Wednesday Nov 18 2020

Air quality in Pakistan and India worsening every day, experts warn

Experts say the presence of high-rise buildings in cities do no allow particulate matter to be evenly distributed, making the air dirtier. Photo: AFP

As the air quality in Pakistan and India continues to decline, experts have warned that the situation will get from bad to worse if not controlled in a timely manner.

Pakistan's Air Quality Index (AQI) levels suggest that from January to November 2020, the amount of particulate matter in Karachi and Lahore 's air exceeded the amount prescribed by the World Health Organisation as safe.

Particulate matter is 30 times thinner than a human hair and even smaller than viruses and bacteria. When inhaled, they can easily get absorbed into the bloodstream and cause several health problems.

According to experts, constant drainage has dried up the groundwater in Karachi, causing more and more dust particles to accumulate in the air. Meanwhile, hazardous gases emitted through vehicles, factories, and incinerated waste are also released into the atmosphere.

High-rise buildings do not allow these particles to be equally dispersed, while coal-fired power plants also increase air pollution. On the other hand, fuel burned by the aviation sector and pollutants from ships also become part of the air, but they are currently not being measured by any government authority. 

Despite its repercussions, the matter does not seem to be a priority for the authorities concerned as evident from the fact that air quality in Karachi is not being monitored at a government level. 

Shedding light on the issue, global environmentalist Anil Sood said that air pollution is on the rise in Lahore and New Delhi. 

"There is excessive construction in these cities and little to no greenery," he said. "All three cities are likely to be affected by air pollution by January 2021."

Indian meteorology and climate change organisation Skymet Weather's vice-president Mahesh Palawat said that crop residues in Pakistan's Punjab and the Indian state of Haryana are being burned on a large scale these days, adding to climate change.

Climate change began in the mid-20th Century as a result of industrial development, deforestation, an increase in the greenhouse gases, and human activities. 

"Carbon dioxide emissions from fuel burns have exacerbated climate change and air pollution and increased global warming. We need to find ways to control pollution before its too late," he warned.