Study identifies relationship between smog and rice residue burning in Punjab

Published November 7, 2018
"The study will be instrumental in helping reduce the contribution of the agriculture sector in the formation of smog."— AFP/File
"The study will be instrumental in helping reduce the contribution of the agriculture sector in the formation of smog."— AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A new research study carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has found a relationship between smog and the practice of rice residue burning by farmers in the rice belt of Punjab.

Findings of the study provide scientific evidence of the causes of smog, and the relationship between smog and crop residue burning. The study will be instrumental in helping reduce the contribution of the agriculture sector towards the formation of smog, FAO Representative in Pakistan, Mina Dowlatchahi said on Tuesday.

The study carried out under the ‘Remote Sensing for Spatio-Temporal Mapping of Smog’ project in collaboration with the Punjab government, found that the formation of smog, however, was not dependent only on the presence or increase of these pollutants, but certain meteorological and weather conditions also help these pollutants suspend in the lower atmosphere because of which the pollutants from a dense visible layer of smog.

FAO responded to a request from the Punjab government in 2017 and initiated the project, which has now been completed. It is a first of its kind evidence-based geospatial research which will contribute to findings on emissions and drivers of smog. FAO will present the report to the Punjab government next week with its recommendations.

The research findings were reviewed by FAO global technical experts on information with a geographical component, methods and tools and validated by a wide array of Pakistani experts and institutions. Representatives of the ministry of climate change and the Punjab government were present on the occasion.

Speaking to experts, the FAO representative stated that the organisation remained committed to support the government efforts to help devise appropriate strategies and action plans to tackle smog in Pakistan.

Pakistan suffered one of the highest death tolls in the world from air pollution in 2015, when, according to UN estimates, thousands lost their lives because of the high level of fine particles in the air.

This phenomenon engulfs several cities in Punjab province, particularly Lahore, during the winter months and has evolved into a public health and economic emergency.

Smog is one of the several forms of air pollutants that cause harm to human functioning. Formation of smog, however, is not dependent only on the presence or increase of these pollutants, but certain meteorological and weather conditions also help these pollutants suspend in the lower atmosphere because of which the pollutants form a dense visible layer of smog.

FAO is also carrying out water accounting in the Indus Basin using geospatial data and techniques.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2018

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