COVID-19 Lockdown: Air Pollution Lessens in Pakistan

The last year saw an alarming rise in air pollution and smog – to the extent that the outside was considered extremely harmful for people. Everyone was discouraged from going outside & was encouraged to wear masks. Once again, we’re hit with another crisis that requires us to wear masks – the Coronavirus outbreak.

In what appears to be Nature pushing the reset button to heal itself, the COVID-19 lockdown has caused a dramatic decrease in the air pollution in the country. Looking at the lessened air pollution in Karachi, the National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) has said that the lockdown regime enforced in Karachi has provided an opportunity to the relevant authorities to reassess the urban sprawl, the mass transportation and the industrial needs of the metropolis to curb harmful carbon emissions. In a press statement issued on Saturday, President of NFEH, Mr.Naeem Qureshi, said Karachi was one of the major industrial and commercial hubs all over the world where lockdown orders had brought immediate drop in air pollution. It has also happened in China – a country known for not following many environmental safeguards for lessening air pollution.

Mr Qureshi also said “The present situation once again teaches us the lesson we have long forgotten that environmental laws, rules, and regulations of the State should be enforced in a uniform and indiscriminate manner to mitigate the issue of environmental degradation.”

Moreover, according to a recent report, the Ambient Air Quality Islamabad (AAQI) dated on 25th of March, 24 hours average concentrations of parameters viz. nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulphur dioxide (SO2) are below the permissible limits of National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) whereas concentration of particulate matter of size less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) is below the permissible limits of National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS).

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Lahore appears to be recovering from years of choking air pollution. Although life has come to a standstill to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, it seems that Lahore is finally making a recovery on the Air Quality Index (AQI) too. Last Summer, the city routinely crossed the pollution red line, with AQI readings higher than 300, which is very unhealthy, and in most cases, hazardous for humans. However, recently, ever since the lockdown, the AQI is ranging between 18-65 ( which is a huge improvement in the air quality).

The air ambient quality has improved a lot in the recent days, be it in Karachi, Islamabad or even Lahore. Therefore, it is the best time to see and understand how much harm we cause to the environment with our industries, and using our vehicles.

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