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Pollution – stay put a worldwide problem

Published on 14th Mar, Edition 11, 2016


More people now die from air pollution than malaria and HIV combined: study

More people now die from air pollution than malaria and HIV combined. According to recent statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), compiled from more than 1,600 cities, three Pakistani cities are amongst the 10 most polluted cities of the world. The WHO surveyed the concentration of fine particles suspended in the atmosphere. It advises that fine particles of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5) should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre.

Karachi is the fifth most polluted city of the world (with annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 117). Air pollution, lack of proper waste management infrastructure and degradation of water bodies are the major environmental issues in Karachi.

In Karachi, the pollution problem is very severe there are thousands of spots where garbage is at frightening levels. Vehicle and industrial emissions combined with rapid urbanization puts Karachi as the city in Pakistan with the most air pollution.

Peshawar is the sixth most polluted city of the world (with annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 111). Vehicular emissions, industrial and brick kiln emissions, the burning of solid waste and refuse and the use of ill-maintained vehicles are some of the sources of pollution in Peshawar.

Rawalpindi is the seventh most polluted city of the world (with annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 107). Rawalpindi is rapidly growing city in the Pothohar region of northern Punjab, Pakistan. In Rawalpindi, the scenes are not much different. Roadsides, service lanes, underneath the bridges, residential blocks are all filled with waste.

India’s capital Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. With India having precisely 13 cities in the list of top 20 cities of the world. In Delhi, the annual average is 153 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air), which is six times the WHO’s recommended maximum. Many of the world’s most polluted cities are in India, with Delhi “leading” the pack with a level of 153. The report, which was prepared in 2014 by the World Health Organization, looked at outdoor air pollution in nearly 1,600 cities in 91 countries.

The four top most polluted cities in the world are of India. They are New Delhi, (annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 153), Patna (annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 149), Gwalior (annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 144), and Raipur (annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 134).

Khorramabad of Iran is the eighth most polluted city of the world (with annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 102), followed by Ahmedabad of India (with annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 100) and Lucknow of India (annual mean PM2.5, ug/m3: 96).

Thus the nine most polluted cities of the world as per statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), compiled from more than 1,600 cities for the years 2008 to 2013 are situated in Pakistan and India.

According to the healthcare figures, 88,000 Pakistanis are admitted to the hospitals nationwide due to pollution with at least 5 percent people of the count demise annually.

Pakistan produces more than 50,000 ton waste every day. In Pakistan, air, land and water pollutions are the main causes for environmental issues. Cities likes Karachi, Peshawar, Faisalabad and Sialkot industrial waste is also playing its worst role to harm the atmosphere we breathe.

The various industrial zones in Pakistan are disposing over 1,500 tons of effluents every day. The pharmaceutical industry, flour mills, oil and ghee mills, marble factories and plastic extrusion mills are all key players in heavily polluting the water.


They are affecting the air through fossil fuel emissions. These emissions include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Further, chemical reactions from factories create another air pollutant, Ozone that forms with sunlight, nitrous oxide and volatile organic compounds in the air. At least 204 manufacturing units in the country lack or have inadequate facilities for treatment of waste emissions.

Every day a person inhales about 20,000 liters of air. In Pakistan pollution levels are quickly escalating due to CO2 emission. In the last 20 years, the number of vehicles in the country has increased from around 2 million to 10.6 million with little government control of policy making.

The report ranked almost 16,00 cities in 91 countries for the quality of their air, which is measured for concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5, i.e. particles smaller than 10 or 2.5 microns. These harmful pollutants cling to the lungs and can cause disease.

By way of comparison, Los Angeles was at 20 and New York City at 14. The problem in Beijing is that while its overall average may not be catastrophic, when the smog gets bad it can be really dreadful, as evidenced by the current air quality reading of 200. Only 12 percent of the people living in cities reporting on air quality live in cities that meet with WHO guideline levels, the report said.

According to a recent study in Nature, led by Johannes Lelieveld, director of the Max Planck Institute for chemistry in Germany, more people now die from air pollution than malaria and HIV combined. They include 1.4 million people a year in China and 650,000 in India. This compares with about 180,000 a year in Europe.

China has recognized the problem and copied Western countries by moving power stations out of cities. Along with years of heavy investment in renewable energy and increased fines for polluting industries, has improved air quality in some areas. Big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai pollution is still not good.

More than 1.6 million people per year die in China from breathing toxic air. To fight back, China’s leaders have been waging a tough war on pollution by rolling out new technologies, capping coal use and using more renewable energy, such as solar and wind.

China’s crops are damaged, too. Some 20 percent of China’s soil is contaminated. The country’s largest rice-growing province, Hunan, has soil that’s laced with heavy metals from factories. This pollution taints the country’s food supply, according to reports.

China has committed to improving air quality 10 percent by 2017. Strict new laws crack down on polluters. 2,500 small polluting firms will be shuttered this year in Beijing alone. Other violators are getting stiff penalties. Coal use is being capped and cut for heating and heavy industry, said Hove.

China’s air quality is being strictly monitored by the government as well, and the country is even launching carbon-tracking satellites to help track and reduce carbon emissions. Though Beijing issued its highest red pollution alert last December, its air in 2015 was cleaner than it has been for several years, according to Paulson Institute studies.

China is also trying all types of innovations to clean up its air. Some big, polluted cities, like Guigang, are using mist cannons, which shoot into the air a spray that disperses smog particles. And China has launched a $7.6 billion fund to combat air pollution.

Air pollution ‘kills 40,000 a year’ in the UK. The growing popularity of cars as a primary means of transport have contributed to the problem. Air pollution has been linked to a range of chronic diseases. Air pollution is contributing to about 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.

In April 2015, a group of environmental lawyers won a case against the government at the Supreme Court, arguing its plans to cut illegal levels of pollutants were inadequate. Since then, the government has tightened the rules.


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