Amnesty International raises concern about air quality exceeding 'hazardous' levels in Punjab

October 30, 2019

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In this file photo taken on January 24, a Pakistani barber shaves a customer alongside a road amid heavy fog and smog conditions in Lahore.— AFP/File
In this file photo taken on January 24, a Pakistani barber shaves a customer alongside a road amid heavy fog and smog conditions in Lahore.— AFP/File

Human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday said that the government's "failure to protect people from exposure to hazardous air in Punjab risks violating their human rights to life and health".

In a statement, Amnesty International said that the Air Quality Index in Lahore had reached 484 at 10am today, adding that the threshold for "hazardous" levels of air quality was 300, where people are advised to “avoid all physical activity outdoors”.

"During the 'smog season' – from October to January – air quality reaches 'hazardous' levels, as recorded by multiple, independent sources including the air quality monitors installed by the United States Consulate in Lahore and the crowdsourced data collated by the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative," the rights group added.

In March, Faisalabad and Lahore were ranked in the top 10 on a list of the world's most polluted cities in 2018. The list was dominated by Indian cities, which took 22 of the top 30 spots, according to a Greenpeace report.

Read: Smog turns ‘garden city’ into a polluted hub

The South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International, Rimmel Mohydin, said: "The high level of smog is neither a new problem, nor one that came without warning. The government of Pakistan needs to do much more to adequately address such a severe public health crisis — one that endangers people’s health and even their lives."

Mohydin said that air pollution and the climate change crisis are "intricately linked".

"It exacerbates existing inequalities and paves the way for human rights violations. If authorities continue to stall making concerted efforts to address the smog crisis, it will continue to devastate human life.

"There is something very wrong when the air becomes so toxic that you cannot breathe without hurting yourself. The government can no longer afford to waste time while people are choking to death," she added.