CLEANING UP Pakistan`s toxic air is a daunting task, and demands a holistic approach and comprehensive policy formulation. With large parts of the country, especially Punjab, engulfed by polluted air, and major cities topping the list of the ones with the most hazardous air in the world, we are facing a major public health disaster. That the situation is worsening with each passing year highlights the lack of seriousness on the part of the authorities to tackle the smog catastrophe, which, according to the CSO Fair Finance Pakistan, prematurely claims 128,000 lives every year, besides causing serious health complications. Public authorities have been slow to deal with the problem, and when they do, they tend to adopt temporary measures to appease an enraged public. Just a few weeks ago, the caretaker administration in Punjab got ahead of itself when it unsuccessfully `attempted` to control smog in Lahore through artificial rain. Though the caretakers managed to buy some media publicity at the expense of taxpayers, the problem did not go away.
The other day, the provincial government said it was engaging Chinese environmental experts for suggestions to lessen the smog. The experts, the government said, had presented their preliminary report on the causes of smog in Lahore. But the identification of the reasons behind the persistence of the poisonous air quality is no longer the issue; the issue is how the authorities plan to combat it. Apparently, they are not yet prepared to recognise the futility of their isolated, Band-Aid solutions or learn from past mistakes. No wonder, the public authorities again plan to use cloud-seeding technology or artificially induced rain to control the smog problem in Lahore. They would have to go much beyond that. Unless a holistic anti-smog policy is formulated and executed to deal with the worsening air pollution, people in Punjab, and elsewhere in the country, will continue to choke on toxic air.