The air quality in Lahore has become hazardous over the years and its latest proof comes in the form of the US Air Quality Index (AQI) 2021 ranking it the most polluted city in the world. The AQI for the provincial capital was recorded at 289, according to the average between 9am and 5pm, leading to international monitoring bodies putting the score at 397. India’s Delhi became the second most polluted city with an AQI of 187. As per the US Environmental Protection Agency, an AQI under 50 is termed satisfactory. But with Lahore’s score clocking in at around 794 per cent above the required pollution level, it is safe to say that not only is the air quality unhealthy but has also become increasingly impossible to survive in.
The worrying pollution levels reported since 2017 have become hazardous for people as they experience a surge in ailments resulting from the fall in air quality. Health experts have reported a rise in diseases, especially affecting one’s respiratory levels and lungs in Lahore. Other illnesses, such as, eye infections and allergies, along with coronary heart diseases have also witnessed an unprecedented surge. But instead of taking action and curbing the rise in pollution levels, the authorities concerned have time and again blamed India.
But contradictory to their claims, environmentalists credit the fall in the metropolis’ air quality to the rise in the level of smog – a mixture of smoke and fog. The smoke coming from vehicles, burning of crops from rural and to an extent neighbouring Indian Punjab, and rise of industrial areas have all led to an increase in air pollution. Though both the provincial and federal government have made tall claims to reduce the rising smog levels in the city, little has been done on ground. More recently, the Punjab government has imposed section 144 from October 6, under which burning of crop residue and garbage have been banned. However, implementation of it is restricted. What Lahore and its people need is a robust plan to drastically decrease the pollution levels. In the short-term, a Section 144 would work, but in the long-term, reforestation and strict adherence to a curb in vehicular emission would gravely help the city. Punjab is already engulfed with rising cases of dengue and Coronavirus, even though at a minimal, the AQI score of 379 only makes the situation worse for the province.