By Afnan Khan
LAHORE: Residents of the provincial capital are breathing poisonous air due to the government’s failure in controlling massive industrialisation in residential areas and containing the growth in the number of vehicles on the road, which has increased significantly with the passage of time, Daily Times has learnt.
The level of all the major contaminants in the atmosphere has exceeded the given standard, which is not only harming the environment and the city’s ecosystem, but also causing an increase in the number of diseases related to lungs and various types of cancer.
The key pollutants, which are threatening the atmosphere of the city, include carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), lead (Pb) and suspended particulate matter (SPM), while nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is the major pollutant out of all other oxides of nitrogen in the air.
The major sources of all these pollutants include furnaces and other factories – mostly operating around the walled city and in the peripherals of Lahore – the relatively higher population growth, the massive increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, the absence of a proper public transport system and garbage and desolated infrastructure such as roads.
Most of the vehicles in Lahore, especially the heavy ones, are not complying with the given standards of international environmental agencies – called Euro-II and Euro-III – which means that the vehicles are not fit enough to avoid spreading any kind of contaminant in the air through their exhaust.
The majority of diesel vehicles using crude diesel oil, two-stroke rickshaws and motorcycles emit excessive graphitic carbon (visible smoke) due to faulty injection nozzles and weak engines. Two-stroke vehicles are the most inefficient in burning fuel and thus contribute most to emissions.
According to experts, air pollution either causes or triggers ailments like Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, fibrosis, heart-related problems, cancer and diabetes among others.
An Environment Protection Department official told Daily Times that under the World Health Organisation’s standards the level of nitrogen oxide in the air should not be more than 40µg/m3 throughout the year, but the level in Lahore is now 170µg/m3.
Similarly, the level of particulate matter should remain less than 25µg/m3 round the clock, but it crosses 200µg/m3 during different timings in the provincial capital. The limit of SO2 is supposed to be 100µg/m3, but it crosses 200 in Lahore. Similarly, the maximum level of O3 is set at 100µg/m3 within every eight hours, but it also crosses its limits at different points in the city, while other pollutants like CO are also excessively present in the air.
The official said that The Mall was still considered one of the most green areas of Lahore, yet the level of all these pollutants in the area is extremely high, which is enough to understand the plight of the people living in the walled city, Ichra, Mozang, Yateem Khana, Sanda etc, where there is almost no greenery and the highest ratio of population density.
All options: Environment Protection Department spokesperson Naseemur Rehman told Daily Times that the department was looking at all options to control pollutions, including air pollution, and they were running several awareness programmes in this regard.
“The department sealed more than 100 polluting industries during 2009 in Lahore alone, fined 19,298 vehicles for emitting smoke and polluting the atmosphere, specially checked more than 200 chemical units in the city while conducting around 200 follow-up visits on different sites,” he said, adding that citizens should also understand that they have to adopt an environment-friendly life style.
Lahore Bachao Tehreek senior member Imrana Tiwana told Daily Times that the city was now being quoted at international levels for being one of the most culturally rich yet polluted places on the planet, which is a great embarrassment for our government and citizens.
She said that air pollution had already crossed all set limits in the city and it was time to start a proper programme to control air pollution and thoroughly monitor it in collaboration with local and international organisations.
She said that an international environmentalist organisation, called Clean Air Commission, had visited Lahore to lend their support for the eradication of air pollution as they previously did in India, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries, but the government did not accept their proposals.