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Pakistan's Punjab Province Declares Smog Year-Round Epidemic After Lahore's Record Pollution

After Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, experienced unprecedented levels of pollution, the provincial government has decided to classify smog as a “year-round epidemic,” shifting from its previous approach of treating it as a seasonal issue, as reported by The Dawn newspaper.

Smog, a combination of smoke and fog exacerbated by winter conditions and exacerbated by industrial pollution and agricultural burning, mainly consists of “photochemical smog.” This type of smog is formed when sunlight interacts with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere, according to the National Geographic Encyclopedia. Nitrogen oxides primarily come from vehicle emissions, coal-fired power plants, and industrial emissions, while VOCs are released from the combustion of fossil fuels, paints, and various cleaning solvents. When these substances combine and react with sunlight, smog is produced.

The decision follows Pakistan's ranking as the world's second-most polluted country, with Lahore listed as the fourth-most polluted city globally.

The Punjab provincial government has outlined a comprehensive strategy to address smog, focusing on governmental interventions, stricter enforcement of existing policies, and public and industry awareness campaigns, The Dawn reported.

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Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif emphasized the need not only to manage smog but also to prevent it. The Punjab Environment Protection and Climate Change Department (EPCCD) has been tasked with implementing the plan.

Marriyum Aurangzeb, a senior minister, highlighted that the strategy involves a coordinated effort across government departments, targeting immediate and long-term solutions. The EPCCD has initiated a preventive operation from July to September 2024, aiming to crack down on non-compliant brick kilns, monitor vehicular and industrial emissions, and discourage burning of garbage, rubber, and agricultural waste.

Additionally, the government plans to promote carpooling and public transport to reduce vehicular emissions. Addressing industrial pollution will involve a multi-sectoral approach engaging transportation, agriculture, energy, education, industry, municipal services, and health departments.

EPCCD Secretary Raja Jahangir Anwar underscored the need for local compliance with environmental standards, acknowledging the impact of cross-border smog from neighboring India. He emphasized the adoption of city-specific interventions inspired by practices in countries like China and India, focusing on enhancing green spaces, promoting clean energy sources, and controlling industrial emissions.

July 8, 2024 3:50 p.m. 526

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