ISLAMABAD-The federal capital on March 25 observed a virtual lockdown, to contain the risk of Coronavirus pandemic outbreak that resulted in drastic decline in air pollution since the closure of traffic and public mobility in the metropolis.

Deputy Director Labs Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Dr MohsinaZubair told APP that increased number of vehicles entering into the federal capital was the major source of air pollution.

“The large bus fleets of public private offices, schools, colleges and universities are one of the major causes of increased harmful air pollutants in the air.”

The air quality in the federal capital for consecutive six days since past Friday was healthy as the ambient pollutants were below the permissible limits, she added.

“It has been for the first time in the metropolis that air pollution has reduced to such a low level. However, in the end of last year particulate matter of 2.5 microns that is very hazardous for human health has been recorded above 92 microgrammes per meter cube (ug/m3) that is the highest ever ratio,” Dr Mohsina said.

She added that as per EPA daily air quality report, the hazardous environmental pollutant of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) was below the permissible limits of National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS).

Dr Mohsina informed that PM2.5 ratio also dropped to a single digit value of 4ug/m3 during the day time as most of the schools, universities colleges and offices were shut down and very miniscule traffic was seen on the roads.

The PM2.5 ratio in air was recorded 16.17 ug/m3, whereas, the NEQS allows 35ug/m3 presence in the atmosphere. However, PM2.5 was also below the World Health Organization (WHO) 24-hour mean of 20 micrograms per meter cube that was recorded for the first time in the federal capital’s ambient air quality history.

To a question, she said the EPA staff was divided into two groups to run the office business with minimum human resource engagement to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic. The EPA staff was working on rotation and managing all the work at the department.

World Health Organization (WHO) in its reports had claimed air pollution to cause huge number of premature deaths. PM 2.5 had been found hazardous pollutant which could penetrate into human blood through lungs cells.

The daily ambient air quality report by EPA, the 24-hour average ratio of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Sulphur dioxide (SO2) was 12.93 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m³) and 13.3 mg/m³ respectively against the respective National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) of 80 mg/m³ and 120mg/m³.

The data was recorded by calibrated air quality monitors fixed at particular positions with proper readings.

However, concentrations of PM2.5 during the evening times were recorded slightly high, whereas, the overall ambient air quality of the federal capital was moderate today.

Any other data from any source presenting ambient air quality of Islamabad was neither verified nor approved by the EPA, the report said.