Smog is a thick yellowish black fog which suspends in the air caused when air pollution, emissions, and fumes combine with fog and sunlight, forming a thick layer of smoke-like film in the atmosphere comprising nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other aerosols. Lahore city has been witnessing this smog situation since last year.
This smog is the result of rising in industrial activities combines with unrestricted tree felling, vehicular emissions, growing number of crop fires, coal plant emissions burning in neighboring India which has worsened the air quality. This removal of green areas, the rapid rise in motor vehicles, soaring building construction activities, emission of heat from air conditioning units, generators and encroachments on natural rainwater drains have converted urban centers into heat islands. Some officials blame stubble burning by farmers as one of the reasons of smog while other claims trans-boundary pollution which is actually originating from the Middle Eastern countries that get hit by heavy sand and dust storms, which form dust clouds. These dust clouds travel thousands of kilometers to other countries, including Pakistan. These dust clouds – coupled with dust storms originating from the Thar Desert – form smog and aggravate the situation. The Lancet Commission has recently published a report that identifies environmental pollution responsible for premature deaths and diseases in rapidly industrializing countries like Pakistan, India, China and Bangladesh. Almost 22 percent of premature deaths in Pakistan are attributable to pollution. In another report published in The Lancet, 5 μg change in Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 exposure was linked with a rise of a low birth weight at delivery.
Smog affects agriculture industry as crops required sunlight for their growth but due to smog sunrays are unreachable. Crop yield and quality is affected a lot by the formation of tropospheric Ozone (O3), PM and secondary organic aerosols (SOA). Elevated chemicals and toxins concentration in the air causes serious health problem such as coughing, bad lung conditions like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, headaches, irregular heart beating which can result in chest pain. It even causes severe eye infections like irritation, redness, watering of eyes, burning sensations.
In order to avoid these problems, it’s better to stay at home and limit outdoor exposure and activities. Always wear personal protective tools such as a face mask, and Ultraviolet (UV) protective sunglasses when going out. Drink 2-3 liters of water a day that must include hot fluids that help to rinse lungs and throat. Having hot shower also helps in reducing ongoing exposure. Air Monitors and Air filters or purifiers must be installed at home to monitor and sanitize the indoor air. China is using a revolutionary technology that compresses the carbon from smog and converts it into valuable diamonds. More tree plantation can help to filter air and helps to remove greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and also increases oxygen concentration in return. Avoid doing outdoor walk and exercise in smoggy and hazy weather. Visibility in smog is reduced so avoid traveling through highways. Highway police have advised the drivers to reduce speed and use fog lights to avoid any incident. It is better to introduce new technology that utilizes solar and renewable energy sources that can be used for electricity production and transportation fuel. Also, fuel quality of vehicles must be improved. Local public transport system must be improved so that majority of the public travels by local transport and hence the number of cars on the roads are reduced.