On 19th October 2016, my elder brother was blessed with a baby boy in Lahore. The baby was healthy in terms of his weight and height and was discharged from the hospital in a couple of days. This was a moment of happiness for my entire family but just few days after coming home, the new born had to be admitted to the hospital again and the reason was 'smog'.

This was for the first time ever that smog came into discussion on all public forums.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to health and is responsible for about one in nine deaths annually. Only in 2015 almost 60,000 Pakistanis died from the high level of fine dust particles present in the air. This death toll due to air pollution is among the highest in the world.

According to a study published by State of Global Air, air pollution has collectively reduced life expectancy by one year and eight months on average worldwide. This means a child born today will die 20 months earlier on average as compared to in the absence of air pollution.

Lahore, which is Pakistan’s second-largest city and home to more than 10 million people was once known as the City of Gardens, but today the figures on air quality indexes show it as one of the most polluted cities of the world.

This elevated level of air pollution due to rapid industrialization, vehicular emissions, unfinished construction projects, crop burning and most importantly tree slashing is becoming the driver for a much bigger problem; climate change and one of the main reasons behind residents complaining of respiratory difficulties, eye irritation, cardiac complications and the change of weather pattern.

In 2015, the WHO member states unanimously recognized air pollution as a global health risk and accepted a resolution for commitment towards four areas: building knowledge base; monitoring and reporting; institutional capacity strengthening and global leadership coordination. Moreover, they adopted measures towards monitoring air quality, raising public awareness towards health and climate impacts of air pollution and an increase in policy actions, for instance, phasing out diesel vehicles by 2025.

Now coming back to my nephew, who would be turning three next month and has all his life ahead, but what exactly we are we providing him?

Clean air: No

Clean water: No

Comfortable air temperature: No

So what would he and his entire generation think of their elders. Certainly, we have to take a step forward because air pollution, climate change is a reality. We have to realise that it is high time and our last chance to save this planet so it’s either ‘NOW or NEVER’.