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Punjab’s capital, Lahore has been labelled as the most-polluted city in the world, owing to its bad air quality. Since October this year, the quality of Lahore’s air has been slowly worsening until now when it tops the list for being the most hazardous in the world. Currently, the US’ released Air Quality Index (AQI) has put Lahore’s air quality at 397, which signals high levels of pollutants in the air. This air pollution is more commonly referred to as smog.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) measures air quality in cities across the world. Values greater than 100 are considered harmful and send alarm bells ringing for the governments to take care of the situation. In recent years, smog in Pakistan has come about to dominate much of the winter season. Sometimes people confuse smog with fog, however, the two are completely different but are engendered through a similar phenomena. Presence of water vapours in air create fog, whereas, smog or the haze that is quite visible all over urban Lahore, is caused by the presence of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides which react with sunlight to create a haze that is attributed dangerous for not affecting visibility but for health reasons as well. Here’s how.
Smog In Pakistan; What Does It Mean?
The AQI is like a thermometer that runs from 0 to 500 degrees, but instead of showing changes in the temperature, the AQI is a way of showing changes in air pollution. AQI values at and below 100 are generally considered to be satisfactory. When AQI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy.
Pakistan’s AQI has ranged from 150 to over 350 during the past few years, however, this year it is nearing 400. The government has also issued a number of warnings for people to wear masks, wash their hands and face as soon as they return home from outside, and use humidifiers. While at the same time, open crop burning, the biggest contributor to smog has been halted and termed illegal under Section 144 since October 6th.
Apart from endangering people’s health, smog adversely affects the agricultural sector as well. Rapid industrialization, smoke from factories and mines, extensive deforestation, and the planting of the wrong species of trees have all contributed to this issue. On top of this, lack of rainfall and low wind speed have also exacerbated the crisis.
What’s Being Done To Fight Lahore’s Smog?
The incumbent government has introduced key policies to tackle this growing adversary. It is widely believed that rapid forestation activities will help, and for this reason a number of plantation drives have been initiated throughout the country. In addition to this, Prime Minister Imran Khan has encouraged the employment of Miyawaki Method of planting trees to combat smog in Lahore and announced the planting of 51 urban forest sites in the city. Additionally, as the tourism sector is expanded, attention is being given to ensure sustainable eco-tourism practices.
However, with air quality continuously dropping, it is feared that the problem will only exacerbate and prolong; and for this, more concerted efforts are required.
These techniques will require to be dynamic to put the country on a better path where this climate change recovery is possible. Globally, under climate law, numerous countries like in Europe have proposed a complete ban on using cars that do not have a hybrid engine, moreover, old cars are also fined. In addition to this open crop and garbage burning is also prohibited under law and emission caps are levied on factories to bring down net emissions. These are some of the main causes of urban smog and therefore need to be rectified in order to improve the overall situation in terms of air quality.
However, for people in Lahore, there are a couple ways and home remedies to protect oneself from smog and its adverse effects on health.
Protecting Against Smog
In order to protect against smog, these are some useful tips:
- Wear a mask at all times when you’re outside, even when in a car
- Wash your face and hands as soon as you enter home. Keep your respiratory tract clean.
- Invest in a good humidifier if you or someone at your home suffers from asthma. You can also take steam by boiling hot water in a pan and breathing in the cleaner humidified air.
- Drink lots of warm fluids, especially herbal teas and soup. Do not eat or drink anything that might irritate your throat and nose.
If your symptoms such as dry cough, irritant eyes, and chest congestion last more than three days, it’s best to see a doctor as there are a number of viruses in the environment with all too similar symptoms. Moreover, as the winter progresses, there are concerns that cases of the coronavirus infection will increase simultaneously to health conditions caused by smog. It’s best practice to ensure that you wear a mask at all times, maintain social distancing, and wash your hands regularly.