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Pakistan Ranks Second in Global Air Pollution Index

In 2023, Pakistan found itself grappling with an alarming surge in pollution levels, earning the dubious distinction of having the second-worst air quality globally. This report delves into the factors contributing to this crisis, its impact on major cities, and the measures taken to combat it.

The Swiss air quality technology company, IQAir, reported that Pakistan’s average PM2.5 concentration in 2023 was 73.7 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³). PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter, airborne particles small enough to be inhaled into the respiratory tract. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that PM2.5 levels should not exceed 5µg/m³, indicating that Pakistan’s levels were alarmingly high.

Lahore, the capital city of the Punjab province, was identified as the world’s most polluted city in March 2023. The city’s monthly average PM2.5 level reached a staggering 251µg/m³ in November of the same year. This led to the courts directing the government to impose a “smog emergency” in Lahore. Other cities, including Faisalabad, Karachi, Peshawar, and Rawalpindi, also recorded significantly high PM2.5 levels.

The report identified several factors contributing to the hazardous air quality levels. These include crop burning, deforestation, industrial and vehicle emissions, and smoke emitted from brick kilns. In response to the worsening situation, the government imposed lockdowns in multiple cities across Punjab as thick smog engulfed several districts.

In a groundbreaking initiative, Lahore witnessed the country’s first-ever artificial rain in December 2023. Planes equipped with cloud-seeding equipment flew over ten areas of the city to combat the dangerous air quality levels. This marked a significant step in Pakistan’s fight against pollution.

However, Pakistan is not alone in this struggle. The report revealed that Bangladesh had the worst air quality globally, with an average PM2.5 level of 79.9µg/m³. India followed Pakistan, ranking third with 54.4µg/m³ PM2.5 levels.

As Pakistan continues to battle its air pollution crisis, it is clear that a multi-faceted approach is needed. This includes stricter enforcement of environmental regulations, public awareness campaigns, and innovative solutions like artificial rain. As the country moves forward, the health and well-being of its citizens hang in the balance, making the fight against pollution a top priority.

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