FOR a very long time now, Lahore has been on top of the list of the world`s most polluted cities for many days of the year. In winters, the situation worsens as a thick smog engulfs its residents. It is, therefore, not surprising if the quality of air has started deteriorating as temperatures fall. The problem has worsened for some residents who are living in localities where `development` work resulting from the rulers` obsession with signal-free corridors for the affluent has led to heavy dust pollution. No wonder half the city is coughing and breathing hard, while the other half is struggling to protect itself against pollution. In a global survey, a Swiss maker of air purifiers found Lahore to have become the city with the worst air in the world in 2022. The manufacturer`s AQI measures the extent of airborne particulate matter, which can pose serious risks to one`s health.
The problem of air pollution has been steadily growing in Lahore and many other cities of Punjab. Prolonged and heavy exposure to hazardous air is causing health complications, including asthma, lung damage, throat infections, stroke, heart problems, and shortened life expectancy. Sadly, the decisionmakers have been slow to react to the problem. Most officials and politicians continue to deflect the blame by holding stubbleburning by Indian farmers mainly responsible for the smog in Lahore. But poor air quality and smog are the result of numerous factors, which include vehicular emissions, industrial pollution, fossil fuel-fired power plants, the burning of waste material, and smoke from tyre burning emitted by thousands of brick kilns.
They are all part of the problem. The provincial development model puts more emphasis on building signal-free roads for car owners than on measures that can promote the collective wellbeing of citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic background, and the enforcement of the law against polluters. When smog sets in, governments simply focus on band-aid solutions such as ordering school closures on particularly pollution-heavy days to reduce traffic emissions. Lahore`s air quality and smog problem are deeply interconnected with poor urban planning and other urban issues, ranging from poor solid waste management and unplanned urban sprawl to vehicular emissions and the near absence of mass public transportation. In the absence of concerted efforts to deal with air pollution, Lahore will continue to choke on toxic air.