Lahore’s air pollution

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  • Being ranked second in the world no compliment

Being the world’s second most polluted city in the world should be cause for concern for Lahore, and it should be no consolation that New Delhi is the most. It should be an even deeper cause of concern that Lahore was briefly the most polluted, before falling back. The causes are variously given as burning rubbish, fuel exhausts, industrial emissions and dust from construction sites. One sign that the problem is growing beyond control is that Amnesty International has seen fit to issue a statement on the issue. It said that the government’s “failure to protect people from exposure to hazardous air in Punjab risks violating their human rights to life and health.” Experts agree that the pollution is linked to climate change, but now it is becoming a fundamental rights issue.

One of the most obvious manifestations of the pollution measured by instruments has been the smog, which has become a more or less permanent winter feature throughout the province for decades. Blame has been thrown on India, most recently by Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry who allowed his legal education restrict him from holding forth on the most complex technical issues, along with a complete disregard of scientific realities. If indeed there were issues with the Indian Punjab’s farmers burning rice and other Kharif crop stubble to clear their fields, they have not been raised with India at any forum.

It seems that Indian farmers’ shenanigans are more in the nature of an excuse for the government to use so that it can wash its hands of the whole issue, and continue to pretend that the problem does not exist. Instead, there is a need for the government to act responsibly as well as sensibly in dealing with the problem. As the climate does not always respond to actions by a single government, and may require actions by more than one country, it will be necessary to identify the actions that particular countries need to take, and then build the necessary international consensus needed. Pakistan needs to develop that international consensus, and cannot allow its diplomats to hide behind their (no doubt excellent) liberal-arts educations. Just as it itself campaigned against night-time and early-morning smog with some success, so must it campaign against air pollution.