PESHAWAR: The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has found air quality in some parts of the provincial capital to be injurious to the people’s health saying the particulate matter (PM2.5) has exceeded the permissible limits there.

The EPA monitored the capital’s air quality from Dec 29, 2021, to Jan 2, 2022, at the request of its KP counterpart, reveal the official documents.

According to a report, during the air quality monitoring period, PM2.5 level constantly exceeded the NEQS limit of 55.3 to 220.8 (µg/m³) at all points, especially roadside locations.

“Though it was not toxic, long-term exposure of citizens may cause health problems to general public,” said an official dealing with environment-related matters.

He added that the concentration of PM2.5 up to 150 was acceptable but beyond that, it caused health issues.

The report said in Peshawar, PM2.5 was generated and released by industries, vehicles emission, roadside BBQ and other seasonal factors such as biomass/agriculture burning said.

Says particulate matter beyond permissible limits

It said the vehicles’ emission was considered to be one of the major factors of PM2.5 in Peshawar.

The number of vehicles in Peshawar has exceeded 774,961, including over 300,000 motorcycles and 30,000 rickshaws and taxicabs, according to the Development Statistics of KP 2020 report.

The transport department said unregistered rickshaws in the capital totalled around 35,000.

According to it, PM2.5 is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.

The provincial authority had conducted a survey in 2016 that revealed that the level of PM2.5 was four times higher in the air of Peshawar than the NEQS limit, which was alarming and recommended joint efforts to reduce the level of air pollution.

The last report said vehicular emissions, waste burning, construction work, debris, dust, broken roads, poor collection of waste, smoke discharged from brick kilns were the main contributors to air pollution in the provincial capital.

Officials told Dawn the JICA had donated three mobile air quality monitoring labs to the Pakistan under a project from 2008 to 2013. One of the labs was given to the Sindh government and one to Punjab, while the then KP government laid claim to the third one for Peshawar.

However, it was given to Islamabad on the condition that it will facilitate the KP EPA when needed.

The latest report said PM2.5 was the best indicator for health effects of the ambient air pollution.

During the four days period, a mobile air quality monitoring station was placed in six different areas of Peshawar city, including Northern Bottling Company Limited (a franchise of Pepsi Cola), Hayatabad, ARAR Services Limited, Hayatabad, Peshawar Development Authority, Officer Club, Hayatabad,, Food Department (Haji Camp) GT Road, Environmental Protection Agency, SDU Building, Khyber Road, and NTFP forest department, Shami Road, Peshawar.

It said the SO2 level was from 12.6 to 131.4 (µg/m³) exceeding NEQS at the food department, while the CO (carbon monoxide) levels also went up at the location.

The report said the US EPA had defined the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for carbon monoxide as

nine parts per million averaged over an eight-hour period, and that threshold couldn’t be exceeded more than once a year or an area would be violating the standard.

According to the air quality survey, the ozone level was satisfactory at 9.3 to 44 µg/m³ and that of nitrogen dioxide within the NEQS limit at all locations.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2022

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