The Swiss Air Quality Monitor recently named the city of Lahore, Pakistan, as the most polluted city globally, beating Delhi, which had previously held the notorious title.
Poor quality fuel, stubble burning, and industry are reported to be the main culprits, with the government being accused of lacking a clear strategy to tackle the problem.
Speaking to Radio Islam International, Dr Imran Saqib Khalid, Director of Governance and Policy of WWF Pakistan, argued that this was a regional problem, requiring a broader strategy.
Dr Khalid argued that the focus often changed in the summer months, when the problem improved, and that this impeded real focus from being placed on this critical issue. He stated that it could be labelled as akin to a room full of smokers, and that although many had become accustomed to the issue, the impact of this pollution was impacting people’s lungs and hearts, especially the young. Moreover, he reiterated that this was not a surprise, saying, “unfortunately, this has been in the making for a number of years now, so this does not come as a surprise; air pollution is a national crisis, in fact, it’s a regional crisis that transcends borders between India and Pakistan, and, even though we’ve got environmental laws and we’ve got legislation, we haven’t been trying to address the main cause of the crisis.”
He criticised the provincial government’s comments that the city had not suffered smog ever, arguing that the evidence could be seen on the faces and in the bodies of the city’s inhabitants, that they did not need an air quality monitor agency to diagnose the problem, and that the government’s defensiveness was a result of its competence being questioned.
Dr Khalid contended that tackling the problem would mean addressing the issue of traffic, which he argued, needed to be halved. Further, industrial pollution and stubble burning needed to be reduced. Significantly, he noted that the closing of schools, as has occurred in Delhi, was a ‘post-facto’ solution, and would not deal with the actual cause. He further said that although Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and the Environmental Minister were competent, much more was required, especially in relation to implementation and enforcement. In addition, he noted that solutions needed to be national and regional, and needed to be worked on with India. This is as the pollution was often influenced by the direction of the wind, with stubble burning in India sometimes causing pollution in Pakistan and vice versa.