Lahore is Pakistan’s second-largest urban centre, with a population of over 1 million. Metropolises often face pollution problems arising for specific reasons. Since 2017, Lahore has witnessed a thick blanket of winter smog causing serious discomfort. Residents have experienced severe health issues, and the increase in accidents was alarming. We have listed the precautions to take when dealing with smog in Pakistan in 2023.
Smog is the worst form of air pollution. The etymology of ‘smog’ goes back to the 19th century and combines smoke and fog to make ‘smog’. Smog is a common problem in urbanised areas in the world. However, Pakistan experienced ‘winter smog’ for the first time back in 2017. Winter smog is caused in the winter season and is photochemical in nature. It is a category of air pollution brought on by vehicle emissions from internal combustion engines and factory gases. These pollutants interact with sunlight in the atmosphere to create secondary contaminants, which mix with the initial emissions and result in photochemical smog.
Air pollution frequently gets near the ground in the winter due to atmospheric inversions. It raises the levels of atmospheric pollution in cities. Los Angeles, Beijing, Delhi, Lahore, Mexico City, and Tehran are the top smog-polluted cities in the world.
Reasons for smog in Lahore
Lahore, the heart of Pakistan, has been covered in winter smog in late October for the last few years. The use of vehicles, crop burning, and industrial fuel usage are the local inputs to smog. In addition, the smog that arrives from the neighbouring country India worsens the situation yearly.
Pakistan shares the border with India in the areas of Punjab and Sindh. Delhi, the neighbouring capital, in November 2021, got the worst five-day haze streak since 2016. Moreover, according to epidemiologists and the World Health Organization, pollution could have caused increased COVID-19 deaths in the same year.
Read Also: As Smog Chokes Pakistan, PGC leads the fightback.
Health Problems Caused by Smog
The quality of air is measured by the air quality index internationally. The Air Quality Index (AQI) worsens during Pakistan’s Smog season. Lahore touches a hazardous level of air pollution during smog. Previously, in January 2022, the AQI level of Lahore in Smog touched 279 points, which is very unhealthy. This year, on the 1st of November 2023, the AQI level crossed the hazardous level of 300 and stood at 442 points.
Every winter, as winds and rain decrease, a brown haze high in sulphur and metals like lead accumulates over the subcontinent of India and Pakistan.
People exposed to developing pollution often become seriously ill, have shorter lifespans, or pass away before their time. During Covid-19, the situation worsened in neighbouring India.
While in Pakistan, doctors advise limiting outdoor activities and wearing masks. In addition, it reduces the use of vehicles and stops the burning activities of coal from reducing toxic emissions. However, during smog seasons, hundreds of people were sickened from respiratory diseases and cardiac problems.
Precautions to be Taken to Combat Smog in Pakistan
The precautions to be taken to handle the smog in 2023 before the arrival of the winter season 2023-24 are crucial to be done. The cycle itself should be continuous in nature. Individual precautions and government-level policies are necessary to solve the issue.
Individual Level Precautions
The public can also take part in preventive measures alongside the government. Furthermore, people can take the following steps to stay safe while dealing with smog in 2023-24.
- To reduce exposure, stay away from busy locations when you are outside.
- If you must have to stay outdoors, wear a mask.
- Water intake and rest beneath the shades while working outside.
- Avoid hard labour outside.
- Avoid driving and smoking to lessen personal share of environmental impact.
- If you must drive, go slowly and utilise your headlights, fog lights, blinkers, and hazard lights—even if it is late at night.
- When inside, seal all air inlets, including windows.
- Asthma patients should always carry inhalers. Also, if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or think your condition might worsen, keep your doctor’s phone number handy.
- Always keep your inhaler close if you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma. If your situation worsens, have your doctor’s number handy.
- It is important to remember that pollution affects everyone differently, and some people are more vulnerable to its harmful effects.
- On days with heavy fog, those with asthma, children, and the elderly should exercise extra caution.
- Bike riders must wear face masks and eye protection.
- Keep your eyes clean and drink lots of water.
Government Policies to be implemented
The government needs to implement long-term plans to avoid smog permanently. Effective precautionary measures are as follows.
- Permanent reduction in the usage of toxic fuels
- Permanent reduction in vehicular emissions
- Optimised traffic management program
- An effective network of public transport
- Reduction in waste burning
- Avoidance of Crop Burning
- Implementation of modern technology for old brickworks
- Planned urban development
- Increase in plantation
- Evacuate the old vehicles
- Agreements for regional environmental protection
Smog affects everyone differently; some people are more vulnerable to its harmful effects than others. Smoke fog or Smog in Lahore has severely affected the people. It is crucial to take preventive measures on an administrative and personal level to combat the smog in Pakistan.