Lahore once again sets unique record of world’s most polluted city

Published November 2, 2022
A smoggy view of Orange Line train at Lakshmi Chowk in the morning. — White Star / M. Arif
A smoggy view of Orange Line train at Lakshmi Chowk in the morning. — White Star / M. Arif

LAHORE: With the start of ‘fifth season’ of smog, the provincial capital of Lahore was spotted as the most polluted city in the world with hazardous levels of air quality when this report was filed at 8pm on Tuesday.

Once termed the city of gardens, the air quality level of Lahore is continuously falling to hazardous levels. On Monday, the worst air quality was noted in the wee hours when the AQI US was 438, according to the iqair.com, which monitors the air quality across the world. At the time of filing this report, the air quality index of Lahore was hazardous 303. It should be noted that the air is safe to breath in only if the AQI US is up to 50.

Individual areas of Lahore fared worse, with air quality near the Lahore Grammar School was 401 on the AQI US in real time (8pm) and Pakistan Engineering Services (Private) 366, CERP office 349, Syed Maratab Ali Road 340, DHA Phase-II 329 and Chatha Park 328.

The Environment Protection Department (EPD) own data, shared online, showed the worse air quality of Lahore at 309.

AQI reaches hazardous 438; smoke from vehicles, industry, fields and constructions among main reasons

According to iqair.com, “air pollution in Lahore is caused by a combination of vehicle and industrial emissions, smoke from brick kilns, the burning of crop residue, general waste and dust from construction sites. Other factors of air pollution include large scale losses of trees to build new roads and buildings. Winter air pollution is worse due to temperature inversion, which results in a layer of warm air that is prevented from rising trapping air pollutants.”

While the situation of traffic congestion and number of vehicles on roads of Lahore is an open secret, the continuous constructions at real estate projects within Lahore as well as around it are another issue. The development projects within the city which mainly involve construction also contribute to the problem.

In the AQI ranking of world cities, Lahore (in real time) was followed by Delhi, Nur Sultan (Kazakhstan), Dubai and Dhaka.

In 2018, Lahore was ranked 10 in IQAir AirVisual’s 2018 World Air Quality Report.

Overall, Pakistan air pollution caused the country to be ranked as the second most polluted in the world with an annual PM2.5 average of 74.3 µg/m³.

The Punjab government directed the administrative secretaries concerned, commissioners and deputy commissioners (DCs) to make efforts to mitigate the health hazard in the form of worst air quality across the province.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Secretary Abdullah Khan Sumbal presided over a meeting on smog control at the Civil Secretariat on Tuesday. The administrative secretaries of various departments, including environment protection, local government, industries, agriculture, transport, and health, deputy commissioner of Lahore and officers concerned attended the meeting. The DCs of Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Kasur, Okara, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Narowal, and Faisalabad participated through a video link.

The chief secretary directed all the departments to beef up efforts to smog control and hold consultative sessions with civil society.

The meeting was briefed that the smoke from burning crop residues across the border was affecting the air quality of Lahore.

Mr Sumbal claimed that the smog situation was comparatively better than last year but a lot of work needed to be done to control environmental pollution.

He also issued orders to the Environment Protection Department (EPD) to hold consultative sessions with all the stakeholders, including the civil society. He said that the suggestions of the civil society would prove helpful in preventing smog. The meeting also decided to carry out inspections of all the government vehicles.

Briefing the meeting, the EPD secretary said that in October, the authorities sealed 1,058 industrial units causing environmental pollution, registered 696 cases and imposed fines of more than Rs24m on those causing pollution. The inspection teams sealed 583 industrial units, lodged FIRs and imposed fines of over Rs34m in Lahore. He said that during the last two weeks, 46,000 inspections were conducted and 3,168 smoke-emitting vehicles were impounded. Likewise, 20 cases were registered over burning garbage during the last one month.

The secretary said that due to the direction of the wind, the smoke from burning crop residues across the border is affecting Lahore.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2022

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