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Policies & Politics

Pakistan Has Begun Installing Air Quality Monitors, Following Last Month’s High Court Ruling

Last month, a three-member high court panel in Pakistan, composed of some of the country’s top judges, issued a court ruling that ordered the government there to document in detail the efforts being made to curb the growing air pollution problems there.

The head of the three-member high court panel in question, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, noted in the ruling that he was personally shocked by just how bad the air pollution problems in many parts of Pakistan had become in recent years.

This ruling followed from the filing of a petition/lawsuit by a lawyer in Karachi (Pakistan) that challenged the government’s inaction to date when it came to curbing the growing air pollution problems in that important port city.

As the result of this earlier lawsuit and the high court ruling in question, Pakistan’s environmental protection agency has now begun installing air quality monitors throughout the country and begun better enforcing laws by warning various factories and brick kilns (and vehicle owners) about excess emissions, according to local reports.

The lawyer who filed the original petition, Venu G Advani, gave an interview to the Thomson Reuters Foundation where he noted that he was simply looking to spur action so as to enforce existing air quality regulations in Pakistan, though he also hoped that the high court would inshrine the “provision of the constitutional right to a clean environment, for which clean air is key.”

“There is no hope without the Supreme Court’s intervention to awaken government officials from their deep slumber,” he stated.

Reuters provides some more information: “The ruling has spurred government authorities to action to try to reduce pollution levels, fearing they could face court orders or sanctions. … According to a 2015 report published by the medical journal (The) Lancet, nearly 22% of annual deaths in Pakistan — or more than 310,000 each year — are caused by pollution, the majority of them due to air pollution.”

Explaining the situation, the director of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, Ziauddin Khattak, was recently quoted as saying: “We are now installing air quality monitoring instruments with the help of federal government funding and punishing the polluters…We have now told dozens of industrial units and brick kilns through warning notices to install air cleaning filters on smoke-emitting chimneys and have started monitoring vehicles on various thoroughfares and issuing fines to the polluting vehicle owners.”

The Reuters coverage continues: “Nearly 50 brick kilns have been issued notices, Khattak said, and more than 130 buses and other vehicles fined over the last 2 months. He said 7 fixed and 3 mobile ambient air quality monitoring stations have been set up in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Quetta, all cities that have suffered particular problems with air pollution.”

“Saif Anjum, Punjab provincial environment secretary, said his agency also had installed 6 air quality monitoring units in Lahore, with 30 more being put in place. The units, along with an air quality action plan, ‘will help cut 50% of air pollution in the next couple of years,’ he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”

The replacement of old highly polluting city buses with newer models the planting of trees; and raised parking fees (to spur public transit use); are all also being pursued as partial solutions to growing air pollution problems, reportedly.

It should be noted here, though, that the city of Rawalpindi — reportedly the second most polluted city in the country — has not begun installing air quality monitors. This is reportedly due to a lack of funding.

Given that the country’s air pollution is closely tied with the abundance of vehicular traffic there, and the prevalence of brick kilns, it’s not completely clear what course of action would be best for officials there to purse, but as of now not much of anything is being done.

Why does that matter? Because air pollution of various kinds (particulate, ozone, NOx, etc.) is closely associated with various diseases, developmental disorders, cognitive impairments, and dementias. In other words, the current air pollution epidemic is likely one of the primary drivers of some of the societal problems now prevalent.

As I recall one of our commentators noting on an article a few weeks ago, the current situation with regard to air pollution is similar to the one with regard to leaded gasoline and paint in the later decades of the 20th Century — the negative societal outcomes are enormous, though not immediately obvious.

That being the case, keep a close eye on the apparent effects of the world’s growing pollution problems with regard to cognitive development and abilities amongst those born and living in dense urban areas anytime over the last 50 or so years.




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