deadly issue according to The New York Times.

November in Pakistan features a significant amount of crop and solid waste burning. When combined with colder temperatures it produces high levels of particulate matter that have exceeded the safe limit of 35 micrograms per cubic meter by 30 times.

The World Health Organization estimates that roughly 60,000 Pakistanis have died due to health caused by dangerous levels of particulate matter, which is the highest recorded death toll due to air pollution. According to the Times, within the past week dozens were killed in car accidents related to poor visibility caused by air pollution.

(Photo: Kuwait Times)

The Punjabi government admits to having “scant” data concerning the air quality of Lahore and other areas of Pakistan. Naseem-ur-Rehman, a director at Punjab’s Environment Protection Department has admitted that only six air-quality monitors were purchased in the past year, and were not installed until last week.

“This is a crisis of data,” said Ahmad Rafay Alam, an environmental lawyer and activist in Lahore.

There are those however who have taken responsibility for distributing air-quality data, according to the Times, a local Pakistani man placed air monitors in Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Karachi, and then posted the results on Twitter. “I realized that in order for air quality to become a national conversation in the way it had in China and to raise awareness about hazards and solutions, we needed the numbers to be out there,” the Times quoted him as saying.

The Punjabi government has attempted to place bans on crop and waste burning, and regulate the use of vehicles with higher emissions. Environmentalists, however, say that there must be an introduction of more environmentally sustainable practices in order for there to be an actual change.

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