Air pollution brings down life expectancy in Peshawar: study

Published April 21, 2022
This file photo shows reduced visibility on GT Road, Peshawar due to thick smog. — INP/File
This file photo shows reduced visibility on GT Road, Peshawar due to thick smog. — INP/File

PESHAWAR: A study on air pollution in the provincial capital has revealed a reduction in life expectancy and said the residents were losing 2.3 years of their life to the higher particulate matter.

The report of the study on ‘Status of Air Pollution in Peshawar’ was formally launched here on Wednesday.

The report was produced by the Peshawar Clean Air Alliance (PCAA), a civil society-led network of stakeholders sharing a common vision of improving Peshawar’s air quality in collaboration with NGO Sustainable Energy and Economic Development.

“The Air Quality Life Index estimates that citizens of Peshawar can add up to 2.3 years to years to their life expectancy if PM2.5 levels meet the WHO guidelines,” it said.

It says burning of waste, transport vehicles, industry affecting air quality

The report said Pakistan was the most urbanised country in South Asia, which translated into a significant portion of the national population impacted by the climate change.

It added that Peshawar city particularly lacked real-time ambient air monitoring, while the yearlong data didn’t exist.

The report said Peshawar was the third most polluted city in the country and ninth across the globe according to the World Air Quality Report, 2021.

“The study finds that annual fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Peshawar has ranged between 61.4µg/m³ and 80.09µg/m³, exceeding the current national and provincial standards by 4-5 times and the World Health Organisation air quality guidelines by 12-16 times,” it said.

According to the report, the major sources of pollution are transport, industry, domestic solid fuel usage, municipal waste burning and dust.

“Between 2012 and 2020, the number of the registered vehicles in Peshawar rose by 85 per cent while a larger increase 168.9 was noted in [numbers] of motorbike,” it said.

The report covers the 512 square kilometers of urban area of the provincial city, which has the highest concentration of industries as well.

For the area, the satellite-based data set of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) from 2005 to 2020 was acquired to assess the long range annual PM2.5 levels and to establish trends of the air pollution in the city.

The report said PM2.5 levels had been higher in every year since 2005 when the data set began for the city’s urban centre.

The CAMS data showed that PM2.5 highest level in the atmosphere was 2018, when it was recorded 80.09µg/m³ and this noticeable anomaly was further investigated using aerosols data from the CAMS.

“The data indicates that unusually high amounts of dust aerosols was observed during the year, which may have been caused either by lower rainfall or due to the large-scale infrastructure construction activity for the development of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT),” it said.

The study said the CAMS dataset also revealed the suppression of pollution from 2009 t0 2014, which perhaps resulted from less use of fossils fuels due to economic slowdown resulting from the security predicament of the province. However, from mid-2014, the trend of increasing pollution appears to have resumed which peaked in January 2018.

Analysis of the sectoral profiles contributing to the emissions inventory showed that nearly 850,000 motor-vehicles were registered by the end of 2020 with nearly half of them being motorbikes with the later witnessing an increase of 168pc from 2012-2020.

Peshawar accounted for nearly 42.7 per cent of all vehicles registered in the province.

In addition, it has 900 out of a total of 3,000 industrial units operating across the province and around 450 brick kilns.

Regarding the emissions inventory, the report said that based on provincial petroleum supply data, it is estimated that the Peshawar region consumed approximately 794,642 tons of petroleum fuel products during 2020-21.

“On average, around 14,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas and 12,500 million cubic feet of natural gas is consumed in domestic, commercial and industry and transport sectors in Peshawar. In addition to this, provincial capital annually generates 200,000 tons of waste annually.

Based on these known sources, it is estimated that 58.72 gigagrammes of various air pollutants were emitted in Peshawar region during the 2020-21, the report said.

The report said that the transport sector has been determined to be the highest contributor of air pollution in Peshawar, followed by the dust and re-suspended dust, domestic sector, industry, waste burning and commercial sector.

The report recommended installation of air quality monitoring system as top priority to address the issue of pollution.

It called for encouraging higher public transport usage, developing alternative and subsidised heating arrangements and campaigning for behaviour change, urban forestation and increasing role of civil society to improve air quality in the city.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2022

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