ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) has started monitoring ambient air quality in Islamabad for public awareness on a daily basis.

Pak-EPA has said this data will not only provide awareness to the public who are sensitive to dust and air pollutants but will also help the agency to identify causes of bad and poor air quality in the capital city.

The agency has said the monitoring is done at a station in its office in H-8.

The environment watchdog on Friday claimed that residents of Islamabad are breathing healthy air nowadays.

Residents of Islamabad are breathing healthy air these days due to less traffic, school holidays, the agency says

Initial trials of air quality monitoring in the industrial I-9, I-10 and Kahuta triangle was conducted, which revealed that the air quality in the winter season was extremely poor in areas where the flow of traffic was high and more industries were located.

Air quality data recorded on May 23, 2018 revealed that all the parameters are within permissible limits of National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS).

The 24 hour average of NO2 was 16.03µg/m3 and SO2 was 8.48µg/m3 against the NEQS of 80 and 120 µg/m3.

Concentration of particulate matter of size 2.5 microns was 13.86µg/m3 against 35 µg/m3 standard.

The agency has said that one of the major reasons for the healthy air in Islamabad these days is less traffic load on the roads due to the holidays in all schools and less mobilization of people due to month of Ramazan. Therefore, it said, it was safe to conclude that anthropogenic activities play vital role in air quality of any urban centre.

However, some environmentalists have challenged the ‘perfect’ ambient air quality over Islamabad.

“Such perfect air can only be inhaled in some of the advanced and environmentally clean cities of the world but not Islamabad where traffic and industrial emissions are extremely high,” said a senior official in the Ministry of Climate Change.

He pointed out that air pollution in all major Pakistani cities is extremely high including Islamabad and that Pak-EPA needed to verify its data.

The official explained that particulate matter is lower after rains but much higher during a dry spell such as that Islamabad is experiencing these days.

“Even the recent fires in the Margalla Hills will have an impact on the ambient air quality over Islamabad,” said another official in the ministry.

Ambient air quality will vary from sector to sector, the official said adding: “The fixed station air monitoring station in sector H-8 cannot give accurate figures for the entire city.”

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2018

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