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‘Burning agricultural waste, vehicles’ exhaust lead to smog’

ISLAMABAD: The recent rains in some parts of Punjab has reduced smog for the time, but the issue will persist and intensify every year due to changes in agriculture trends, the increase in the number of vehicles on the road and the burning of solid and agriculture waste.

Smog is produced when various substances like dust, chemicals, carbon, sulfer and lead dissolve in humid air, which is caused by lower temperatures. Inhaling smog can lead to a number of lung diseases and can create eye, nose and chest problems.

Environmentalists suggest existing laws regarding pollution should be implemented without differentiation, that mass transit systems should be introduced in the cities and that solid waste be used for the production of energy.

Talking to Dawn, Chairman of the Environment Science Department at the International Islamic University Dr Mohammad Irfan Khan said that in the past, after the would reap crops, people would use the crop waste to feed animals and the waste from wheat would be used in constructing mud houses.

“But trends have changed now, mud houses are not that common anymore and people buy prepared food for animals. So farmers on both sides of the border burn agricultural waste, which leads to an increase in pollution,” he said.

“Agriculture is more common in Punjab, in both Pakistan and India, and hence the provinces of Punjab in both the countries are more affected. Delhi was the capital of Punjab till 1905 and some areas of Islamabad were part of Punjab will 1963 as well,” he said.

If the waste were to be left in the fields, it would lead to an increase in the fertility of the soil, he said, but when it is burned, the waste transforms into pure carbon, which is dangerous for health.

He suggested the burning of agricultural waste should be stopped, that more trees be planted and a mass transit system be introduced in the cities in order to reduce the use of vehicles.

“New technology should be adopted in industries for reduced pollution. Some plants, such as aloe vera, absorb pollution so these kinds of plants should be planted more,” he said.

Dr Khan said there was a lot of dust in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, which does not settle down due to the lack of rains in the last many weeks.

Talking to Dawn, environmentalist Dr Jawad Chisti said there is no proper waste management system in the country.

“Every morning, one can see waste being burnt in various places outside the city, due to which the chances of contracting asthma and other diseases are increased. Because the city is covered in smog and other pollutants, water vapours do not reach the sky and those that do, cannot rain down as pollution stops them from transforming into water droplets, which is why we have not had rains in the city recently,” he explained.

“If we have to burn waste, we should do it for the production of energy. If we use organic waste properly, we can produce enough gas to meet a large portion of the country’s energy requirements,” he said,

“Between 300 and 500 vehicles get registered in the federal capital everyday and some 1,000 are registered in Lahore. In developed countries, older cars are scrapped after a certain time, but in Pakistan, we even use very old cars. According to the law, the vehicles which emit smoke are to be impounded for 60 days, but this law is hardly implemented,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2016