By Nadir Ali
Pakistan, a nation in South Asia that stands out for its pronounced urbanization, has some of the worst urban air pollution levels in the entire world. The detrimental effects on human health, the economy, and the environment are deeply ingrained in the fabric of the country.
Pakistan’s urban air pollution is a troubling testament to the magnitude of the challenge it faces, surpassing a number of other notable causes of mortality and morbidity. Moreover, it is a prominent country in South Asia bordered by Iran, China, Afghanistan, and other well-known countries, all of which struggle with severe pollution problems. India and China, two of the world’s largest economies, are known for having some of the most polluted states in the world, and Pakistan is regrettably no different. This ancient area has seen the rise and fall of various cultures and kingdoms before becoming an Islamic republic with a sizable population of about 235 million, ranking it as the fifth most populous state in the world.
Therefore, when it comes to pollution, Pakistan has consistently performed poorly, especially in its sprawling megacities, where copious amounts of smoke, haze, and toxic smog permeate the atmosphere and cause a wide range of problems for its population. Remember that fact that, air pollution causes numerous detrimental physical, behavioral, and mental health risks and ills. It has an unbreakable link to the staggering total of 11 million premature deaths in Pakistan alone, which makes up a sobering portion of the 153 million premature deaths worldwide. This urgent threat’s persistent and escalating specter, which casts an ominous shadow over Pakistan, obscures the prospects for public well-being.
Similarly, air pollution has been blamed for foretelling a high mortality rate in a number of countries. The swift return of the air quality to its pre-lockdown atrocious levels after the restart of routine activities is a stark example of the consequences of vehicular pollution. This demonstrates just how badly Pakistan is impacted by the large number of automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, and buses that are omnipresent on its roads. Many of these cars have outdated, dangerous engines, use poor fuel, and, as a result, are monstrosities that emit dangerous amounts of pollution and travel the roads of Asia.
The majority of Pakistan’s smoke, haze, and pollution comes from vehicular sources, resulting in an abundance of gases, compounds, and fine particulate matter. However, black carbon, a type of fine particulate matter that is produced as a result of the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels or organic substances, is one of these that is particularly common. Moreover, black carbon is a significant component of soot and is frequently present in areas with high traffic, such as highways, underpasses, and urban thorough fares, where it accumulates in large amounts and is teeming with dangerous black carbon particles.
In addition to having remarkable carcinogenic properties that increase the risk of cancers of the lungs, throat, and stomach, this minute matter has a remarkable capacity to penetrate deeply into pulmonary tissues, causing scarring or compromised lung function. Although burning coal or wood makes a contribution, vehicle emissions are the main cause, which has an impact on air quality all across the country.
Last but not least, in times of rapid industrialization throughout history, countries all over the world have struggled with severe air pollution. At the same time, commendable successes in reducing air pollution have been seen in nations where the populace has loudly demanded reform and governments have pro-actively enacted robust policies. This legacy of environmental improvement serves as compelling evidence that Pakistan’s current pollution crisis does not have to be its unavoidable fate.