Every morning Salar used to go to the park near his house to exercise, which kept him healthy and fit. But for the past few days, Salar noticed a rapid change in the environment, the sky was never clear and the thick clouds of dust always blanketed it. The worst thing that he noticed was that every morning the haziness increased and people begun to question if something supernatural was happening.

Moreover, people started wheezing and coughing. One day, Salar woke up to go out for his routine exercise. As he came out from his house, he was shocked and quite nervous to see that the sky was unusually dark. In fact, it was not the sky, but the surrounding as well. He got scared and rushed home.

“Why was everything hazy?” Salar wondered. Salar’s parents were also shocked as he was by the strange look of the environment.

Soon, they all came to know that it was not something supernatural, but just ‘smog’. Salar had so many questions in his mind about this, such as what was smog, how was it caused, etc.

According to WHO, every year about seven million people die because of air pollution and 99% of the global population breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains a high levels of pollutants

Since Salar had a curious mind, he started researching about smog through newspaper, internet, magazines and books. After all the research and inquiry, he found the causes of the hazy sky. He was dumbstruck to know that Lahore is among the world’s most polluted cities.

He felt sad. But then he had an idea, to search for the remedy of such a nuisance. So Salar spent his next couple of days in searching and reading about the causes of air pollution. He found that the causes of smog are divided into two types — natural causes and manmade causes. He also found that some natural sources of air pollution were volcano eruptions, dust storms, forest fires, pollen from the plants and mould spores.

Apart from that, human activity was a major cause behind air pollution, especially in large cities. For instance, the smoke that come out from factories, power plants, vehicles, wrong disposal of chemicals, fumes from spray cans, methane gas from landfills, smoking, burning of irrigation fields and trash, gasoline generators and construction machines, not to exclude home appliances, also released harmful gases.

The more Salar read, the more he became worried and shocked. He found that there were two types of smog, classical and photo-chemical. Photochemical smog is hazy in colour, while classical smog is yellowish grey in colour.

When nitrogen oxide is released from the vehicles running on gasoline and from coal factories it goes up in the air due to heat and temperature, chemical reactions take place between primary pollutants, nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compound (VOCs). VOCs are the gasses or chemicals which are highly soluble and have low vapour pressure at room temperature. These primary pollutants create secondary pollutants, per oxy acetyl nitrate (PAN) and ozone gas.

On the other hand, ozone gas at the ground level is also harmful, especially for asthma patients because it damages lung tissues. Ozone can also cause burning and itchy eyes. Again chemical reaction takes place between secondary pollutants and fog, creating smog. Smog is air pollution that reduces visibility.

According to WHO, every year about seven million people die because of air pollution and 99% of the global population breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains a high levels of pollutants.

Air pollution in the atmosphere can have many negative effects on human lives and the environment also. Rise in global warming, the depletion of ozone layer, acid rain, hazards to wildlife, increased risk of respiratory illness and cardiovascular problems; increased risk of skin diseases such as skin cancer; increased risk of rackets, infections of eyes, nose and throat. Moreover, there is higher ratio of accidents due to lack of visibility. Everyday life is also affected due to pollution with the government having to close schools and colleges. This is an alarming situation for the world.

Salar was almost numb reading all this. He could not imagine how vulnerable humans have become and, unfortunately, many of them are knowingly damaging the earth and it was the time to do something fast. So he searched for the solutions to stop smog as fast as he could.

Salar found that we need to plant more trees and stop deforestation. It is always better to fuel up your vehicles in cooler hours, use carpool and try to walk more or use cycle to reduce pollution. We should recycle and reuse goods, especially electronic gadgets and equipment, and move industrial areas far away from residential areas. Government should make strict laws and take immediate actions against people who are polluting the environment.

After reading all this, Salar decided that he would adopt ways to reduce pollution and spread awareness about it. He realised that there were so many things that he and others can easily do on an individual level, such as planting more trees, especially in urban areas, reducing waste by recycling and reusing things, cutting down on the use of vehicles, and generally taking care of the environment.

He also prayed, “May Allah protect us from all these unnatural disasters. Ameen.”

Published in Dawn, Young World, April 23rd, 2022

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