Nearly 6pct of GDP or $48 billion is the estimated economic burden of air pollution in the country. Other things being equal, the whopping figure strengthens the economic case for action. Punjab is Pakistan’s food basket and has more than 50pct (110m) of the total population (208m).
SoDATA (SOUTH DATA) — The largest city of Pakistan’s hinterland Punjab needs environmental attention — it has serious air pollution problem. However, “fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough”, Dr Maria Neira, Director of the WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health said in 2017.
“Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cooking-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”
The city Lahore has huge smog — it has become a ‘fifth season’ –being the westerly end of a vast swathe of “unhealthy” air pollution envelop south of the Himalayan range and extending in length — on east (Bangladesh), covering northern India (Delhi also has smog problem) and ending in the west in northern Pakistan and southerly. (See graphic above)
Abid Omar, founder of the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative in February 2018 pointed out the causal relationship between smog and other air pollution determinants and the effect of the mix in Lahore. “Similarly to fog, pollutants in the air are trapped within the temperature inversion layer close to the ground,” he explained. “This build-up of pollutants is hazardous to health (specially) during the winter months from October to December”.
While air quality in Pakistan on the whole exceeds safe limits in all major cities, Lahore has been recording the worse (since 2017) than the national guidelines (PAQI data) — 15 is the safe permissible limit– they are a tad lower than the WHO recommendation of 10.
On March 4, 2020 at 8 AM in the morning, Lahore recorded 283 as Air Quality Index (AQI) — it was also the highest in the wider region.
Last year, the city’s daily average (24 hrs) AQI over an 8-month period indicate that only over a week of few days of good to moderate air quality was recorded — an observation similar over some years now.
Smog in Punjab has been identified as a public health emergency with Lahore’s air pollution exceeding safe limits by 9 times, according to a report published in Feb, 2018 based on 2017 data.
Add to it other sources of air pollution such as diesel emissions, crop burning, coal combustion (brick kilns and coal-fired power plants), two-stroke vehicles (motorcycles and rickshaws), industrial emissions, and the growth in autocars population with the rise in household and middle-class income over more than a decade have their own impact on air quality and temperature.
How hot will summers be in Lahore by 2100? Summer highs in Lahore could be more like Doha, Qatar by 2100 without emissions cuts. (This is How Climate Change Will Shift the World’s Cities: Interactive Map).
The province has the largest population including of expats — nearly 35 to 40 percent of last year’s US$20 billion remittance added to its household income dynamics — and has been so in percentages over the years.
Besides health, what’s the impact of air pollution (including the ‘smog season’) on the economy? Nearly 6pct of GDP or $48 billion is the estimated economic burden of air pollution in the country. Other things being equal, the whopping economic figure strengthens the case for action.
Punjab is Pakistan’s food basket and has more than 50pct (110m) of the total population (208m) including expats in the Middle East and in the West.
Its capital Lahore Lahore Hai (a general narrative most Pakistanis take pride in saying). needs eco-environmental mitigation — as practically as possible the natural way, some experts say.