FOR the past week, major cities of Pakistan have been among the top most polluted cities in the world. Lahore ranked as the metropolis with the most polluted air on Friday afternoon, while Karachi stayed at second position throughout the morning. Peshawar is also said to have made an appearance in second place for some time. On Saturday morning, Lahore was again the most polluted city in the world with 334 AQI, which is reportedly 34.8 times higher than the annual air quality value set by the WHO.
All this seems pretty ironic considering the country’s leadership is actively making the case for loss and damage funding from the developed world on account of climate change. The argument that Pakistan is not a major carbon emitter tends to lose weight rather quickly given the degree of apathy demonstrated in dealing with the life-altering impact of heavy environmental pollution in the form of smog. The phenomenon first emerged in parts of northern Punjab more than 20 years ago, and has since continued to regularly paralyse the lives of the residents in the areas it affects. Earlier this year, the Punjab government came up with the first and one-of-a-kind smog master plan. But even if implemented, the measures outlined in it do little more than mitigate the more superficial causes. For example, the smog plan suggests using zigzag technology in brick kilns, reducing crop burning, issuing tickets to owners of smoke-emitting vehicles and setting up a commission to prevent more illegal housing societies from emerging. It is silent on how to deal with the industrial sector and the real estate mafia which are responsible for the major share of the air and environmental pollution in all the major cities of the country. Despite the large-scale destruction caused by the floods, the world would find it hard to believe that Pakistan is deserving of climate justice and the related reparations if the country’s leadership does not do anything to tackle environmental pollution at home.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2022