ISLAMABAD  -   Smog, an outcome of industrialization and weather conditions not only disturbs daily routine, but can be hazardous for health of people sometimes leading to deadly diseases. For instance, it aggravates the condition of patients of asthma, heart and lungs and sometimes can even be fatal.

According to the health experts, pollution not only affects the overall health of people but has a severe impact on heart and lungs, so citizens especially having problems of allergy and asthma as well as heart ailments should use precautionary measures during their daily life and should consume healthy food and wear masks while stepping outside their house.  “A few deaths are reported every year in Pakistan due to air pollution namely smog especially in the areas of central Punjab,” said Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) spokesperson, Dr Khawaja Waseem Abbas.

The overwhelming smog phenomenon has gripped the country’s major industrial and overpopulated cities in its fifth season prevailing in the country including Lahore and its adjoining cities besides others. The same problem is now developing in the federal capital due to Steel Mills and other reasons like illegal crushing on Margalla Hills, vehicular emissions and development work in hundreds of large and small housing societies being developed in various parts of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It is badly affecting the daily routine in these cities not only reducing the day to merely four-five hours but by also disturbing the transportation due to the limited visibility especially in the early morning and late night hours. Green Peace Energy and Air Pollution Analyst, Lauri Myllyvytra at a seminar organized by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) here said, “Air pollution sources in Pakistani cities particularly in Lahore and others are mainly industrial emissions, re-suspended (to keep soil particles suspended back into air) soil, automobile sources and crop residual burning whereas the discharge level is the same in Karachi as well.”

“Particulate matter (PM2.5) is the pollutant that gives long term evidence for chronic respiratory diseases whereas sulphur dioxides (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3) are also harmful pollutants that need vigilance,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) Report on Health Aspects of Air Pollution with Particulate Matter, Ozone and Nitrogen Dioxide. Director General Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA), Farzana Altaf Shah told APP that the federal capital’s air quality is being monitored regularly to control industrial emissions with an online emissions monitoring system which helps to meticulously observe all sectors of the city.

The hospitals lacking waste burning incinerators were fined and action was taken against them as per law whereas their emissions and temperatures were monitored to avoid hazardous gas releases, she added. To a question, she said the steel re-rolling mills working in the industrial zone of the federal capital were cooperating with Pak-EPA to release controlled emissions whereas there was no such plan to shift any industry from the sector rather strict monitoring and vigilance of their setups was made by the agency. 

The air quality monitors installed have examined that the pollutant ratio reaches at the maximum level during the evening peak hours where vehicular emissions are produced in abundance, she added. “The ideal air quality monitored in the federal capital came into notice of Pak-EPA during the month of Ramadan this year as vehicular traffic reduced to a significant level as most of the offices, schools and universities were closed due to vacations.

The point to ponder here is that the unshackled increase in the traffic of the city has ultimately deteriorated the ambient quality of one of the greenest cities of the country. The mushrooming growth of housing societies in its vicinity is yet another factor that has transformed the terrain of city during construction and development of the societies, whereas brick kiln cluster in the suburbs of the federal capital is also a contributing source,” she maintained.

 The ambience of the capital despite the fact that it has least pollution levels as compared to Lahore and Karachi as PM2.5 level in the air quality reports of 24 hours reveal permissible quantity of the pollutants, demands amicable smog mitigating measures as it’s the 5th season being embraced by the country.  Advisor to PM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said that Smog was one of the critical issues being faced by the country.

 in the spectrum of climate change where all out efforts were underway to control harmful emissions from debris, crop residual burning, brick kilns and smoke producing vehicles.  The advisor said that “A billion trees programme namely Clean and Green Pakistan has already been launched on the directive of the Prime Minister across the country and the government would make sure maximum plantation with care till their growth to a survival level beside other measures to control this phenomenon on a priority basis.”