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Minister writes to PM’s adviser seeking assessment of Islamabad’s air quality

Updated April 15, 2019

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NHS Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani said in a letter to climate change adviser Malik Amin Aslam that “declining quality of air is the biggest environmental issue in Islamabad.” ─ AFP/File
NHS Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani said in a letter to climate change adviser Malik Amin Aslam that “declining quality of air is the biggest environmental issue in Islamabad.” ─ AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The minister for national health services (NHS) has written to the prime minister’s adviser on climate change seeking help with an assessment of Islamabad’s air quality so necessary measures can be taken to protect the health of residents of the city.

NHS Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani said in a letter to climate change adviser Malik Amin Aslam that “declining quality of air is the biggest environmental issue in Islamabad.”

“Particulate matter in smoke causes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in the country. Urban air pollution in terms of particulate matter is estimated to cause around 22,000 premature deaths among adults and 700 deaths among young children annually. Indoor air pollution causes the deaths of more than 30,000 children per year across the country,” he added.

Says deteriorating air quality has significant impact on human health

Mr Kiani said global climate change and the deteriorating quality of urban air have a significant impact on human health. He said health effects caused by air pollution can include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, asthma and aggravation of existing respiratory and cardiac conditions. The effects of poor air quality on human health are far-reaching but principally affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, he wrote.

Speaking to Dawn, he said international surveys have continuously shown that environmental pollution is rising across the country.

“We want to make Islamabad a model city, so other cities and provinces follow it. Apart from that we have decided to facilitate residents of the federal capital to remain healthy. We will also give them awareness so that they also play a role in keeping the city pollution-free,” he said.

In response to a question, Mr Kiani said some companies are being involved to hire physical exercise trainers as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity, who will deputed in parks and walking tracks where they will assist people with exercise and inform them of how to remain healthy and avoid cardiovascular disease.

He said that four decades ago there were just a few slums in the capital, which have now increased significantly.

“Once the population of the federal capital was 400,000, but now it has reached to 2.2 million. One should understand that pollution increases with the increase in population. So there is need to take steps to reduce environmental pollution,” he said.

He said by next year “every deserving resident of the federal capital” will receive health cards so they can avail healthcare facilities.

According to the letter, a rapid assessment of particulate matter may be measured in various locations in the high industrial zones of I-9 and I-10 to address the situation.

Particulate matter in industries will be measured using Environmental Particulate Air Monitor-5000 (EPAM-5000), which is available with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The letter added: “EPAM-5000 is portable instrument best for measuring the indoor environmental and ambient air monitoring. We don’t have any available funding to cover the expenses [or to hire] the staff and this instrument from EPA. However, your kind support for this assessment project is required to help us in measurement of this PM level in different areas of Islamabad.”

The minister said in the letter that he wished to inform the prime minister of the health effects of industrial pollution in Islamabad and asked the adviser on climate change to “direct the EPA to extend their full support to the investigators the Health Services Academy, Islamabad.”

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2019