Smog is now the fifth season
Once known as land of all four seasons, Pakistan has got specific fifth one in the shape of smoggy weather.
This is not the sudden addition as the intensity of smog increases with every passing year.
Smog prevailed in plains before start of winter in the outgoing year with more intensity as compared to 2016.
Though smog visited plains prior to 2016, the intensity was not that high. After causing serious health hazards in 2016, smog blanketed plains with such intensity in 2017 that the government was forced to close down educational institutions.
Government institutions continued pointing finger toward India, saying it was due to transboundary pollution. Experts and environmentalists held local factors responsible for such an alarming situation, saying indifferent attitude of the ruling elite over the years has practically added another season in the shape of smoggy weather. Intense smog disrupted road, rail and air traffic besides causing serious health hazards, even among women and children staying mostly indoors.
Accumulated pollutants caused closure of Motorway besides hampering vehicular movement on inter and intra city routes, including the National Highway.
Poor visibility caused delay in arrival and departure of domestic and international flights besides disturbing schedule of trains. Closure of Lahore airport from evening to noon was routine until the significant winter rains washed away accumulated pollutants. People continued approaching public sector and private hospitals for treatment of respiratory and skin diseases. Educational and medical institutions arranged seminars to aware public about benefits of using masks and glasses, washing face and hands on returning indoors, applying moisturizers to avoid skin dryness, taking balanced diet and enhancing fluid and fruit intake.
Smog caused alarming increase in skin allergies, fever, flu, eye sore as well as infections of throat, chest and stomach – especially among the children and the elderly.
People complained of burning eyes and heavy breathing. High concentration of fine dust particles, PM2.5, in the atmosphere also put people at risk of getting cardio vascular diseases, conditions usually not linked to pollution.
Concentration of smog was alarmingly high in urban areas, especially Lahore due to excessive emissions from moving and stationary sources and large scale digging for development purposes. Experts held excessive emissions from vehicles and industries, large-scale digging for development and continuous rising of dust from roads responsible for such an alarming situation.
“Persistent dryness caused gradual accumulation of pollutants in the atmosphere. Decrease in temperature caused the accumulated pollutants to form fog, mist and smog”, said meteorological expert Shaukat Ali Awan.
“Wok on mega projects has made Lahore dirtier than the most polluted cities on the globe”, he said.
Prominent environmentalist Ahmed Rafeh Alam says: “We can’t exactly identify sources of smog due to lack of air quality testing equipment. Environmental Protection Agency lacks equipment to identify pollutants and gauge level of pollution. As such there is no data to determine the ambient air quality”.
“The government has yet to implement the decision of Lahore High Court regarding measures to check pollution. EPA is going to install four monitors. Interestingly, fog policy has been formulated prior to devising a mechanism for monitoring of pollution. It is like putting cart before the horse”, he said.
“PM10 and PM2.5 is alarmingly high in the atmosphere. PM10 affect eyes, skin, throat and respiratory system. Smaller paticle-PM2.5 is more dangerous as it enters blood through lungs. This type of pollution has caused considerable increase in cardio vascular diseases. Such level of pollution also hinders normal growth of brain of infants. Even housewives and infants are not free from risk of exposure to pollution as PM2.5 enters room with air”, he said.
“Excessive pollution and dryness increased skin allergy to the extent of Psoriasis, itching, common cold, pain in joints, respiratory tract infection, cough and flu, wheezy chest, high grade fever and stomach upset,” says renowned physician Dr Abdul Rauf. In such situation, he suggested adopting necessary precautionary measures at homes, offices and while going outside, taking balanced diet with enhanced intake of fruits and fluids.
“As smoggy weather is a regular feature, people should adopt the habit of wearing mask while going out, applying moisturizer on skin and frequently washing face and eyes,” he said.