On Thursday, Lahore, historically recognized as a city of gardens, woke up to a grim reality. The city, already grappling with toxic smog, was designated as the world's second most polluted city, following Peshawar, according to a report. The data, provided by IQAir, revealed that Lahore's air quality index (AQI) had soared to a perilous level of 400 in the morning, severely affecting the health and daily lives of its residents.
Hazardous Impact of Air Quality
AQI is a globally accepted metric that measures air pollution based on ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. An AQI exceeding 300 is deemed extremely detrimental to health, pushing the population into an invisible, yet tangible, health crisis. The United Nations children’s agency reports that outdoor air pollution contributed to the premature deaths of 154,000 children under five globally in 2019. In Pakistan, it ranks among the top five causes of death, with the young and the elderly being the most severely affected.
Weather Conditions Worsening the Crisis
During winter, changes in wind speed and direction, coupled with plummeting temperatures, precipitate an increase in air pollution levels. This meteorological cocktail causes the air to become denser, with poisonous particles descending, thereby forming a noxious layer of carbon and smoke. This phenomenon has turned the once celebrated City of Gardens into a city shrouded in a toxic haze.
Addressing the Air Quality Crisis
In response to the escalating air quality crisis, authorities have advised residents of Karachi, another major city in Pakistan, to wear masks to shield themselves from the harmful effects of air pollution. Moreover, the provincial government has been exploring cloud-seeding to induce artificial rain intending to cleanse the skies. In a surprising move, authorities have even reached out to India, often seen as an adversary, exploring ways to improve the trans-border air quality. China's experts have also been consulted in this regard.
As the smog crisis deepens, there is an urgent call for immediate action to safeguard the health of the citizens and the environment. The situation underscores the essence of public awareness and proactive measures in confronting this silent, yet deadly enemy.