Two major Pakistani cities are among the top 10 most polluted cities in the world that have air quality several times worse than what is considered safe by international standards for healthy air quality.
Per a new report released by Air Visual, part of IQAir, Faisalabad is the third most polluted city in the world in terms of PM2.5, with three times more air pollutants than the average concentration levels deemed “healthy” by US Environmental Protection Agency.
PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. Such readings are usually included in air quality reports to indicate the level of pollutants in the atmosphere. These pollutants can come from various sources, including power plants, motor vehicles, airplanes, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, volcanic eruptions and dust storms.
Faisalabad is regarded as the industrial hub of Pakistan and rapid growth of industries without compliance to environment regulations and control on emissions from manufacturing and industrial plants could be the cause for the city becoming the worst in Pakistan for air quality
Lahore, the capital of Punjab and the largest urban hub in the province, was placed at the number 10 spot for having unhealthy levels of air pollutants and PM2.5 concentration.
The ideal or healthy µg/m3 concentration of PM2.5 in air is said to be between 0 and 50. However, Faisalabad’s average reading for 2018 was revealed as 130.4, while Lahore’s average was 114.9. Both readings are almost three times worse than what is considered healthy.
Long term exposure to such a toxic air can lead to several cardiac and lung related diseases, including hardening of arteries that can lead to heart attacks and stroke, cardiopulmonary diseases and lung cancer risk.
Gurugram, a town in New Delhi India, topped the list of top 10 most polluted cities, with an average air quality index of 135.8. Moreover, a total of seven Indian cities were in the top ten for having worst air quality. The report indicated that 64 percent of the 3,000 cities studied exceeded the annual exposure guidelines for PM2.5 released by WHO. The report added that air pollution would lead to premature deaths of around 7 million people across the globe in the coming years and cause major economic setbacks.
To stop that from happening, every country will have to take drastic steps. For Pakistan, the need of the hour is to implement environment protection laws that are practiced in spirit and strike down hard on those causing even the minutest harm to the environment.