The smog which was at first just seen as a nuisance for visibility has very lethal consequences. From causing deaths in roadside accidents to power shortages in Punjab and Sindh, the smog problem is one that the government should take immediate action on, or it will only worsen with every year.

The government’s response has been lukewarm at best. The government has fluctuated on it, from underestimating the problem by calling it not something to be alarmed by, to blaming it on India’s crop stubble burning. After the smog enveloped Punjab, the provincial government took initiative on Shahbaz Sharif’s command, to launch a crackdown against industrial units polluting air and burning of garbage in the open to overcome the issue of smog. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been asked to register cases with the police against the air polluters.

While these reports of government initiative look hopeful, actual investigation into the matter present a whole other side of the story. EPA officials in Rawalpindi tell a sorry tale where industrial polluters are allowed to continue because of political pressure, meanwhile the body does not even have the tools to check air pollution and is instead concerned with asking people not to burn tires or throw trash in the open. No steps have been taken to implement the EPA plan to plant more trees and over ninety-nine unregistered industrial units in the city have failed to adopt any measure to discharge their waste after treatment.

Smog is a region-wide phenomenon and simple, consumer-heavy gestures such as asking people not to burn tires will not do the trick. Neither will absolving the blame on crop burning in India do much, as environmentalists estimate that while stubble burning could add to the severity of the problem, it is impossible that just the burning of stubble could cause such dense smog in a short period of time.

The problem is more of a result of the dominance of corporate and industrial entities around the subcontinent and the Middle East, and it is one that this region must team up to defeat. Pakistan, for its part, must show the political will to go after industrialists, who do not discharge in environment friendly ways. Moreover, this issue of the provincial government to the EPA will be utterly perfunctory until the government equips the EPA with technology to gauge pollution and empowers it to administrate industries.