Ambient air pollution goes unchecked

ISLAMABAD:Vehicular emissions comprise 43 percent of the total ambient air pollution in the country whereas the federal capital’s air quality is deteriorating with increasing number of vehicles spewing dark smoke.

Talking to reporter, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director General Farzana Altaf Shah said there were two main sources of air pollution in the federal capital namely industrial and automobile emissions.

“The air quality recorded during Ramazan and summer vacation in the capital has ideal level of declined pollutants, but with the reopening of schools and colleges, it has again attained dangerous level of pollutants with their smoke emitting buses and vans,” she added.

The EPA DG said the agency was issuing notices to all the private and public institutions, particularly schools, colleges and universities, ministries, and motels to properly maintain their fleets of buses and vans. “Our teams equipped with proper gadgets visit the institutions at random to check emissions of vehicular fleet,” she added.

Farzana, however, admitted that all the buses, whether running on intercity routes or on city roads, were using non-compliant diesel fuel containing high ratio of hazardous sulphur dioxide.

Contrary to the EPA’s claims, smoke emitting vehicles in large number, including buses of educational institutions, can be seen running across the twin cities polluting the air without any check and balance.

“What to talk of other departments when even the Capital Development Authority and the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation, which are responsible to keep the capital clean and pollution-free, themselves have large fleets of garbage collecting vehicles, buses, van and jeeps, emitting clouds of dark smoke on the city roads,” Hassan Jan, who daily travels on Kashmir Highway to reach his office, said.

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences spokesperson Dr Khawaja Waseem said the dark vehicular emissions had serious impact on human health. It caused allergy, infection and irritation in the respiratory track which could further develop into cancerous health complications having effects on the nervous system, he added.

“The people, especially motorcyclists, should wear pollution masks, some of them have inbuilt air filters, which stop dust particles entering mouths and nostrils,” he said. Dr Khawaja said everyone travelling on the road was at risk of air pollution and masks could help them avoid direct contact with the dark smoke and dust.

Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul told reporter that it was imperative to initiate an action against the vehicular pollution. “Like the government’s drive against plastic bags, which was initially started from the Prime Minister’s Office and federal secretariat, measures will have to be taken to do away the smoke emitting vehicles of the official departments for setting an example for the masses to follow suit,” she added.

Some positive initiatives would be taken by the government in that regard soon, she said.