Pakistan Air Quality Initiative founder Abid Omar
Pakistan Air Quality Initiative founder Abid Omar

How is AQ linked to climate change?

Climate change and air pollution are two sides of the same coin. The former is triggered by greenhouse gases and the latter by CO2 fossil fuel emissions. Climate change is a broader term, and rising sea levels, melting glaciers and air pollution are a part of it.

What is the origin of Lahore’s smog problem?

We started monitoring air quality and smog in 2016 and have installed about 50 monitors. However, it does not mean the issue was not there before that. We have been witnessing fog during winters in Lahore for almost 15 years.

Today, Abid Omar, founder of the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative (PAQI) — a community-driven initiative to monitor and collect data on air quality — explains the origins, cause and possible solutions to Punjab’s smog problem.

Why is Lahore’s AQI the worst?

Hazardous air quality is not only an issue of Lahore but of the whole of Punjab, rather Pakistan. This is the problem of both Punjabs — Indian and Pakistani. Air pollution is more widespread in urban centres, and Lahore’s being a metropolis means the situation is graver here. Punjab has more air pollution because of the natural phenomenon called temperature inversion, which forms a cold air blanket of emissions from which pollutants can’t escape.

Is crop stubble burning the main contributor to air pollution?

It does contribute, but only three to four per cent and that too for a short period during a year. Emissions from transport contribute 40 to 60pc while industrial emissions contribute 20pc to air pollution.

As world leaders gather in the UAE in the run up to the COP28 summit, Dawn is speaking to experts to answer some pressing, every-day questions that are on people’s mind about climate change and related issues.

The government doesn’t have complete data about it.

How to improve air quality and control smog?

Every region has different dynamics; thus, the causes and solutions vary. Mexico City, for example, had dangerous levels of air pollution. The authorities there changed the timing of traffic lights so vehicles don’t face long stops with engines running. The issue with Pakistan is that we use the cheapest quality of petrol and diesel. It is called Euro2, but it’s not even that. Due to the bad fuel quality, even the latest model vehicles contribute to pollution. The fuel quality needs to be improved, besides other measures like curbs on crop burning and industry emissions.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2023

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